Definition: Identity Politics came to be used during the 70s from a recognition that interlocking systems of oppression of white supremacy and Racial Capitalism produce various forms of oppression along lines of race, gender, class, ability, nationality, among other identity categories resulting in the need to make one’s identity a means to organize around. One of the formidable groups that engaged in such forms of organizing were The Combahee River Collective. Building on legacies of Black Feminist Activists such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, in their Statement they said:
“There is also undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives. Black feminists and many more Black women who do not define themselves as feminists have all experienced sexual oppression as a constant factor in our day-to-day existence. As children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated differently. For example, we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being “ladylike” and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. As we grew older we became aware of the threat of physical and sexual abuse by men. However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening.”
The Combahee River Collective organized from the positionality of Black Women, and sought to do so to center their voices and organize for Collective Liberation through centering an identity which has been systematically silenced and erased in society. Identity Politics then becomes a means to use identity as a form of centering and resisting against the erasure and subjugation inflicted by the interlocking systems of oppression in a white supremacist and racially capitalist world.
Combahee River Collective: https://combaheerivercollective.weebly.com/
Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta, editor. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books, 2012.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge, New York, September 2008.
Haidar, Asad. Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump. Verso, New York, May 2018.