Letter to the Editor
in Response to Most Recent
Bay of Exploits Column
By Carmella Gray-Cosgrove

“Identity politics divides people into ever smaller tribes, ultimately supporting the absolute sovereignty of the individual that is the lonely heart of libertarianism, something fundamentally at odds with the notion of community from which progressive politics emerged.”
1) It is easy to forget the need for identity politics when you are utterly unscathed by systemic and institutionalized oppression.
2) This statement above has nothing to do with a critique of Trump’s electorate and is just advancing the author’s own misapprehensions about the new left, misapprehensions that only serve to further oppress minority groups.
3) Movements like Black Lives Matter, for example, do not support “the absolute sovereignty of the individual.” Trans activists are not feeding “the lonely heart of libertarianism,” and resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is not “at odds with the notion of community from which progressive politics emerged.” These are just three among many movements that fall under the rubric of “identity politics.”
Historically, identity politics has been at the heart of movements that have changed the shape of America. Think The Stonewall riots or the whole Civil Rights movement. Every wave of feminist resistance. Examples abound and this trend continues today. Identity politics changes laws, makes space in mainstream society for people on the fringes.
Further, many women, trans people, LGBTQ people, people of colour and so on, are working class. Indeed, many of us “venture from downtown,” despite the author’s assertion to the contrary. Many of us have been on welfare, have lived on the street, have done sex work, have been sexually assaulted, have been gay-bashed, have been trans-bashed, have struggled with addiction, have helped others struggling with addiction and have, in the end, opted for a politics that reflects those experiences.
Just because the author’s politics are white-washed, just because the sheltered middle-class may not have ventured beyond the safety-net of jellybean row houses, does not mean that the people participating in the leftist radical movements Riche scorns have not.
While the author claims there is a need to focus our attention on the plight of the working class, he is only talking about the white working class. Identity politics are about economic justice. For many, before the fight for economic justice there must be a fight for equal access to water, healthcare, toilets, education, marriage, and even life in the case of those targeted by police violence.
Because the white working class has excluded itself from radical, leftist political movements, does this mean other minority groups should just stop their fight for the lives of people in their communities? Turn to the white working class and say, “What can we do for you?” I don’t think so.
Without identity politics the world would be a sad and scary place. These politics continually become more intersectional, find common ground andas we’ve seen in Indigenous resistance movements since Idle No More in 2012 through DAPL protests—effect vital changes in policy-making and public discourse. Why should we blame identity politics and the radical left for the election of Trump? We shouldn’t.
We should expect more from our white brothers and sisters who are also struggling (and from those who are not). We should expect them to rise up with their black, indigenous, trans, queer, feminist neighbours and say “Hey, fuck this rich dude, I want someone like you or me or us for president.”
The people and movements that have brought us out of racial segregation, that gave women the vote (and basic human rights) and that protect our most marginalized everyday, are rooted in identity politics.