Identity politics is when people of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, or religion form alliances and organize politically to defend their group’s interests. The feminist movement, the civil rights movement, and the gay liberation movement are all examples of this kind of political organizing.
What Is It
The notion of identity has become so hugely important in contemporary political discourse that no conversation on social issues would be complete without it. Identity politics typically focuses on how to empower individuals from marginalized groups so that they can achieve greater equality and representation. But why should anyone mobilize behind a banner of identity rather than ideology? Why is it important have a diversity of identities in political representation? And does politicizing identities genuinely empower communities or just further divide them? John and Ken identify with Tommie Shelby from Harvard University, author ofWe Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity.
John and Ken open up this episode of Philosophy Talk by asking the question: should we accept or reject the politics of identity? Does its emphasis on differences in identity really help progress society, or does it divide us further? Ken seems to think that this emphasis only exacerbates the issues and ignores the things that unite us beyond them. John, on the other hand, suggests that this form of politics might be necessary to solve issues that undeniably involve these identities.
To add more thoughts to the conversation, callers are welcomed onto the show. One caller suggests that identity politics is merely an example of tribalism, which sparks a discussion on the divisions that have separated humans throughout history. The question of how one can reconcile ostensibly conflicting identities is brought up when another caller shares their experience with multiple identities. The episode closes with a discussion on challenging the legitimacy of someone’s identity and the possibility of irreconcilable identities.
- Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 7:08): Shuka Kalantari speaks to a black Muslim lesbian woman about her difficulties juggling her various identities and communities.
- 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:25): Ian Shoales shares his thoughts and grievances on the rise of “identity police” within recent American history.