F**k Your Ethnicity - Identity Politics & the Danger of ACTUAL Social Justice
Flashbacks to the Future
The intro song to the classic debut album “Section 80” by Kendrick Lamar, ‘F**k your Ethnicity', while admittedly crudely titled, tells the elegant story of a man who looks not to ignore or avoid seeing skin color, but rather emphasize the humanity that resides in all of us. The song could not provide a better backdrop to the climate of today’s political and social discourse. If you’re looking at the world today, you may see a complicated world filled with complicated issues. Yet, if you break the world down person by person, society can become even more complex. Every person living on earth, or that has ever lived period, has a unique story about them. A story that shapes their global outlook, moral fiber, and overall mentality. This is what makes the the concept of identity politics so frustrating as a whole.
For those who don’t know the term, although many of you are undoubtedly familiar with the concept; Identity politics is the idea that a set of beliefs revolves around a the identity of ones social group. These social groups often come in the form of age, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. In other words, who you are and who you affiliate with shapes your view more than what you’ve actually experienced. While establishing an identity can be beneficial to crafting opinions and understanding ones self, identity politics has some key issues that make it harder for us to advance our country’s political discourse.
Using your identity to shape all of your political beliefs has one obvious problem, which is your identity does not define the political landscape of the world. You as a person are, by definition, an anecdote in the grand scheme what is happening in the world. So when you use your own limited view to shape the world based on what you and the people with similar identities around you, you are shaping a limited view. The internet, in theory, is supposed to introduce us to new ideas and keep us from being sheltered by our own ideas. Yet in the pursuit to verify our own identities and confirm our pre-existing beliefs, we searched for information that did exactly that instead of focusing on information that actually mattered and that was, more importantly, true.
The "group think" mentality also breeds a sense of hyper sensitivity and false outrage at any comment or idea that could be taken as remotely offensive. You see this with criticism of “politically correct” culture; A person is forced to a retract a seemingly innocuous statement that contained no malicious intentions but was blasted by the public as being offensive or insensitive to a particular group. This even extends to people who are not even part of a particular group who feel the need to be offended so they themselves to not come off as offensive or insensitive for not showing the appropriate level of outrage.
All this leads to the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome, where so many non-offensive and mundane acts draw overreactions from those dedicated to the mindset of identity politics. to the point that genuinely deplorable actions either don’t get covered, or are also just taken as overreactions and are brushed off as such. It can be very harmful to focus on aesthetic damage like racist jokes or “microagressions” when there are leaders in the government that seek to do actual harm to minority communities by attacking key civil liberties and policies that support millions of American citizens.
Do not fall into this trap. Take time to actually talk to people who may be offended or find certain remarks or actions insensitive and find out whether they actually are or not. Examine the offense relative to those in the same category. For example, a white person using the word “n***a” is less damaging than a white police officer who kills and unarmed black man. Finally, think for yourself, you are not defined by your skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. You are defined by the millions of unique experiences that you have had in timeline special to you. If we can begin to think like this, perhaps we can move toward a society that benefits ALL humans.