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You Will Never Be Free of Identity Politics

2017 May 25
by Mandos

(MANDOS POST, people who don’t want to read things they disagree with please stop here)

I don’t normally watch horror movies, but I made an exception and recently watched the horror film Get Out. It’s a horror-satire movie that constructs its underlying trope from the concept of racist microaggressions, and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year, if not the best, period. It’s a Stepford Wives style of horror, in which a young black man discovers that his well-meaning-seeming white inlaws-to-be believe in human improvement by the literal supplantation of black identities with white ones and the submergence of the black identity into a spiritual void called the “Sunken Place” — a literal sort of black/white solidarity where, of course, the white opinion matters more.

The privileged white horror-family in question is conceived of as stereotypical rich politically-correct liberal Obama voters, but the main character himself is a relatively successful young photographer who had access to that kind of company through his work, starting from less privileged roots and with black friends still living the working-class life, and his working-class black best friend — who correctly names and identifies the microaggressions and where they were leading — is his only lifeline in the entire story. The illustration clearly intended by the director (well-known black comedian Jordan Peele) is that even when a black person in America manages to succeed on white terms, that in itself is not just, not sustainable, not sufficient.

That was a movie, but the point is illustrated periodically in real life — and occasionally in famous, very public rows.  Some of you may remember that a few years ago, there was a row over Oprah Winfrey’s attempted purchase of a very expensive handbag, worth twice or more than what some of her viewers make in a year, from a shop in Switzerland, wherein Oprah believed that she had been discriminated against by the saleswoman for being a black buyer in a fancy store. Many could easily view this as a rich woman publicly bullying an innocent, ordinary-income shop attendant for a social faux pas, possibly based on ignorance of the American media landscape. A class analysis. But for people of colour, the incident is instead evidence that, even if one is doing well economically, one is still one of them, that the incident was no accident even if the saleswoman had no conscious intention of discriminating.

That sense that even under relatively positive overall circumstances, how one is treated in life is nevertheless conditioned on the sufferance of the majority/dominant community unless one erases one’s entire particularity (and even then) is not a trivial feeling. It is a continuous burden, a headwind in life, and one that cannot be erased by exhortations to class solidarty and and one-sided demands to put the material advantages of class solidarity as prior to the domain of conflict called “identity politics.” Class solidarity does not erase those conflicts, does not remedy them, does not alone create a long-term, sustainable basis for rectification of discrimination. Minority groups remain vulnerable even when the dream of a more just economy is realized.

The only way to proceed is to recognize that, while the working-class American black has a cause in common with the working-class American white, she or he also has a cause in common with a rich woman like Oprah Winfrey, one that can be neither ignored, denied, or erased. And the only way that class solidarity can take full precedence over that is when whites agree to disarm their own identity politics without demanding that blacks and other minority politics disarm theirs.

209 Responses
  1. Willy permalink
    June 6, 2017

    Because you’re so vague, there’s little to work with, very little food for thought. Two around here I generally agree with, Ian and Hugh, have no such problem. They are easy to understand, their conclusions make good horse sense, and are backed by the facts.

    I am not a lawyer, nor an experienced politcal junkie, as are many around here. Yet most “regular folks” are also far too busy to be either. If you can get through to me, you may be able to get through to them.

    What specifically, is “the problem”?

  2. realitychecker permalink
    June 7, 2017

    @ Willy

    You and people who think and act like you do are a waste of time for me (and for Hugh and Ian as well, to be frank).

    You’ve spent the last half-year disrespecting me in every way possible, but now you adopt my message.

    “Willy permalink
    June 6, 2017

    Finally, I agree with Uncle RC!!”

    And apparently you now wish to be accepted as a peer. Or a good faith student.

    Go waste somebody else’s time. I am here to cater to the top end of the intellectually adept, to point out flaws so they can be corrected, mostly, since that is my greatest talent. You have continually shown that you are at the bottom end and still need to grow up before you interact with the adults as an equal. Or even a sincere student. IMO. I’ve opened multiple thought-doors for you, but you are too lazy or too dumb to walk through; that makes you a waste of time for me. (I bet you still have not checked out the Jess Money book I told you about; you are like the idiot who asked the rabbi to teach him all he could learn while standing on one foot lol.)

    You should give up your obsession with me. People will say we’re in love. 🙁

  3. Willy permalink
    June 7, 2017

    TBH, you suck at catering “to the top end of the intellectually adept”.

    Your core message has been that we should explore revolution, which you then admit nobody wants to do. Yet you return every day. So I come along and coax you into doing it anyways, since you never know who’s lurking. And all you did was to refer us to a Jess Money novel. When I mention a credible organization, right up your alley, from which it’d be possible to recruit some of these “intellectually adept”, you couldn’t care less.

    I’m not “obsessed” with you just because you’re an anomaly in this place. I’m unconvinced about what you claim are your true motivations for being here. I’ve met your kind before.

  4. realitychecker permalink
    June 7, 2017

    Res ipsa loquitur.

  5. Willy permalink
    June 8, 2017

    I’d respond actori incumbit onus probatio, or nemo auditur propriam turpitudinem allegans, or some shit, but maybe it’s better to wait and see what happens instead.

  6. realitychecker permalink
    June 8, 2017

    “Some shit” must be what fills your head, because you are a fucking moron.

    And you never get tired of proving it, apparently.

    Got hemlock?

  7. Willy permalink
    June 9, 2017

    And you never get tired of proving absolutely nothing.

    Except for your pathetic misanthropy.

    Still, I rather enjoy being your only friend.

  8. realitychecker permalink
    June 9, 2017

    With friends like you, who needs enemas?

  9. cripes permalink
    June 15, 2017

    Yeah, but they called it civil rights, not identity politics–and the leading light of that movement, tragically dead at what 39?–was well along a path towards an anti-imperialist, anti-war, poor peoples movement when he was struck down.

    As usual, the borg assimilates, befouls and turns every social movement into an MTV commercial and tool of oppression…

    I doubt what passes for identity politics now would impress MLK.

    And the rest of all that my-beautiful-horn-tooting above and you-and-your-mother-coprophilia-yadda-yadda, well, I’d say it’s beneath you.

    But it isn’t.

    It really is you.

Comments are closed.