“Identity politics” is everywhere, polarizing discourse from the campaign trail to the classroom and amplifying antagonisms in the media, both online and off. But the compulsively referenced phrase bears little resemblance to the concept as first introduced by the radical Black feminist Combahee River Collective. While the Collective articulated a political viewpoint grounded in their own position as Black lesbians with the explicit aim of building solidarity across lines of difference, identity politics is now frequently weaponized as a means of closing ranks around ever-narrower conceptions of group interests.
But the trouble, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò deftly argues, is not with identity politics itself. Through a substantive engagement with the global Black radical tradition and a critical understanding of racial capitalism, Táíwò identifies the process by which a radical concept can be stripped of its political substance and liberatory potential by becoming the victim of elite capture—deployed by political, social, and economic elites in the service of their own interests.
Táíwò’s crucial intervention both elucidates this complex process and helps us move beyond a binary of “class” vs. “race.” By rejecting elitist identity politics in favor of a constructive politics of radical solidarity, he advances the possibility of organizing across our differences in the urgent struggle for a better world.
“Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is a thinker on fire. He not only calls out empire for shrouding its bloodied hands in the cloth of magical thinking but calls on all of us to do the same. Elite capture, after all, is about turning oppression and its cure into a (neo)liberal commodity exchange where identities become capitalism’s latest currency rather than the grounds for revolutionary transformation. The lesson is clear: only when we think for ourselves and act with each other, together in deep, dynamic, and difficult solidarity, can we begin to remake the world.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe
“Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò offers an indispensable and urgent set of analyses, interventions, and alternatives to “identity politics,” “centering,” and much more. The book offers a sober assessment of the state of our racial politics and a powerful path on how to build the world that we deserve.”—Derecka Purnell, author of Becoming Abolitionists
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