Letter: Total rejection of identity politics would help society

From: R. Andrew Robertson


I do not follow social media, and so I was unaware of Sunday’s vigil for the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, until after the fact. I would like to have attended. Indeed, I wonder what has taken so long.

Political violence in the United States has been rising for at least a couple of years, particularly on college campuses. There violence, or the clear and present threat of it, has been used to harass and even silence invited speakers. Professors have been intimidated, injured and driven from their jobs. Mobs have held administrators against their will.

Berkeley, California, has become a particular hot spot with demonstrators and counter-demonstrators openly brawling while the police turn their heads.

Earlier this summer Republican congressmen were shot by a would-be assassin whose writings leave no doubt about his politically motivated antipathy for them.

All of the above are examples of hatred and bigotry as surely as are the events at Charlottesville last Saturday. Yet there were no vigils for any of them. Why not? Could it be that the victims in these cases were on the political right (or at least not far enough on the left) and are therefore unworthy of our prayers?

White supremacy and Antifa (left-wing militant) thuggery are offspring of identity politics, that movement that insists on classifying us in groups, separating rather than uniting us, and fostering a permanent sense of grievance in some of us. Unless and until we confront identity politics honestly and vigorously, such manifestations will continue to erupt.

Yes, white supremacists and their Antifa antagonists are ugly and deserve our condemnation, but let’s be honest. Their numbers are small (I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one except on TV), and neither has a significant constituency in America society. Identity politics, on the other hand, has become ubiquitous and would extend its digits into every aspect of our social lives. Just the week before the Charlottesville melee, a Google employee was fired over a civil memo criticizing that company’s diversity policies by reference to scientific studies.

It might make us feel good to lop a tentacle or two off the monster. Unless we reject identity politics in total, though, we will have many more occasions for vigils.