February 02, 2015

All politics is identity politics

A posting on the concept of "identity politics"--something Natives are often accused of:

All politics is identity politics

By Matthew YglesiasThe implication of this usage (which is widespread, and by no means limited to people who agree with Chait) is that somehow an identity is something only women or African-Americans or perhaps LGBT people have. White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.

You see something similar in Noam Scheiber's argument that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio went astray by emphasizing an "identity group agenda" of police reform at the expense of a (presumably identity-free) agenda of populist economics. For starters, it is actually inevitable that a New York City mayor would end up spending more time on his police department management agenda (something that is actually under the mayor's control) than on tax policy, which is set by the State Legislature in Albany.

But beyond that, not addressing a racially discriminatory status quo in policing is itself a choice. Indeed, it's a kind of identity group appeal—to white people, whose preferred means of striking the balance between liberty and security, in many contexts, is that security should be achieved by depriving other people of their civil liberties.

This is where the at-times tiresome concept of privilege becomes very useful. The truth is that almost all politics is, on some level, about identity. But those with the right identities have the privilege of simply calling it politics while labeling other people's agendas "identity."
Comment:  Accusing someone of "identity politics" is a great example of white privilege in action. Minorities have to prove they're not just a "special interest" group arguing for their own benefit. That other people should care about them. That their arguments are relevant to everyone.

White people don't face that burden. If they argue for voting laws or tax loopholes or immigration policies that overwhelmingly favor whites, no one forces them to justify the universality of their proposals. To these Americans, "universal" means whatever maintains the (white) status quo.

For more on the subject, see Whites Have Institutionalized Racial Power and Whites Are Blind to Their Privilege.

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