Any activist movement that lacks a broad commitment to ally building across all group lines — class, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and more — risks becoming narrow and ultimately ineffective. To say that strong identity politics keeps groups from advocating for each other misses a key point: powerful interests keep oppression in place by systematically encouraging divisions among groups, often setting groups up to fight each other for limited resources.

Divide-and-conquer strategies weaken us by pitting groups against each other. In the recent marriage-equity campaigns in many states, for example, anti-gay activists methodically went into Black churches to organize opposition, hoping to split the Black community and the gay community. Identity politics does not, in itself, always cause greater divisiveness among groups; rather, activists must be vigilant in resisting the divide-and-conquer strategies that can splinter progressive coalitions.

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