One particular day, my friend and I met with a perspective new client that had agreed in principle to retain our services. We were sitting together at a business lunch as my friend provided the resumes and profiles of several of the engineers we were offering for the project. First were the two brothers from South Korea who were smart and knew how to get things done. Next was the gentleman who was born in Nigeria and educated in the United States. Then there was the young girl who was a recent college graduate, and then a white gentleman who was originally from the upper mid-west.
The client looked at the profiles, which included pictures, and then commented that he was impressed by the diversity of our engineering staff we had offered and thought very highly of this. My friend and I looked at each other with a slightly confounded look on each of our faces. It never occurred to either of us that we were presenting Asians, African-Americans, women, and a token white guy as a matter of filling some diversity quota, but rather these were the people that interviewed with us whom were best qualified for the job. While obviously being aware of identity politics, it was the first time that it really came clearly into my conscious focus; it was my first real first-hand experience demonstrating that many of our leftist brothers and sisters do indeed look at people first through the prism of race and gender.
Identity politics has continuously crept into American society and has indeed been an integral part of most college curriculums and cultures for decades now as the militant Left in academia have taken the reigns of control over most of our universities and colleges.
Author Bruce Bawer in The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Politics and the Closing of the Liberal Mind regarding this leftist infestation in our institutions of higher learning, wrote the following,
“The point [became] simply to ‘prove’ – repetitively, endlessly – certain facile, reductive, and invariably left-wing points about the nature of power and oppression. In this new version of the humanities, all of Western civilization is not analyzed through the use of reason or judged according to aesthetic standards that have been developed over the centuries; rather, it is viewed through prisms of race, class, and gender, and is hailed or condemned in accordance with certain political checklists.”But why? What was the reason and supposed necessity for the Leftist ascendancy of identity politics?
Matthew Continetti, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon gave a speech last October that provides some insight as to why he thinks this came to be:
“The beginnings of identity politics can be traced to 1973, the year the first volume of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago – a book that demolished any pretense of communism’s moral authority – was published in the West. The ideological challenge of socialism was fading, its fighting spirit dwindling. This presented a challenge for the Left: how to carry on the fight against capitalism when its major ideological alternative was no longer viable?
The Left found its answer in an identity politics that grew out of anti-colonialism. Marx’s class struggle was reformulated into an ethno-racial struggle – a ceaseless competition between colonizer and colonized, victimizer and victim, oppressor and oppressed. Instead of presenting collectivism and central planning as the gateway to the realization of genuine freedom, the new multiculturalist Left turned to unmasking the supposed power relations that subordinated minorities and exploited third world nations.”And so the Left began indoctrinating our impressionable college students during the genesis of this nefarious ideology. English classes became the study of texts to uncover power relations hidden within them. History courses became “people’s history and their oppression”. And of course we saw the rise and development at nearly every university of African-American Studies, Women’s studies, Chicano Studies, Queer Studies, and so forth, as we further tried to balkanize our national populace into disparate sub-groups of Americans.
Of course anyone having the temerity to point this out was met with being labeled a racist, just as this practice of playing the race card has persisted among our sisters and brothers on the far Left today.
This pernicious ideology of dividing Americans through identity politics has become increasingly pervasive in our national culture. Indeed on May 5, 2010, Live Oak High School south of San Jose in the Bay area banned “white students” from wearing shirts and clothing with the American flag on it as being provocative to Hispanic students on the Mexican national holiday of Cinco de Mayo. Never mind that the Hispanic students roamed the campus with a Mexican Flag in celebrating a day that is not an official holiday of their current home nation. Instead of the principal using this as a teaching moment between Americans of different ancestry, he simply forbid the wearing or displaying of the American flag by students on May 5th.
While I do find fault with any students attempting to be intentionally provocative and belligerent to their fellow students of Hispanic ancestry, the principal basically curtailed their free speech as Americans. The case went to court, and the hyper-leftist 9th Circuit of course upheld the principal’s actions. The Supreme Court later refused to hear the case.
If we continue down this mine-laden path of identity politics and thus continue to divide our citizens into myriads of hyphenated-American subgroups, how can we expect to continue this great American experiment? How can we keep this melting pot of many various and diverse citizens all coming together as Americans and not as a conglomeration of balkanized sub-groups whom are wary, suspicious, and antagonistic towards other sub-groups?
Last year, Columbia humanities professor Mark Lilla, who is himself a liberal, wrote,
“Identity politics on the left was at first about large classes of people… seeking to redress major historical wrongs by mobilizing and then working through our political institutions to secure their rights. But by the 1980’s, it had given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow, and exclusionary self-definition that is now cultivated in our colleges and universities. The main result has been to turn people back onto themselves, rather than turning them outward towards the wider world they share with others. It has left them unprepared to think about the common good in non-identity terms and what must be done practically to secure it – especially the hard and unglamorous task of persuading people very different from themselves to join a common effort.”Of course Professor Lilla’s comments were condemned by others on the Left as racist.
The continuing ascendancy of identity politics on the Left has proceeded unabated, especially on the national stage. In 2012 during the Democrat National Convention, the inclusion of God in their Democrat platform was booed, while issues such as transgender rights to use the restroom of their choice, forcing nuns to purchase health insurance that necessarily included abortifacients, and fining Christian Bakers who refused to use their artistic abilities to furnish a cake for a gay marriage all became pertinent and immediate issues to the Left.
When Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency in 2016, one could find on her campaign website any number of tabs for various ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, but not a single one about a shared vision of American unity.
It was a far cry from then-Senator Obama’s 2004 DNC keynote speech at John Kerry’s official nomination for president, “There’s not a black America and a white America and a Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
It is ironic that such a grand and unifying theme was later abandoned during his own presidency as President Obama seemingly intentionally pitted black and white Americans against each other. Rather than bringing us together as the United States of America, he proceeded to stoke the flames of race and turned us more into splintered and suspicious groups more akin to the former Yugoslavia.
The Left’s often dismissive, insulting, and self-righteous stance on the issue of identity politics will only continue to further fracture our increasingly-divided nation. We must return to a love of our history and founding principles as expressed by our founding documents that we are ALL created equal. We are united by freedom and equality and we should strive to ensure that all of our American brothers and sisters are treated as such, regardless of race, faith, gender, or whatever other potentially dividing characteristic that can be exploited.
Unlike my client decades ago who reviewed the profiles of perspective engineers to work on his project and saw only their skin color and outward physical characteristics, we should strive to see each other as Americans first and foremost always - as fellow brothers and sisters created in the likeness of God.
Our motto as an American nation is “E pluribus unum” – or “Out of many, one”. That is the ideal we should strive once again to achieve in this American melting pot, and throw away the divisive and destructive ideology of identity politics into the ash heap of history where it rightly belongs.