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OurView: Identity politics benefits marginalized groups, abused by others

Paul+Ryan+recently+denounced+identity+politics+as+isolating.
Paul Ryan recently denounced identity politics as isolating.

Paul Ryan recently denounced identity politics as isolating.

Paul Ryan recently denounced identity politics as isolating.


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Each week the editorial board reflects on a current issue in Our View. The position taken does not reflect the opinions of everyone on the Hilltop Views staff. This week’s editorial board is composed of Viewpoints editors Kenny Phipps and Lauren Sanchez.

Last year’s election was unprecedented in too many ways to count. After the tenure of our first black President, the nation (kinda) elected a bigoted old man with a history of sexist, racist comments and actions to our highest office. As divisive as that election was, it seems to have been only symptomatic of a larger trend: the rise of so-called ‘identity politics.’

Identity politics is a loaded term, with varying sides ascribing it different meanings. Chiefly, it means the use of intrinsic identity (whether that be race, creed, sexual orientation, etc) to determine political views and affiliations. For right-leaning politicians such as Paul Ryan, identity politics is typically synonymous with political correctness, something Republicans have been decrying for years. On the left, the term is often viewed as a practical and useful way to express political beliefs that are distinct to specific groups, and usually marginalized ones at that.

There are several benefits to identity politics that are readily evident: for example, historically marginalized groups can use their shared identities to band together and demand institutional change. In a system that is geared towards raising up the white population of this country at the expense of minorities, identity politics can seem like a great way to combat injustice by drawing on the strength of distinct groups.

However, the benefits mentioned above only apply in certain circumstances. There is a lazy method of identity politics, a primary example of which is when white people are mobilized by a political leader simply because of the fact that they’re white. In fact, we have seen the negative manifestations of identity politics more and more since President Donald Trump announced his candidacy last year in one specific area: the rise of white nationalism.

White nationalists have gained numbers and prominence since Trump became a serious presidential contender. They have done this by directly appealing to the basest notions of white identity, which for so many years laid dormant. You know, stuff like Mexicans being criminals, black lives matter protesters deserving to be beaten in the streets and that white people are all in all a threatened group in America that needs to rise again. As if they ever fell from their positions of privilege in the first place.

The reason why identity politics can be positive for marginalized groups is because it allows for them to identify a group of people who are likely to have had similar experiences to each other. Whether it be run ins with microaggressions, hate crimes or sexual assault prompted by a marginalized person’s identity, it is beneficial to find groups your identity binds you with.

However, white people are not a marginalized group. This should definitely go without saying, but it’s apparent that not many white people are marginalized because of their whiteness.

Yes, a white person can be oppressed because of their sexuality or because they are a woman, but not because of the fact they are white. This isn’t an attempt at undermining the experiences of these white people, but more to say that there’s a difference between white people who are marginalized and those whose positions of privilege are solidified.

Identity can be a useful tool to organize distinct groups around their goals and shared experiences. However, it should be used with caution because we have seen what can happen when this form of unification is abused.

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OurView: Identity politics benefits marginalized groups, abused by others