Liberals and Oppression

I have a large family filled with well-meaning liberals, all of whom are quick to say Black Lives Matter and say they support medicare for all. Yet all too often I will hear them comment about how in awe they are that a person of color could support Trump, or how a white gay man can be racist.

Tell me if any of these sentences sound familiar to you:

“How could such and such be so racist! They had to fight for marriage equality!”

“How can such and such support Trump when such and such is black!”

“How can you be woman and a Republican?”

And so on, and so on, and so on.

This is one of the many reasons why I am a socialist and not a liberal. Liberals fail to grasp the concept that identity is not an act of solidarity. Because liberals put so much emphasis on shallow identity politics, they think that all oppressed groups must support each other and understand the intersections of their oppression.

This line of thinking both reduces the realities of oppression and it demonstrates two facts about liberal thought: 1. Liberals think that anyone oppressed in our system operates like a monolith or hivemind. and 2. They think all oppression can be reduced to identitarian lines.

1. The Hivemind

Every election we have to hear about the latino vote, the black vote, and the women vote, as well as other demographic breakdowns of voters.

The problem is whenever pundits and politicians talk about these groups of voters they talk about them as if the people who make up the demographic are thinking in unison. Consider how Bernie Sanders is chided for not winning “the black vote” despite there being numerous black people both supporting, running, and endorsing his campaign, but because of the fact he did not have the majority of black voters, in the eyes of the pundits the black people who did support Bernie are erased.

The same goes for the latino voters, most went to Bernie, but those who voted for Biden or other candidates are considered irrelevant. Because one candidate has the majority for one demographic, that demographic is spoken for by pundits as if their votes are the result of a singular thought process. This is an act of erasure that ignores several of the very real intersections an individual voter lives in that guides their choices. Yet, this is how liberal pundits breakdown the elections every time, as a result we see liberals in the real world reflect this toxic thought process in their politics.

So how can a POC vote for Trump or a gay white person be racist? It is because people beloning to one demographic are not a hive mind, each individual lives at a different intersection of identity. To assume all black people will vote one way or that all gay people will stand with black people erases the reality that both are demographics made up of individuals.

2. Identity Politics

I hesitate to use that term because I feel that fellow socialists will use it in a toxic manner to silence very real discussions about race and gender. However there is an important difference between the idenity politics of liberals, which is inherently class reductionist, and the idenity politics of liberation.

Liberal identity politics make a point of seperating the issue of class with all other issues, they intentionally ignore the nuances and intersections of idenitiy to focus only on one aspect of an individual.

They think discussions of racial oppression can only talk about race and never involve class.

They think discussions of sexism can only talk about gender and never involve race.

At no point do the aspects of gender, race, or class intersect in their understanding of politics, and as a result they think that because one group is oppressed they must inherently identify with another oppressed group. To liberals, all oppression is uniform.

This is yet again the result of differeniating and defining oppression souly on singular lines of idenity instead of intersectional ones. If we reduce all of a group to that of a hivemind we ignore very real and defining intersections, for example when you ignore the intersections of homophobia and racism in this country you inevitably perpetuate both.

Oppression is anything but uniform save for the fact that capitalism is the umbrella underwhich all oppression exists. Yet because liberals only see oppression on singular lines of identity and not intersectionally, they cannot understand the reality that idenity is not an act of solidarity. In the liberal mind, if you are a part of an oppressed group you must stand with that oppressed group.

Identity politics without intersectionality leads to erasure, that erasure leads to the idea that all oppressed identities are oppressed at the same level and therefore understand each other.

This shallow way thinking is one of the many reasons why I abandoned liberalism for socialism, I suggest anyone reading this do the same.

Published by James J Jackson, Jr

I'm a poet and leftist political organizer from Sacramento, CA.

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