As you might know from some of my more recent posts over the summer, I despise identity politics. I find it to be highly collectivist, anti-liberal and unnecessarily divisive to the point of being a cancer to the fabric of society. But there is another reason I especially despise identity politics: it is fraudulent.
Think about it: in the realm of identity politics, identity is based on sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and social class – sometimes weight too. In other words, you are who you are because you are white or black, or male or female, straight or gay, trans or not, rich or poor, fat or thin. Those things are not who you are. They’re what you are. Who you are is about your personality, your actions, your beliefs, your values, your desires, your thoughts, your goals, your soul/spirit (if you believe in one) and everything else that makes up the complex thing we call you. If you are white, black, gay, straight, male, female, rich, poor, European, African, fat, thin etc., those things make up only what you are. Your identity can’t be reduced to your sex, your race, your sexual orientation and the other categories of social identity that the identitarian movements of both the far-left and the far-right worship so much. Otherwise, if you’ve seen one male you’ve seen them all, and I could probably say the same of every other category of person out there.
And all too often in the realm of identity politics, value judgement tend to emerge that are applied to entire groups of people based on what they are as a label and not who the individuals are. These days, white people are viewed with a sense of shame by the supposedly liberal establishment to the point where it’s OK to suggest that white people should be extinct because of the actions of their ancestors during the age of colonialism. If you replaced white with black, or any non-white race, only then would you be condemned as racist. But if you exhibit obvious bigoted attitudes regarding white people, you aren’t seen as a racist at all. Conversely, if you are black, you are most likely seen by society as someone who always needs a leg up and always in need of succor, constantly needing to be defended and praised. If you are male, society has already determined that you are more expendable than a woman. You might think that the reverse is true, but an observation of such phenomenon as war, suicide rates, online harassment and crime in general as well as how they are treated will show you that the female victims, no matter how many there are compared to men, will always be valued more. We value women so much over men, that we will take extreme measures to protect their feelings (like actually deeming wolfwhistling and cat-calling as hate crimes and prosecuting them in Nottinghamshire, England), and surely it can’t escape anyone that we would never do the same for men. All based on what a person is, and based on what we have decided that means for everyone who falls under that category.
I happen to be a white British (specifically Welsh, with some Italian heritage from my dad’s side of my family) heterosexual male, and I also happen to be autistic. What about my personality, the way I think or my overall identity can you possibly discern from just those labels alone? My identity as a person, who I am as a person, is more complex than those things. And I am quite certain that I don’t fit many stereotypes (for instance, there’s a stereotype that autistic people are good at math, but I personally don’t like math that much and I remember getting a D at GSCE Maths and C on most of the other GSCEs I took). The self matters more than that, and it’s more complex than the categories of what you are as emphasized in the realm of identity politics.