At bottom, identity politics rests on problematic ideas of political authenticity and representation. These derive from the faulty premise that membership in a group gives access to a shared perspective and an intuitive understanding of the group’s collective interests. This leads to two related beliefs that are wrong-headed and politically counterproductive: that only a group member can know or articulate the interests of the group, and that any group member can do so automatically by virtue of his or her identity.
Clarence Thomas should have been evidence enough to invalidate the premise linking group membership and perspective. Embarrassingly, people like Maya Angelou and Catherine McKinnon initially cut Thomas slack based on the silly belief that because he’s black and once was poor, putting him on the Supreme Court would turn out OK.
The simplistic belief that any credible member of a group can automatically represent that group’s interest feeds a tendency to reduce political objectives to a plea for group representatives on decision-making bodies or in other councils of power. That’s the [Bill] Clinton trick: to accept pleas for group representation or “access” while repudiating demands for an issue-based program. The dominant elites can happily satisfy such pleas; token egalitarianism is no threat at all.
Adolph Reed, Class Matters, 136.