Saturday, November 15, 2003


Shelby Steele has an interesting explanation of why identity politics excludes straight, middle class, non-Hispanic American white males -- who are undisputably one of America’s many minorities -- and who are a much smaller group than (say) American women. Everybody else can celebrate their “identity” and campaign hard for extra privileges for their group but just THAT particular group may not campaign for and pursue its own particular interests.

I think Steele is right to say that the exclusion of that group occurs because they are perceived as already ruling the roost -- but that perception is utter garbage. I doubt that most of the members of that group even rule their own households (not that I am saying that they ought to). And the relatively comfortable material circumstances that members of the group enjoy are almost invariably the result of hard work and saving. So hard work and saving should be grounds to exclude and discriminate against people? It’s a diseased view of how the world works that says so.

Steele and many other conservative commentators say that the problem is identity politics itself and that we should all try to abandon our tribal loyalties -- but I know too much of the psychological research on how easily group identities are formed to think that group identity will ever fade out of significance. And Nazi Germany showed us how VERY important group identity can become under some circumstances. So group identity has to be MANAGED somehow. It cannot be suppressed. And surely the Nazi experience shows us that in general the best way to manage it is to MINIMIZE it where possible --- via government policies that treat each case on its individual merits and which treat all people as equal before the law. “Equality” is a fantasy but “equal treatment” is a powerful public policy tool for dealing with group rivalries and antagonisms. And it is exactly that tool that the Left have abandoned by their PROMOTION of identity politics. No good can come of it.

American identity and civil peace were from the beginning founded on an equal treatment principle (“created” equal in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is a religious way of saying that people are NOT equal but should be treated that way) and it is exactly that principle that Leftists are now destroying in their egotistical and irresponsible pursuit of the feel-good slogan.


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