Blaming Identity Politics Is Like Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

As the slogan “Black lives matter” was being embraced in response to the shooting of unarmed Black men (often by police), some white people responded with: “all lives matter.” A reddit user named GeekAesthete provided a great analogy to point out the problem with that.

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say, “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “Everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — Indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

I thought of that when I saw yet another article, this time from James Baker and Andrew Young, suggesting that it is identity politics that is causing all of our divisions today. Just as “all lives matter” dismisses the fact that, for too many people, Black lives don’t matter—at least not as much as white lives—blaming our divisions on those who have been demanding a seat at the table is a way to say that they are the problem for wanting to be included.

The truth is that identity politics has been a feature of our government since its founding. It’s just that the identity that has been at the center of everything has been white male. The journey to include anyone else has been the long, hard struggle we’ve undergone to take steps to “perfect our union” and expand the “we” to include other identities. We are now at the point in that struggle when some of those who identify as white males are feeling threatened by the inclusion—and are mounting a backlash.

Need I point out that our current political environment is seeped in attempts to exclude anyone who identifies as something other than white male? Just yesterday the Trump administration tossed out the very idea of collecting data to track the exclusion when it comes to disparities in pay. We are in the midst of attempts to roll back the enforcement of civil rights, abandon affirmative action, suppress access to voting, promote police brutality and send brown people into the shadows. This country just elected a man to be president who mocked the disabled and bragged about committing sexual assault.

The idea that, while all of that is going on, we’re hearing women and people of color being blamed for causing our divisions is nothing short of appalling. Don’t come at me with your calls for unity until/unless you are willing to fight against these efforts and join in demanding that our “we” has to include everyone.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.