Collective identity politics

The term “identity politics” is missing an important word. It’s collective identity politics. Who you are is an individual matter, but the culture is full of claims that your identity is your group membership. If you subscribe to identity politics, you’re supposed to think not for yourself, but according to someone’s group stereotype. You have to follow only your own group’s traditions; adopting and enjoying other people’s is “cultural appropriation.” It’s supposedly a great revelation when you stop thinking of yourself as a human being and start thinking of yourself as a member of a race.

Lately we’ve seen identity politics taken to its logical conclusion, with white nationalists coming out of the woodwork. In Washington, DC, Richard B. Spencer declaimed, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” In German, that would be “Heil Trump! Heil unserem Volk! Sieg heil!” He was answered with applause and Nazi salutes. (YouTube video; may be nausea-inducing.)

In an interview on the NPR site, Spencer embraced identity politics: “But I respect identitarians of other races. And I actually can see eye to eye with them in a way that your average conservative can’t.” (Not that it’s plausible that someone who cribs from Hitler respects anyone of other races.)

You’d think that collective identity politics would die of shame after his performance in Washington, but it’s still alive and well. In fact, we’re still being told that opposing it is racist.

A person’s identity is individual, not collective. Group memberships are a part of it, but they don’t define it. The values people hold and the actions they take are a far more important part of their identity than their appearance or language. The notion that people are their skin color or ancestry is a vile notion that belongs in the trash. The smear that opponents of collective identity politics are racists deserves worse, but punching people in the mouth for what they say is still wrong.

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