The Danger of Identity Politics

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

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

What would a principled, rather than partisan approach to politics look like?

Well, 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 only deemed worthy of protecting 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 that message, and disapproval can even be portrayed all while acknowledging that that individual has the right to say things which you disagree with.

Similarly, a principled ideology might 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 and/or innocent citizens. I would imagine that few people would find this idea objectionable, and an even greater number of people might ardently agree with it. 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. What they have done is pitted all black people against all cops, and eliminated any and all nuance in the discussion by loudly proclaiming that “All Cops Are Bastards” (this becomes particularly confusing when you consider that some black people are, in fact, cops themselves).

They have created the scenario where anyone who doesn’t take up their fight, or perhaps does so without the proper amount of enthusiasm, is deemed as the enemy. Similarly, anyone who questions whether every small town needs a police force stocked with surplus military equipment, or whether the postal service needs an armed police force is somehow labeled as a socialist, even though it’s actually the opposite which would seem to be true based off the definition of that word.

In my experience, attacking someone’s integrity has never been a successful tactic for persuading said person to open their mind, in fact it will almost always lead to the opposite situation, where the person being attacked closes themselves off and instead becomes defensive of their position.

Now let’s get back to the principled stance that all use of excessive violent force is bad. I again pose the challenge to find anyone who disagrees with that original statement. You would undoubtedly find differing opinions on what constitutes excessive force, and that’s fine, it opens the door for a healthy and rational debate, but without the alienating effects of the identity politics-based stance, I contend that you would find a much larger scale acceptance of this ideal. This large scale disapproval of excessive force and the associated voluntary collective efforts to stop it would result in an overall decrease of violent force used by the police. Such a 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. So African Americans, and other groups of people who are currently more often on the receiving end of excessive force would see the largest improvement in their condition, whereas 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.