Identity politics seeks to eliminate white privilege but is instead developing into a modern way of buying indulgences for privileged whites. Voting statistics from the November election clearly show this.
The U.S. still bears the stamp of structural racism. To mention this is not controversial, even among the most conservative voters on the right of political spectrum. Black Americans, particularly men, live shorter lives, earn less, get harsher sentences in court and are shot more often by the police than are other Americans.
The pattern is permanent and the explanations always predictable. However, the core reason is slavery and the segregation that followed. Even though segregation was abandoned in the 1960s, reminders of its existence keep resurfacing in more and less concrete ways.
“Identity politics” — these days a common phrase also in Sweden — has its roots in miserable reality. In the beginning, it aimed to shine a light on the refined mechanics of racism, but after a while it developed into an influential ideology that sees racial discrimination in everything and everyone, and seeks to fight it in ways that go straight over the head of the average person.
For example, in the liberal outpost of San Francisco they have decided to rename all schools that were named after Abraham Lincoln. Elsewhere the anti-racism classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” cited by Barack Obama in his last speech as president, has been removed from the curriculum for containing the “n-word.”
This is moral insanity, equating those who fought against slavery with those who fought for it, as well as historical works which show racism for what it is with those who excuse or even defend racism.
Above all, it is short-sighted politics. Not because the identity politics idea triggers angry white men to avenge themselves by voting for right-wing populists, but because the ideas do not appeal to the groups for whom its promoters claim to speak.
Comprehensive new voting statistics from the November election clearly show this. Democrats received more votes than ever and substantially increased their share among highly educated whites compared to four years earlier. At the same time, they received lower support from Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans.
The white voters of the party are clearly now to the left of minority voters in key issues such as tax, crime and race discrimination, according to opinion poll analyst David Shor, who previously worked for Obama. The explanation is that highly educated Americans have ”more radical views than those from working class professions,” and tend to be white.
“When we highlight ideological issues where millions of minority voters don’t agree with us, we lose,” Shor observes.
Journalist Ezra Klein goes even further. He warns that “symbolic actions” originating from identity politics risk becoming a substitute for real justice, pointing to California as a herald. There, Black Lives Matter signs are everywhere in expensive neighborhoods where the citizens send their kids to private schools and strongly oppose concrete action, such as providing bus services for poorer areas or social housing proposals.
Politics in California, according to Klein, is evolving into aesthetics.
That pretty much sums it up. Identity politics aim to abolish white privilege, but in practicality it is developing into a birthright cure for the privileged white.
There is irony in that.