Stop Toxic Identity Politics

Bryce Dunio  ’22, Opinion Columnist 

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.