Editor’s Note: For an alternative viewpoint, please see: Counterpoint: Is Strategic Divisiveness Impeding Progress?
What happens when a person hears the phrase “identity politics”? For most it’s a total shut down, fight or flight response; whites gear up for a confrontation, which starts and ends with them being labeled a racist without any evidence to support it. For blacks, an assumption of the victimhood cape can ensue, with disastrous consequences.
There is a level of exhaustion with the discussion of race that right now is quite telling. Those most eager to discuss it cannot get enough: it is a drug by which they live and breathe. For people who have work to do, lives to live and a sense of propriety, there is simply no time to discuss the malevolent topic of race relations and identity politics.
If the goal is to lessen the effect of interactional slights between individuals, a mature approach mandates that every slight cannot be attributed to race.
Successful people know this, and live out the assumption of the best motives until proven otherwise. This takes a great deal of effort, as one has to be prepared to be slighted and not strike back in kind.
Is the act of discussing race racist? Or does raising the topic represent an act of civility that should engender an openly measured desire to engage? This is the most difficult aspect: Those accused of racism are immediately unwilling to discuss race; what is the motivation to do so if you are already guilty?
The subject is so polarizing, and leaves out a most important distinction: People who are willing to discuss racial issues are least likely to be virulent racists, but will endure the brunt of being called racists for doing nothing but engaging. This deters others from joining the fray, as it is a zero sum equation for them.
There is an elephant in the room: Time spent discussing the minor and major slights of individuals is a waste in light of the truly devastating effects being withstood by over a quarter of the 38 million blacks in America today; a raging out-of-wedlock birthrate; an outsized dependence on government programs for basic survival; inner-city crime rates that rival third world nations; improving, but still below par, educational outcomes — specifically high school graduation rates and secondary education achievement. And the growing sense that there is no way for blacks to access the undeniable successes other minority groups attain; even those from African nations, who come here, start a business, move into affluence and grow wealth.
No national discussion on race will ever replicate the results of immigrants hailing from Asia and the African continent. While we talk, they are living the American dream through hard work, determination and a refusal to discuss race publicly.
Identity politics has brought ideas to the forefront that previously would have been roundly mocked and derided for their utter foolishness. Take the most recent assertions on language ability: speaking English used to be the norm and an inability to master it was not an option. Now there are prominent members of K-12 education academic leadership community who regularly posit that blacks are unable to learn English and should be permitted to speak “ebonics” as a way of respecting their “culture.”
Is poverty a culture? Is the act of speaking English well a denigration of one’s cultural history? Ridiculous! This statement is utterly, completely, insultingly and perniciously ridiculous. Being poor isn’t a culture, at least not in a way that should be preserved or honored with it’s own language. Back when creating new words wasn’t a lofty activity in which many aspired to participate, the term for a language variation unique to a certain subgroup was shibboleth. It certainly wasn’t a compliment to be deemed in possession of one.
It is within our grasp as Americans to state with confidence that certain behaviors and modes of being are preferable to others using history, data and statistics in support. Doing so can free millions of our poor to go hard after their goals and attain them without checking to see if their privilege or lack thereof would permit them to do so. It matters not whether identity politics are racist, what matters is are they effective in curing what ails our society. Clearly the answer to that question is no.