The Danger of Identity Politics

Identity politics inflict great damage on those individuals who belong to marginalized groups. Unfortunately for them, both sides of the political spectrum run entire political campaigns on identity politics, rather than any identifiable political ideology and Americans gobble it up.

We could, for instance, take a stand that free speech is an important ideal; one which is worthy of fighting to protect. Instead, what we see across the political spectrum is that free speech is worth protecting only when it doesn’t make someone feel bad. On the left this commonly shows up in the case of mandating that people use gender pronouns which they may not even be aware exist; on the right, this same sensitivity to free speech has most famously reared its head in the disapproval of kneeling during the national anthem. If we recognize that freedom of speech is necessary for the voluntary exchange of ideas and the perpetuation of our freedom, it should also be recognized that we must defend this ideal regardless of whether we like what another person is saying. If you dislike someone’s message steps can be taken to counter it, and disapproval of the message can be portrayed even while acknowledging that that individual has the right to say those things which you disagree with.

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Similarly, an actual ideology would be that police brutality is bad and violent force by the police should be reserved for use in situations only where it is absolutely necessary to protect themselves or innocent citizens. I would imagine few people would find these ideas objectionable, and an even greater number of people might even ardently agree with them. Identity politics however, does not allow for such a universally applicable idea to exist. Identity politics insist that we must explicitly decry excessive use of force against only particular groups of people, rather than taking the broader stance that excessive use of force against everyone is bad. To make the latter claim is to somehow discredit the suffering of the identitarians’ selected group; a group which they will typically claim is the most proportionately disadvantaged in whatever cause they are fighting for.

While this is wonderful logic for capturing emotion, and winning political favor and elections, in actuality it serves to perpetuate the damage against marginalized groups of people. The reason for this, while it may not be immediately apparent, is rather simple. Let’s continue with the police example. Members of the identity politics movements in this arena (BLM and others) believe that they are fighting for a very noble cause, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that assertion. In reviewing the actual effects of their movements though, I see little that has been accomplished besides creating further divisiveness in this country. By pitting one group against another, they create the scenario where anyone who doesn’t take up their fight finds themselves backed into a corner. These people then naturally become defensive as they feel they’re being attacked. Those engaging in this form of identity politics are telling everyone who doesn’t participate that by doing so they are morally corrupt, this, in my experience, has never been a successful persuasion tactic.

Now let’s pretend that instead of associating this belief with a particular social or ethnic group some number of Americans took up the stance that the use of all excessive violent force was bad. I again pose the challenge to find anyone who disagrees with that original statement. You might find differing opinions of what constitutes excessive force, and that’s fine, it opens the door for a healthy and rational debate. Without the alienating effects of the identity politics based stance, a large scale disapproval of excessive force and the associated voluntary collective efforts to stop it would result in the toning down of violent force used by the police and this change would, by statistical necessity, benefit the group or groups who are most heavily a victim of said excess force. By the mere fact of proportionality, African Americans, and other groups of people who are most often on the receiving end of excessive force would see the largest improvement in their condition, while rich whites and others who never or very infrequently experience this, would see almost no change in their condition, because there would be nothing to change.

 

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