Sen. Kamala Harris accused critics of “identity politics” of weaponizing the term to diminish issues of race, gender and sexual orientation, pressing Democrats on Friday to address those issues head on.

“I have a problem, guys, with that phrase, ‘identity politics,’” Harris told the progressive gathering Netroots Nation, wading into a messaging debate roiling Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. “Because let’s be clear, when people say that, it’s a pejorative. That phrase is used to divide, and it is used to distract. Its purpose is to minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us. It is used to try and shut us up.”

Harris, one of the Democratic Party’s top 2020 presidential prospects, said Democrats “won’t be shut up, and we won’t be silenced.”

“These issues that they’re trying to diminish and demean,” she added, “are the very issues that will define our identity as Americans.”