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Stop Toxic Identity Politics

Bryce Dunio  ’22, Opinion Columnist 

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On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech with as much relevancy to his time as ours. While the entire speech itself is truly a linguistic masterpiece, one quote especially stands out among all as a necessity for any free society to stand the test of time:

“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Although it has been over half a century since this speech, as well as the acquiring of equal rights for every American, Dr. King would think we’re living in a dystopian timeline from the amount of manufactured outrage and oppression in current day society. The concept of ‘identity politics’ is, after all, based on the assumption that factors ranging from the amount of melanin in one’s skin to one’s sexuality determine just how oppressed an individual is, regardless of virtually all other factors. The illogical hierarchy of oppression consequently constructed from such a concept artificially creates tribalistic tensions that would horrify Dr. King.

At the top of this hierarchy sits the straight, white male who has inherent privilege in society and below him sits the straight, white female with slightly less inherent privilege in society. This ladder continues downward, finally reaching the last rung where the product of the most ‘oppressed’ groups converging lies with astronomical oppression. It is from this imaginary hierarchy that ‘intersectionality’ is born, resulting in ‘oppressed’ groups forming alliances to challenge the majority and its inherent privilege. This idea of privilege in the modern United States is logically a fragile fallacy. Truthfully, I haven’t a single right that you the reader do not. It’s realistically possible to find several advantages and disadvantages in any group, with ranking them therefore being incredibly subjective rather than a simple matter of fact; however, it is admittedly much easier to believe objective, one-sided privilege exists in society rather than place faith in personal responsibility.

A recent display of identity politics was during the Kavanaugh hearings, where the mere existence of Dr. Ford’s allegation, to this day still having no evidence to prove it besides the allegation itself, enticed many to stab both due process and free-thinking women in the back. These women, who believed accusing someone of a career-ending crime requires actual evidence and therefore supported now-Justice Kavanaugh, were hysterically labeled by many on the left as “gender traitors,” a term borrowed from the dystopian show “The Handmaids Tale.” Evidently women are not supposed to think freely as individuals, but instead through groupthink. This appears to be quite discriminatory and even sexist to me, but that may just be the straight, white male in me speaking.

A more anecdotal display of identity politics come from a handful of political discussions I have had myself in the past where, because of the color of my skin being white or that I am male, my ideas were inherently less valuable. This defunct argument in any capacity is a lowly cop-out and goes to show that the default, intersectional resort when logically challenged is an Ad Hominem attack rather than engaging in rational, Socratic discussion.

The modern United States certainly has its problems and my words are in no way meant to refute that. We continue to be plagued by the occasional flare-up of police brutality, racial tension, the growth of radical movements, and a plethora of other painful problems, but subscribing to identity politics brings relevancy to the Latin phrase “aegrescit medendo,” or “the remedy is worse than the disease.” 

There were historically undoubtable problems with white and male privilege several decades ago, but today these privileges are nothing more than that: history. To say otherwise requires the ability to look at a complex, multivariable problem, such as socioeconomic racial disparities, yet somehow manage to only respond with a one variable answer (e.g. privilege).

Identity politics fiercely holds our nation back from making true progress. The only thing keeping you from your goals is not a lack of privilege, but instead the necessary drive to achieve them. Never should a group of individuals be threatened with ridicule if they don’t partake in groupthink, but instead embrace their diversity of beliefs and ideas. 

The value of those ideas depends on the ideas themselves and are not scaled simply by their identity either. The United States of today is far from perfect, but our nation is more prosperous than ever before. In the face of identity politics, we must be steadfast when we share Dr. King’s dream that, one day, all individuals will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

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9 Comments

9 Responses to “Stop Toxic Identity Politics”

  1. David Durstewitz ‘10 on November 29th, 2018 10:19 pm

    Ayyy yup, trust the Dickinsonian to carry an article claiming that acknowledgement of bigotry is worse than the murders being committed in the proud name of bigotry.

    Trash opinion bolstered on nothing but strawmen and oblivious misinterpretation, but at least he’s engaged. I entered freshman year ignorant but curious and open to learning from others’ experiences, and came out so much better for it – praying this dude does the same.

  2. Sam Westcott '20 on November 30th, 2018 12:34 pm

    There is so much wrong with this article and I have neither the time nor the inclination to pick it apart piece by piece. Do you truly think that straight, white men are not privileged? Really? When black people are shot by law enforcement for nonviolent actions, with those officers subsequently escaping conviction? Do you not think that violence against trans people on a day to day basis constitutes oppression? What might you call the continued degradation of women’s, LGBTQ+, and minorities’ rights? How about the continued suppression of the vote in many states and communities across the country, almost exclusively communities of color? You don’t see that as oppression? Funny!
    Imagine having the privilege to skim over such things and not see them has systemic issues that underly an invariably-oppressive socio-political structure built by and for one group: straight, white people. Either you’ve misinterpreted the whole of American history or you’ve chosen to ignore it because it does not suit your narrative; whatever the case, this is a mess. To throw a proverbial hissy fit in the opinion section of the college newspaper because you are uncomfortable with your own privilege is neither productive nor does it reflect well on yourself. If I were you, I would think introspectively regarding the whiteness that insulates you, me, and all white people from a host of problems we cannot begin to fathom.

  3. Bryce Dunio on November 30th, 2018 2:34 pm

    @Durstewitz:
    “The default, intersectional resort when logically challenged is an Ad Hominem attack rather than engaging in rational, Socratic discussion.”

  4. Talia B. on December 2nd, 2018 9:19 am

    Where does the author claim that acknowledgment of bigotry is worse than murders committed in the name of bigotry? In fact, I don’t see any place in this article where he claims that “acknowledgement of bigotry” is a problem at all. @David your criticism of this article is ironically exactly what you accuse the author of producing: a strawman argument. Just saying that someone’s opinion is trash isn’t a compelling reason for me to discount the broader point that the author of this article is making (even if I may disagree with some of the finer points): that too often we fail to address the multitude of variables that contribute to a problem in favor of boiling it down to the sum total of our pre-conceived assumptions about privilege.

  5. Gabriella Corcoran on December 2nd, 2018 2:54 pm

    Keep Dr, King’s name out of your mouth if you’re not going to take the time to actually understand his legacy. This article is trash, and shame on the Dickinsonian for publishing poorly written and researched op-eds to try and become a relevant publication. Here are some articles that highlight Dr. King’s actual politics towards the end of his tragically short life, as well as a link to his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” where he denounces white moderates and conservatives (such as yourself, Bryce!) for caring more about social order than justice or human rights.
    https://theconversation.com/martin-luther-king-jr-had-a-much-more-radical-message-than-a-dream-of-racial-brotherhood-92795
    https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
    http://time.com/5099513/martin-luther-king-day-myths/https://www.teenvogue.com/story/mlk-more-radical-than-we-remember

  6. Gabriella Corcoran (Class of 2019) on December 2nd, 2018 2:55 pm

    Keep Dr, King’s name out of your mouth if you’re not going to take the time to actually understand his legacy. This article is trash, and shame on the Dickinsonian for publishing shitty, poorly written and researched op-eds to try and become a relevant publication. Here are some articles that highlight Dr. King’s actual politics towards the end of his tragically short life, as well as a link to his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” where he denounces white moderates and conservatives (such as yourself, Bryce!) for caring more about social order than justice or human rights. Stop sanitizing Dr. King’s legacy!
    https://theconversation.com/martin-luther-king-jr-had-a-much-more-radical-message-than-a-dream-of-racial-brotherhood-92795
    https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
    http://time.com/5099513/martin-luther-king-day-myths/https://www.teenvogue.com/story/mlk-more-radical-than-we-remember

  7. Harper Clark on December 2nd, 2018 4:56 pm

    This article is absolute garbage and I’m completely ashamed that the Dickinsonian let such an ignorant and baseless opinion be published.

  8. Z on December 3rd, 2018 12:02 pm

    great article

  9. Devon Anderson on December 3rd, 2018 10:22 pm

    I’m sorry, but as a white straight cis gendered male in this society, you cannot claim that there is no oppression. Just because you do not experience it does not mean that is does not exist. As a woman, I can tell you that I have definitely experienced oppression due to my gender and there is a lot more oppression that those who are apart of minority groups experience. History constantly affects us and it is unfair to claim that white male privledge simply does not ‘exist’ anymore.

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Stop Toxic Identity Politics