Group identity politics is an idea used over the past 30 years to try to defeat social injustice. In this post I will attempt to test rather it is specifically effective for minorities. Before doing so, the concept must be properly defined:
Group identity politics is based on political positions focusing to divide people in society into different groups of shared interest and perspectives. Instead of society being based on the individual, the individual is identified within a particular exclusive group. It makes ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, political party or social class the primary element of our being.
When we look outside at the world, we see an increasingly depraved, polarizing, impatient world that is complex beyond measure. In this broken system, people have been trying to fix the world since the beginning of time. In particular, with the current social issues that have plagued us we are still searching for solutions. Identity politics is the current “potential solution”.
The thought is that by putting people into groups it will empower the people within them and raise awareness against things like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. That this will help people who have been victimized also come together as victims and rise above the oppressors. Sounds like a plausible solution.
However…the primary question is…..:
Do Identity Politics work?
My 12th grade AP Economics Teacher taught our class a key principle in consumerism – “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” That is, every choice/solution in life has a cost. That cost may be our finances, time, energy, a human right, a relationship, quality of relationship, or a life itself. Today we hear chants for social justice. We want things fixed and we want them fixed “immediately”.
A wise approach when considering a new policy, system, or ideology is to consider as many outcomes as humanly possible if it is implemented. The most important outcome to consider above the others is the worst possible outcome.
Before making a decision, asking a question such as: What are the ways in which we might accidentally make things worse with this? Or, if we open this door to make something better, are there other ideas (or consequences) that will walk through that same door now that we’ve opened it?
We use a similar thought process in the engineering world when we conservatively design buildings. We do this in the sports arena when setting up rules to protect players from injury. We even do this when choosing which car to buy or where to eat for dinner. In the fields of mathematics and the social sciences, this process is called game theory.
Sometimes the costs are worth paying but, historically, many of times they are not. Besides Christ, there is especially no solution to any social issue that, if implemented, would not then be taken/used/twisted by the enemies of God several years down the line.
How does group identity politics affect the world?
The world is too complex and “endlessly” diverse for identity politics to function with consistency. It cannot be measured and quantified. It cannot be used as a tool for success on either political spectrum.
Within the Social Justice Movement and group identity politics there is no hint of consistency due to the absence of objective truth. This movement wants to remove any given number of contradictory rules and then tell us all which rules apply at any given moment. Our country cannot reasonably function with these rules.
In the same sentence they say, “You cannot understand me because my experience is too different. But wait, you also must understand me because my experience is too different.”
A person’s opinion matters not on the individual level but relative to their identity group. So a gay white woman’s opinion matters less than a gay black woman – both are oppressed by the man-dominated world, both are oppressed by the heterosexual majority, but the black woman has the added victim-hood of racism. The more memberships in oppressed groups you have, the higher you rank on the hierarchy. It plays out everyday.
- We attack Kevin Hart for homophobic tweets in 2010 but we let white female comedians slide when they’ve used similar homophobic tweets. On the intersectional scale, Amy Schumer, a liberal white woman, gets a pass over Kevin Hart, an apolitical straight black man, because her combined political and gender oppression outweigh Kevin Hart’s single racial oppression.
- For myself, being a black male I have noticed that I get away with speaking more freely on social issues (race, gender, class, homosexuality) than my white male counterparts.
You see, without objectivity we rely on subjectivity. In a subjective world view, anything goes at any given time. Conversely, anything can be taken away at any given time. Group identity politics is insufficient in covering the marginalized because all people are marginalized in some ways. Everyone is oppressed. In a subjective world, how are we going to say one person’s marginalization trumps another person’s marginalization? Who dictates the hierarchy and the extent of oppression? How far back in time do we account for the oppression of our ancestors? It is not simply black and white or men and women.
- The LGBTQ community is oppressed too right?
- Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans are marginalized.
- Jews and Muslims are discriminated against as well. Look at the complexity of the Crusades, the Israeli-Palestistian conflict, the Holocaust.
- What about the deeply tense tribal differences between the several Asian communities with all their wars over the past hundreds of years?
- For the gender fluid white women who will identify as white men tomorrow, will they simultaneously then be classified as privileged oppressors and hierarchically dominant white men?
- Are white people who grew up poor less marginalized than black people who grew up in middle class families?
- Do black women and Hispanic women deserve more than white women in the workforce?
- What about job positions in society that Asians preferentially occupy? Are there too many Asians in the STEM fields? Are we going to put a quota on them?
- Should oppression of black Africans equal that of black Americans?
- And what about attractive people who have walked through life more privileged than less attractive people?
- What about shorter men? Should they get privilege over taller men?
- What about intelligence versus a lack of intelligence?
This goes on and on until we get to the level of individual people which is exactly where we should be in the first place. The victim system will never be equal. The irony is that it is our SHARED sense of oppression and pain that unifies us, not what separates us. We have each felt pain and caused pain. No one is innocent. Separating off into different groups does more harm than good. The benefit may be a short-termed warm feeling of camaraderie. However, this does nothing long term for reconciliation and fixing the actual problem.
What do we risk when grouping with identity politics?
- We run the risk of being ignored because we have all these other accompanying social ideas and accompanying proposals that are not the same. For example, fighting for racial reconciliation tends to be accompanied by the acceptance of homosexuality. They may be similar looking by the standard of oppression but there are massive distinctions theologically, sociologically, and politically. Some of those distinctions may reduce our own quality of life. Having those accompanying ideas hardens the hearts of people who argue for the fact that there are distinctions.
- Some of the ideas associated within identity politics will, in turn, hinder our relationships. It will further polarize people. It will cause further tension between people who identify in seemingly opposing groups rather than unite them as humans.
- It will open the door to radical Right wing racists who would also like to play identity politics.
- It runs the risk of demonizing people who do not deserve to be demonized. For example, it puts Louis CK at the same evil level as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. It puts a white Chipotle manager, who did her job in refusing to serve two black men who Dine & Dash, at the same evil level as white supremacists. Or it simply names anyone transphobic who believes gender dysphoria to be a mental disorder.
(I will stay on that black-white racial tension train for the remainder of this post). Black Americans are being duped by identity politics to carry a weight they are not meant to bear. Black minorities are being pushed to the front of the line [by other identity groups] as a plea for diversity & inclusion when ultimately much of what those groups truly care about are their own agendas. Racial diversity is just the ticket inside the door that, if left unmonitored, allows in other ideologies. People are prone to give in to accompanying ideologies that they cannot defend against for the sake of the continued validity of our own hopes.
What actually works as a solution?
White privilege is real. We may not agree on the definition – CNN, NAACP, and other sources may have different versions of the definition. It may not be quantifiable. However, it is undeniable that, historically and today, there exists some form(s) of white privilege. This does not mean white people are criminals. There are other forms of privilege that people of color have that white people do not. Our society doesn’t have a white problem it has a heart problem. As Chris Rock said at the Oscars, “Everything isn’t racist, everything isn’t sexist.”
A true “solution” for racial reconciliation would be to aim for incremental [compounding] improvement. By approaching it incrementally we can more effectively defend away chaotic and unnecessary accompanying ideas that are not needed for the overall goal of racial reconciliation. Let me explain: There is a difference between a person who is a reformer and person who is a revolutionary.
A revolutionary person attempts change in an immediate time frame with little foresight and, in turn, risks damaging the world. A reformer sees a social problem and understands the complexity that fixing it will possibly take hundreds of years. The reformer understands the wise, loving, beneficial patience in an incremental approach. MLK was a reformer. In an increasingly impatient world, we do not do too well with reformers – their ideas take too long. Jesus and the Apostles were also reformers. The world did not treat them too well either.
The solution is a sacrificial approach. Jesus died on the cross for something He did not do. He died for us. For racial reconciliation we all need to be willing to sacrifice for one another regardless of who it is. We must see people as souls, not as a particular social group.
The solution is grace. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. For racial reconciliation we all need to forgive one another. It is wise to learn from history but we should not let history dictate our current emotions. All people should recognize the effects of history on people today and work through it for the sake of equality.
I recently heard someone say it like this when speaking on corporate repentance in the Book of Ezra, “Sometimes repentance is taking responsibility of sins past and present that are not your own.”
Jesus’ prayer is that we will be one. ONE. He said this because there is a spiritual war that is much more important than any societal or cultural war. It is by fighting the spiritual war together that we also have success in the societal and cultural wars.
The answer is simple in deed, yet complex to carry out. But the answer is good and worth the attempt.