Jeff Goldstein has been writing rather compelling arguments about why identity politics has such a corrosive impact on the political climate and how it perverts the debate, and I readily agree with him. Most recently, Jeff discussed, at length, the Michael Steele “Black Sambo” bit, and was ridiculed by some of our friends on the left:
Roy of Alicublog doesn’t like us white folk suggesting that when black folk whip Oreo cookies at other black folk, the thinking behind such a display of internecine racial bickering is not only vicious and cowardly, but dangerous, as well…
Once you get past Roy’s carefully cultivated technique of dismissing offhandedly with ironic quips what he considers to be frustratingly stupid wingnut blatherings —a rhetorical ploy that seems to go over well in the land of vacuous neo-hipsterism (BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY!)—all you’re left with is this: Roy and many of his equally vulgar commenters believe that black racism against blacks is to be dealt with by blacks themselves—and that white folk, who clearly have no stake in the battle, need to mind their own business.
That this argument precisely makes my point about the dangers of identity politics—“racism” is no longer something that can be decided upon globally, but is rather something whose conditions are determined by warring factions within a particular identity group—is lost on Roy, who seems to follow Said, implicitly if not explicitly, by championing a form of identity politics that allows each identity group to make its own rules.
Such hardcore multiculturalism is at odds with the idea of American individualism, and—though self-satisfied progressives like Roy don’t like when we conservative racists point it out—with the idea of a society in which people are judged by the content of their character.
What is most disheartening about this is that recently, the right seems to be just as willing to play this sort of game- rather than rejecting identity politics, we find self-styled ‘conservatives’ accepting this line of thought, and engaging in ridiculous exercises such as demanding an apology from Bill Bennett, who should have ‘known better’ that his argument ad absurdum would be ‘portrayed’ as offensive and racist.
In fact, not only are conservatives not rejecting the game, some have decided they can play it better than the liberals. Oliver Willis finds Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy In Media engaging in a little recreational identity politics and cries “No Fair!”:
Cliff Kincaid from the right-wing AIM bias pimping operation is up on his haunches and braying:
In a blatant violation of journalistic ethics, Time magazine assigned a homosexual reporter, John Cloud, to write the recent Time cover story on homosexual teenagers but did not disclose his conflict of interest to its readers.
So I guess now in addition to bylines, reporters are going to be required to disclose their heterosexuality or homosexuality, depending on the subject of their stories.
Oliver is right that Cliff Kincaid is being foolish, and it really shouldn’t matter whether or not the author of the story is himself homosexual, nor should he have to disclose it. But Cliff Kincaid didn’t write the rules to this game- he is just playing along.
Maybe this incident will help people (in particular my friends on the left, but not exclusively) recognize why this brand of politics will lead to nothing but rancor and should end now. I sincerely doubt it.