The general argument of people espousing identity politics is that oppressed groups should be able to define their own oppression, but this is a very silly concept we wouldn’t accept in any other form of scientific analysis. We don’t base the study of cancer in humans on the emotional experiences of cancer patients. Being shot by a gun doesn’t make you an expert on firearms safety and training. Living through a natural disaster doesn’t make you a meteorologist. Point being, experiencing something does not make you an expert on it, nor does it grant you the right or ability to redefine socially accepted terms and what kind of things they entail. Oppression is a very specific term in social science denoting a form of human social interaction where one person or group of people is politically or socially dominated by another person or group of people. You do not get to redefine that term based on your personal feelings of offense.
By giving individuals the ability to define their own oppression based on personal experiences we are giving them an empty dictionary and telling them to fill in the blanks, and what results is the lunacy we see today that passes for legitimate social analysis. The most mundane and trivial things like disagreeing with a person of color about what constitutes racism, or complimenting a woman, or having consensual sex is redefined as oppressive.
The word oppression is thrown around so loosely now that it has lost nearly all of its potential for calling attention to serious social injustices and removing the marginalization of minorities from society. This actually does a huge disservice to actually oppressed peoples by making the word oppression hollow and meaningless, taking our focus away from correcting those social injustices and instead to playing this semantic game where disagreeing with or offending someone is equated to an actual social relationship where a person or group of people is being dominated and stripped of their human rights. Even this very article is highly likely to be subjected to claims of oppression, or being written with the intention of “defending privilege”, when in fact it is being written with the exact opposite intention.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. discussed identity politics extensively in his book The Disuniting of America. Schlesinger, a strong supporter of civil rights, argues that a just society requires a common basis for society to function. In his view, basing politics on group marginalization fractures the civil polity, and therefore works against creating real opportunities for ending marginalization. Schlesinger believes that “movements for civil rights should aim toward full acceptance and integration of marginalized groups into the culture, rather than perpetuating that marginalization through affirmations of difference.”, and so do I.
Many leftists participate in what political analyst John Mcwhorter calls “therapeutic alienation” wherein they target specific characteristics of an oppressor class and then attribute negative connotations to them. Such accusations as “all white people are racist” and “all men are rapists” become the norm for those that subscribe to these concepts, but it is no better or more justified to attribute negative characteristics to all people of a certain race or gender when it is done to males rather than women, or to “white” people rather than people of color. Not only is it unjust to attribute negative connotations to individuals based on physical characteristics they did not choose, it also serves to perpetuate the myth that race is a legitimate biological category, or that the differences in gender are legitimate to justify different treatment between genders in society, while they are not.
This article is not intended to spark a conspiracy theory, but the concepts of identity politics and therapeutic alienation are so destructive and divisive that they might as well be psychological operations concocted by COINTELPRO to make leftist organizations completely irrelevant, and splinter “the left” as a current for social change into a thousand pieces. As leftists, as radicals, as generally good people fighting for social justice and equality we need to move past these poisonous premises and get back on the path to constructing a society devoid of oppression, that is, the social and political domination of people.