‘Identity politics’ always used to beat up Black activists


The Guardian has stopped putting up options to comment on any of my articles these days. Actually, that goes for many Black writers particularly those we are writing about tackling race inequality. The reason for this is because they already know that the majority of responses will not engage with the debate but rather hurl abuse instead. One senior Guardian person told me: "Online response is very different to those who buy Guardian. Online is frankly the Wild West".

As a result of the 'Wild west',  many of the responses to debates such as the disproportionality of ‘Stop and search’ on Black youths, or racism in the workplace are comments like these:

“Here we go again, the identity politics brigade forcing this stuff down our necks”. And “but if no one commented on these click bait identity politics articles, then hopefully they would stop!”

“This is the moment when special pleading ensues, demanding that contested resources are siphoned away from working class white boys, wallowing in their privilege and high education attainment, and directed to girls and BME people no matter what their background. It's the reason why identity politics is a cancer in left wing politics.”

In essence the crude characterisation of race and ‘identity politics’ is basically used to shut down the debate about tackling race inequality. Worse still, it is very effective, not least because it can ignore any facts or evidence with this throwaway line that basically says, ‘we can ignore all of this because this is about their unreasonable special pleading from good hardworking people like ourselves’.

But in the last few weeks two brilliant Black writers Gary Younge and Afua Hirsch have both hit back with two thought provoking articles laying bare how the enemies of race equality use ‘Identity politics’, to maintain the status quo and ignore calls to tackle injustice.

Gary Younge in his global critic of ‘identity politics states: “The right denigrates equal rights campaigns as ‘grievances’ while cornering the market in victimhood”.

Hirsch, in her damning assessment begins, “All politics is ‘identity politics’, but when it’s about class, religion or whiteness it’s just seen as ‘just politics.

For many of you out there who are often beaten with this ‘identity politics’ stick these articles are essential reading that equip us with the tools to confront our detractors.

But be aware this won’t be the last term that is weaponised against us: Remember ‘Multiculturalism’ and ‘political correctness’.



Simon Woolley