Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 or 30 years, you’ve likely heard of the term “identity” politics—or the idea that some aspect of a person’s personality connects him or her to others who share a similar identity and therefore usually share a similar “oppression”.
And believe me, identity politics is something that is quite popular in modern day political science as well as modern day popular culture. Yet few people have taken a step back to take a hard look at what identity politics actually is and how it is hurting, rather than helping, society (perhaps intentionally). The unfortunate consequence of identity politics is fragmenting our society into random various groups based upon some shared trait at the expense of the individual.
So, I’m going to step through five basic points here about identity politics. Consider this an introduction, a wetting of the tongue for future dialogue and information.
Identity Politics: What It Means
So, what is identity politics?
Based upon a basic dictionary definition it is this: groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group. [Division into groups that cannot communicate.]
Basically, identity politics is the grouping of individuals based upon some shared belief or trait. This allows political scientists to study “group” behavior. Of course, the assumption is, if you are black and live in one part of the U.S., you share the same experience and therefore political beliefs as a black individual who lives in an entirely different part of the country, simply because you and that other individual are both black.
Of course, the fundamental argument in identity politics is that certain “group” identities share oppression from or by other “group” identities. That if an individual is black or homosexual, he or she is less likely to be successful in America because the odds are stacked against him or her.
Identity Politics: Intersectionality
Here’s the challenge, and it’s the challenge that people in higher echelons of the political science community are dealing with. The more they try to focus on what makes someone unique (eg. their unique perspective as an oppressed Hispanic living in America)—in order to group them together—the more they realize there are far too many differing traits about people to simply focus on one trait (which is why identity politics doesn’t work).
So, they’ve introduced a concept called intersectionality.
Intersectionality happens when multiple different traits and personality types collide or intersect in one individual. Which, logically speaking, should not have its own term—or could perhaps just be called individuality?
But, since these political scientists and the like are hard pressed to force people out of their individuality and into groups, they must grapple with the reality that there is an individual! This leads to the following situation: a political scientist should not automatically clump all women together as equally oppressed because if someone is a black, lesbian woman, she is likely more oppressed than a white, straight woman—-by their logic and definition of oppression.
This just makes things confusing for them. Take a look at the video below to get a rather infuriating, albeit humorous example of how this type of thinking is warping young collegiate minds.
This is the kicker. The end of their intersectional reasoning…is the individual. If we fraction people down to every little detail of how they are different, we get the individual. Which is, of course, not what proponents of identity politics are going for.
Identity Politics: What Makes Us Unique
Think about it. There are so many aspects of a single individual that make that individual unique. Each individual has a completely different set of experiences, personality traits, skills, talents, passions, quirks, likes and dislikes, physical conditions, religious beliefs and the like. We differ in innumerable ways.
And that’s just the start. I’m utilizing some of Jordan Peterson’s logic here.
Apparently variance in intelligence has a powerful biological basis and does play a role in the economic success of individuals.
Also, people vary in temperament, with some who are emotionally stable, compassionate, agreeable, and others who are not.
We are all slaves to the time and location to which we are born.
Everyone has a different level of physical attractiveness, and attractiveness (which is uncontrollable) has proven to dramatically affect people’s success.
Young people are generally preferred to old. Healthier people will naturally have an advantage over those cursed with perpetual poor health.
Those who are more physically athletic are given a clear advantage over others in many ways. Some people are born wealthy, some not. Some had a solid and healthy family structure growing up, others did not. Some people have friends, some do not. Some people are more educated, while others are not. There is an infinite number of dimensions for which people differ, all which have an effect on their economic and social status in the world.
And notice that I have not even mentioned sex, gender or race, the three “dimensions” that are most prominent today.
Identity Politics: How It Harms
Identity politics ends up destroying the individual and eliminating all the unique and specific attributes and experiences that only apply to that individual by throwing everyone, who shares one selected trait in common, into one category. Identity politics then says that if people share the chosen trait they all share the same experience, oppression and therefore the same political beliefs.
Here’s the thing though. There is not a group without the individual. And the individual cannot and will not experience what the “group” is experiencing because the group cannot experience anything—only individuals can. Make sense?
Identity politics grossly enlarges one aspect of an individual while diminishing everything else about that same individual. Why focus and over-inflate the fact that someone is black or gay or Muslim when it is merely one small part of that whole individual?
It’s a silly analogy but imagine if we applied the same logic to our physical bodies. What if we put undo focus on one particular feature as if that one physical feature was all that mattered and all that defined us? We end up with people walking around with enormously enlarged toes or arms or feet. Logically, that one foot or toe is important but not at the expense of the rest of the body.
In other words, identity politics is giving an undue amount of focus to one small aspect of what makes a person.
Identity Politics: traits and the economic and political outcome
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of academics, media pundits, politicians and the like that say that being of a certain race or gender unduly harms or helps someone in their daily lives. It helps or harms someone’s economic potential, social life and social status.
And yet, these same individuals never stop to verify their foregone conclusions. In what ways do all the other traits that I’ve mentioned also harm or help an individual’s economic potential and social status? Do we know the specific differences in outcomes between race, intelligence, sex, attractiveness, etc?
Identity politics is driving this country apart. It is unnaturally clumping people into various groups that don’t belong together. There is far more that makes a person than his or her sex or race or gender and we’re doing an injustice to society by fracturing the entire country based upon such things.
The only group “identity” I’m willing to adopt is this, at least in America, we’re all Americans. If we’d all just start and stop there, we’d be just fine.
The Liberty Belle