California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris blasted critics of “identity politics,” saying that those who use the phrase are attempting to “marginalize issues that impact all of us.”
Speaking Friday at the Netroots Nation event in New Orleans, Harris called on her supporters to instead fully address the issues of race and gender.
“Let’s be clear,” Harris told the crowd. “When people say [identity politics], it’s a pejorative. That phrase is used to divide, and it is used to distract. Its purpose is to minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us. It is used to try and shut us up.”
Harris told the conference that black women were not being given their due by the Democratic Party. She said it was “an uncomfortable truth” was that “the folks who helped build the Democratic Party and have been the backbone of the Democratic Party have not always been given equal voice in the Democratic Party, and we need to deal with that.”
She went on to say:
Now, I am aware that some people would say that what I just said is plain “identity politics.” But, I have a problem, guys, with that phrase, “identity politics.” ‘Cause let’s be clear, when people say that, it’s a pejorative. That phrase is used to divide and it is used to distract. Its purpose is to minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us. It is used to try and shut us up. Because, think about — think about when you’ve heard it raised: when we’re talking about race, when we’re talking about gender, when we’re talking about sexual orientation, when we’re talking about civil rights. And, yes, we’re talking about those issues. And we won’t be shut up. And we won’t be silenced. We won’t be silent about immigrant rights. We won’t be silent about a woman’s right to control her own body. We won’t be silence about equal opportunity and equal justice under the law.
The phrase "identity politics" has been used to minimize and marginalize issues that impact us all. No more. We won't be silent. pic.twitter.com/8CQsLJH3Uz
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 4, 2018
Harris did not define “identity politics,” which refers to appeals to voters on the basis of their identity as members of a particular group — or attacks on voters outside that group.
Harris’s attack on “identity politics” puts her at odds with President Barack Obama, who attacked identity politics last month in South Africa — without using the term itself.
Obama said during the Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg:
Most of us prefer to surround ourselves with opinions that validate what we already believe. You notice the people who you think are smart are the people who agree with you. (Laughter.) Funny how that works. But democracy demands that we’re able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they’ll change ours. And you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start. And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you – because they’re white, or because they’re male – that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.
“We won’t be shut up,” Harris said, adding that Republicans are trying to downplay the issues associated with “identity politics.”
She said those very issues will define the identity of Americans.
Here is Harris’s full speech Friday afternoon as a keynote speaker at Netroots Nation 2018.
Harris is considered a top contender for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020.