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Identity as Politics

A Nation in Crisis

There is an identity crisis in America. Where at one point your identity and politics were separate, now this is not the case. Politics are no longer so much about what you think, but who you are. There is a name for this problem, and it's called identity politics.

Identity as Politics

Identity politics is described by Merriam Webster as:

"politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group"

The problem is not the focus on identity - this has been, of course, an integral part of many important social moments (e.g. Civil Rights Movement, Indian Independence Movement, etc) - but rather its focus on uniting identity with politics. Such a union does not serve to bring people together, but rather serves to systemically tear them apart. As a result, we see the rise of many societal changes that serve one identity to the exclusion of others. The creation of black only "safe spaces" on many college campuses are one such example. Only in the modern political climate would one fail to see the implicit racism and lack of self awareness in the creation of such a "safe space" in the name of identity politics.

Remember the Past

Perhaps the biggest problem with identity politics is how it establishes individual's ethnic, social, or economic group as being greater than the individual themselves. Otherwise put, you are not you, you are the group you belong to. This is a far cry from the identity movements of the past, where the focus was not on the group that an individual belonged to, but rather what that individual could offer to the group. It makes it all the more a travesty then, to see how far we've devolved from the great strides made by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr.

As is oft quoted, the one line that sums up the entirety of the Civil Rights Movement can be found in MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech where he says, "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. I have a dream today!"

Too many people today have forgotten the message of the past, and in doing so do a disservice to the future. For if things continue down this regressive path, were going to need another MLK to help straighten things out again. However, who's to say if he was alive today we would even listen to him again? Those who believe in identity politics certainly wouldn't.

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