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Labels – “Identity Politics”

Labels – “Identity Politics”

Let’s take a little journey. I began writing a piece a few weeks ago centered around labels, particularly labels being used in our political landscape which are meant to belittle a person or group, and limit the possibility of their ideas being discussed, or even expressed. The piece became larger in scale than planned and has been set off to the side for the moment.

But then this morning I came across a term I’ve seen pop up a number of times in the past week, and in investigating this term’s usage I was inspired to come back to this topic. Instead of one long post, I may make this a series because there seems to be so many of these labels out there.

First up is the term “identity politics”. This term is being used a lot by those on the right side of the U.S. political landscape, and the way I’ve seen it be used is to dismiss topics brought to light concerning some type of discrimination.

Now this term has existed for a while, utilized to argue that identifying differences is somehow divisive. Identifying differences is not in itself divisive, unless there is a claim of being better than other groups of people. Most groups organizing, in a political or social way, by identity are not implying they are better than others. They are trying to find strength to stand up for their value as human beings in a society where they are treated as less than. The organization and identity are about equality, not superiority.

Labels are something we use constantly. In order to communicate with each other and accomplish goals, we have to have terms which define objects and ideas. The problem is that often labels are created not to simply assist our understanding, but to put someone “in their place”; in other words to suppress people and their voice.

The recent usage of the term by the right is meant to cast doubt on the legitimacy of topics concerning discrimination. In fact this is a regular tactic on the right. Conservative commentators and politicians regularly apply labels to groups they disagree with, and identity politics is one such label. The effect of this labeling is that it works to nullify whatever the person or group being labeled is trying to express. If we always hear the term identity politics as a negative, we’re not really going to listen to people labeled in such a way.

So are identity politics bad? Not necessarily. Identifying discrimination is not divisive. Discrimination is divisive, and through history it is only when discrimination is first identified that efforts are finally made to lesson it and create a more fair and equitable society.

To bring this back to yoga, it is only with a fair and equitable society that we can live in non-violence, a foundational principle for an enlightened society. And enlightenment is what yoga is all about.

May we all be open and receptive to our highest good,

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