TheGrio Daily

White Identity Politics

Episode 71

“It’s not just that white people don’t vote for Black politicians, it is that they are not in favor of expanding democracy.” “Identity Politics” is a term that’s thrown around a lot but what does it actually mean? Michael Harriot explains how it’s often weaponized by the media and used incorrectly.


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello. My name is Michael Harriot, and I’m sure you know that because it’s like right in the link that you’re watching. And I don’t know if you know my qualifications or some of the, you know, the awards I’ve won or some of the things that kind of make me proud of my work. I’m one of the world’s foremost race baiters. Yeah. You know, I’ve been race baiting for a long time now. You know, my success is about 5050 on catching racists. But yeah, I, ah, I spend a lot of time just baiting them, apparently. I’m also a person who won the 2000, 2014, 2019, and I’m competing this year in the World Series of Racial Spades. A lot of people call it playing the race card, but it’s actually a lot more complex than that. But I am a world champion at playing the race card. And but most of all, most people know me for identity politics. You might not know what identity politics is. So let me explain why identity politics is when a Black person uses the word race or something about race, when they’re discussing politics. Or it could it doesn’t have to be a Black person. It could be a Hispanic person. It could be a person who has a non-heterosexual gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. It could be of a number of things. As long as it’s not white like white people don’t play identity politics, or so they think. So I’d like to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that is willing to talk about white identity politics. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:14] I’m world famous wypipologist Michael Harriot and this is theGrio Daily. So first of all, let’s get a real definition of identity politics. So if you look in the dictionary, identity politics is defined as, oh, wait there. Is it real definition. It’s just something that white people made up. It’s in Merriam Webster’s dictionary, though, not in the actual dictionary that you would have on your desk or on your bookshelf. But there is in the online version a kind of definition of identity politics. And it says politics in which a group of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group. Now, by that definition, which again comes from the dictionary, there is no such thing as Black identity politics, because let me explain. When Black people talk about. Politics. We’re not talking about politics specifically for Black people. For instance, when we talk about voter suppression. We’re not talking about the idea that they should be, you know, elevated above white votes or Hispanic votes or anyone else’s vote. We’re talking about the idea that our votes should be counted as much as anyone else. We should have the same access to the ballot as anyone else. 

[00:04:15] So that’s really not Black identity politics. You know, talk about voter suppression, talking about the history of racism in voting. It is not identity politics because what we’re talking about is the Black struggle to have the same access to democracy as everyone else. So, you know, there is no such thing as Black identity politics or Hispanic identity politics. What we’re talking about is equality. And you can give it another name, but that doesn’t mean it is different. Right? So what is identity politics? Well. If we’re talking in a purely political academic sense, the only people who can actually play identity politics is white people. Right. Because think about this, so when they say that Black people voted for Obama because he was Black is not really true. Because the people who voted for Obama, didn’t vote Republican in previous elections. Right. As a matter of fact, the only people who didn’t vote for Obama were white people like that was the only demographic or ethnicity that didn’t have a majority of people who voted for Obama because it’s white people who play identity politics. 

Sean Hannity [00:05:53] Using the Supreme Court pick as another way to flex their power, show their strength. That’s identity politics on steroids. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:00] It’s a matter of fact. Right. There’s studies that show that white people are more likely to switch parties, then vote for a Black person in their own party. So white Democrats and white Republicans will switch parties before they vote for a Black person who represents the political ideals and the political goals that they hold dear. Because. White people play identity politics. And that’s true. The study that that talks about that actually compiles statistics from 1982 until 2020. So as we can see, it’s not just like this self-selecting group. It is the history of politics in America has been white identity politics. The reason Black people couldn’t vote before the Voting Rights Act is because of white identity politics. The reason the American electorate has been shaped the way it was first white men only then white women, then everybody else was because of white identity politics. As a matter of fact, when Black women were fighting for suffrage, white women kicked them out of the women’s suffrage movement because of white identity politics. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:33] But there are some interesting facts that you should know about identity politics, right? Like, for instance, when they say it’s race baiting. Because Black people bring up race. Well, the only reason Black people can do that is because it gives you more information and is more predictive of voting habits than any other thing. For instance, right, like we just mentioned, the fact that white people will switch parties, but if you want to know what’s going to happen in the next election it’s less instructive to look at party ideology than it is race, right? Because race is more predictive than polling. It’s more predictive than, you know, just who did what in the last election. The racial makeup of America is instructive when you’re looking at politics, because for the last 50 years, most white voters have voted for the Republican Party. Right. And everyone else votes Democrat. Right. So what you want to look at when you’re looking at polls, instead of looking at a poll or looking at who they surveyed, look at who voted in that election. And you will almost always be guaranteed to see who the winner is. And there’s another fact that people never talk about, right? It’s not just that white people don’t vote for, you know, Black politicians or that they will vote for the Republican Party. It is that they are not in favor of expanding democracy. It is white people who support voter I.D. It is white people who support suppressive politics. It is white people who support the policies that go against, it is white people that support the politicians that go against the policies that they hold dear or think are important. For example, look at the most recent midterm elections, even though most white women support safe and legal access to abortion, most white women also voted for politicians that want to deny the access to safe and legal abortions. And everyone else in those 2022 midterms voted for people who wanted to expand access or preserve access to reproductive rights. That’s identity, politics, whiteness. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:37] Let’s look at some more facts. For instance, whenever you talk about that. Nonsensical notion of Black men needing to vote, while Black men are the second most loyal voters in the Democratic Party. They’re more loyal than white women, they’re more loyal than white men, they’re more loyal than Hispanic men or women or Asian men or women. So why do we focus on this small sliver of voters? Because when you think about it, Black people are 13% of the population who also about 12, 13% of the electorate. So Black men, which naturally are about half of that or about 6% of the electorate? Well, not really. See, first of all, you have to realize that there are identity politics in who can vote. When you talk about felony disenfranchisement, Black men are more likely to be disenfranchized. When you talk about where people live, right. Since 2012, when the Supreme Court basically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, over 1200 polling stations have been closed, mostly in Black and nonwhite neighborhoods. Identity politics. Right. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:12] And so when we talk about identity, politics is just like being an expert at race baiting. They’re baiting. Black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, nonwhite people into not voting or either voting for the Republican White Nationalist Party. When you talk about Christian nationalism, that’s been a new buzzword recently. They are talking about people who want to ingrain Protestant ethics into the political arena. Talking about white people. Right. They’re not talking about Black people who shout at church services. They’re not talking about anybody who uses a tambourine in this sanctuary. They’re not talking about any church that breaks up their choir into altos, sopranos and the bass. They’re talking about white people when they talk about Christian nationalism. But they’ll say. Christian nationalism. They’ll say NASCAR moms, NASCAR dads or or soccer moms, but they really just mean white people. They’ll talk about suburban voters, but they really just mean white people. They’ll talk about conservative voters. They’re talking about blue collar workers. They’ll use anything but the words white people. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:51] But when they talk about how Black people vote, they just say Black vote or the Black voters or, you know, nonwhite voters or Hispanic voters in Florida or Hispanic voters in Texas or Asian voters in California. They’ll call out the race of people who are not white. But they won’t say white people because they’re playing identity politics. And here is the reason this is important. Because in America, whiteness is not an identity. Whiteness is synonymous with American. Whiteness is synonymous with right. Whiteness is synonymous with patriotism. And everybody else in this game of identity politics has a nonwhite identity. That’s the whole reason they use that acronym BIPOC. People of color. Voters of color. That’s why they do that, because they’re playing identity politics. So, when you see your favorite pundit talking about the suburbs of Pennsylvania or the people outside of Atlanta, or when they say Fulton County, they mean Black people. When they say the suburbs of Philadelphia, they mean white people. When they say the people in the Midwest, they mean white people. When they say flyover country, they mean white people. When they say blue states, they mean white people who vote Democratic. When they say red states, they mean white people in states that have heavily Black populations like Alabama, Georgia. But they’re not talking about Black people. They’re talking about the white people. Because they’re playing identity politics. 

Michael Harriot [00:16:08] And because they have figured out a way not to say it. They look at the truth tellers, the people who are not afraid to talk about whiteness, who are not afraid to talk about racism, who are not afraid to talk about the most enduring element of politics in America. And they call them the race baiters. They call the people who talk about the people who busted us over the head when we were trying to vote. They’ll say that’s race baiting. They’ll say it’s identity politics. When we know the identity of the white people who vote, they’ll say. It’s race baiting or playing the race card. When we pull the card of whiteness. But the real identity politics in America is just. Politics. And that’s why you got to subscribe to this podcast. That’s why you’ve got to download that Grio app. That’s why you got to tell a friend about this podcast, because it’s just like my grandmom used to say, “A lie don’t care who tells it, but white people don’t want you to see them.” Thank you for watching this episode of theGrio Daily, and we’ll see you next time. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the 

[00:18:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.