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Joe Biden: 'Equality is not a matter of "identity politics."'

The former VP shares an important message in the foreword of author Sarah McBride's new book.

Joe Biden: 'Equality is not a matter of "identity politics."'

Sarah McBride is a brilliant, accomplished woman with a brand-new book — and one very famous fan.

Actually, she has many famous fans, but just one wrote the foreword to her memoir, "Tomorrow Will Be Different." McBride is one of the most well-known activists in the fight for transgender rights. When she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she became the first out trans person to address a major party's political convention, and she currently works as the Human Rights Campaign's national press secretary. Before that, she worked for a man named Beau Biden.

Beau was the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and served as Delaware's attorney general from 2007 to 2015. McBride worked in Beau's office, earning the admiration of both generations of Bidens.


Sarah McBride addresses the DNC as Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) looks on. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

In the foreword to McBride's book, Joe Biden shares his own story of growth, delivering a powerful rebuke to the idea of identity politics as political poison.

"As a country, we need to reject the false distinction between social inequality and economic inequality, for any barrier to good jobs, safe schools, or basic health care is inequality one and the same," writes Biden.

"As a nation, we must continue to ensure that the American Dream is available to all people. Our LGBTQ fellow citizens are service members and factory workers, teachers and doctors. They are patients and caregivers, family members and friends. Equality is not a matter of 'identity politics,' it is a human right, and an economic necessity for many of the most vulnerable in this nation, people whose lives, dignity, and security are on the line.

We are at an inflection point in the fight for transgender equality, what I have called the civil rights issue of our time. And it's not just a singular issue of identity, it's about freeing the soul of America from the constraints of bigotry, hate, and fear, and opening people's hearts and minds to what binds us all together."

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

There's confusion about the concept of identity politics — what it is and isn't.

In the wake of Donald Trump's election, a number of prominent media figures were quick to place blame on causes like Black Lives Matter, the fight for trans rights, and anti-racist and anti-sexist movements.

These causes were, to those critics, identity politics. Identity politics has become a catch-all term for causes that focus on how to help a specific group of people. It's often used pretty derisively and framed as shortsighted. Biden doesn't think that has to be the case.

10 days after the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times published an op-ed by author and humanities professor Mark Lilla titled, "The End of Identity Liberalism." In it, he scoffs at the thought that people on the political left should fight back against North Carolina's anti-trans HB2 bill, writing, "America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms." He mocks colleges that take steps to accommodate trans and non-binary students, as well as the larger idea of "diversity issues." Lilla seemed to believe that progressives should abandon issues around race and gender altogether if they want to win future elections.

It's time to stop treating identity politics as the cause of our problems or an obstacle to progress.

Identity politics and political correctness are convenient scapegoats for society's ills.  Trump wins an election? Blame it on Black Lives Matter. People didn't laugh at a comedian's joke? Blame it on oversensitive trans people. It's a simple, lazy excuse for not dealing with the actual causes of society's problems.

Regarding North Carolina's HB2 — the example Lilla indirectly referenced in his op-ed — it's worth looking at what effect identity politics had on the state in the first election after that bill was signed into law. Going into his 2016 reelection bid, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ran hard on the anti-trans law and argued that, if were it up to his opponent, trans people would be allowed to use whatever bathroom matches their gender identity (which ... honestly makes sense, right?).

Roy Cooper, McCrory's opponent, did run on repealing HB2. According to Lilla's thesis, this embrace of identity politics should have spelled doom for Cooper. Instead, he won. Better yet, he outperformed virtually every Democrat on the ballot.

In a state that voted for Trump, Cooper was able to knock off its incumbent Republican governor. It seems that it was because of his willingness to embrace so-called identity politics that he won, not in spite of it.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper addresses supporters on election night 2016. Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

Identity politics are important because many of our identities are under major attack right now. McBride's book highlights that fight.

As Biden notes, social inequality is economic inequality. If a trans man loses his job because of his gender identity, that's an economic issue. If a pregnant person is forced to carry a fetus to term and is stuck with thousands of dollars in unwanted medical bills, that's an economic issue. If institutional racism prevents a person of color from finding a job or buying a home, that's an economic issue.

Still, the fight to right these wrongs is too often brushed off as "identity politics" or as a purely social issue.

Empathy, not isolationism, is what will help us create a better, more just world. That's part of the false message of anti-identity politics crusaders: They suggest that these issues divide us. The truth is that you don't have to be trans to care about trans rights; you don't have to be black to believe black lives matter; you don't have to be an undocumented immigrant to care about DACA; you don't have to be disabled to care about disability rights; you don't have to have a uterus to believe in comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights. You just have to be a person who cares about other people.

McBride's book, especially for people who might have any trans family, friends, or acquaintances, is a good place to start if you're interested in building empathy.

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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.

Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.

Whoa.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.

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When 59 children died on Christmas Eve 1913, the world cried with the town of Calumet, Michigan.

Woody Guthrie sang about this little-known piece of history.

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AFL Labor Mini Series

A one-man drill operation

In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C&H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists ran roughshod over their workers — a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers' demands included pay raises, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines (which mine owners didn't want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins “do not cost us anything.")

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Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

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