There has been a lot of chatter among liberal culture about identity politics. (Full disclosure, I do consider myself a liberal but far left of that ideology). On one level, I completely understand to work toward an antiracist, anti-patriarchal society as race and gender are two of the most forms of oppression that have been going on for hundreds of years. What I don’t understand is how class is almost never seen as a form of oppression among a certain-type liberal culture. That on one level if we had more diverse educated and rich people, that would be this amazing achievement for society.
But as I’ve written elsewhere, if you make high paying jobs more diverse, all you're doing is making rich people more diverse. Nothing changes with regard to class. The poor remain poor, although they might be more diverse as well. And Goldman Sachs still gets to walk away with all of their money. As my friend likes to say, if you only deal with the race and gender things, all you get is more Hurricane Katrinas just with more poor whites being oppressed along with poor blacks.
So yes, I think to dismantle race and gender discrimination, dismantling the oppressions of capitalism are just as important. But I’m hardly an expert on this myself, just someone who’s read a lot of books on it all. I thought I’d share something from the great scholar, bell hooks:
“BELL HOOKS: I began to use the phrase in my work “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality and not to just have one thing be like, you know, gender is the important issue, race is the important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way, a sort of short cut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives and that if I really want to understand what’s happening to me, right now at this moment in my life, as a black female of a certain age group, I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of race. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of gender. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking at how white people see me.
To me an important breakthrough, I felt, in my work and that of others was the call to use the term white supremacy, over racism because racism in and of itself did not really allow for a discourse of colonization and decolonization, the recognition of the internalized racism within people of color and it was always in a sense keeping things at the level at which whiteness and white people remained at the center of the discussion.
In my classroom I might say to students that you know that when we use the term white supremacy it doesn’t just evoke white people, it evokes a political world that we can all frame ourselves in relationship to….
And so for me those words were very much about the constant reminder, one of institutional construct, that we’re not talking about personal construct in the sense of, how do you feel about me as a woman, or how do you feel about me as a black person?
… We have to problematize nationalism beyond race, in all kinds of ways that I think there’s a tremendous reluctance […] to have a more complex accounting of identity.”