That’s Just Identity Politics

Moya and Markus argue Americans commonly revert to eight basic conversations when talking about race or ethnicity and that hinder productive discussions (“learning conversations”). “That’s Just Identity Politics” is conversation number four.  This summary is from a press release about Moya and Markus’s book Doing Race and can be found both at EON and Reuters. A more complete version of the conversation is on pages 10-12 of Doing Race or you can watch a video of the presentation here: http://vimeo.com/13468483.

Summary of the “That’s Just Identity Politics” Conversation:

Markus and Moya uncovered troubling misconceptions just beneath the surface of another popular race and ethnicity conversation they call “That’s just identity politics.” As detailed in their essay, people often turn to this argument out of frustration when they feel that other people are benefiting from being a certain race or ethnicity.

voltaire-preview

Yogi Love, “The PC Police Strike Again” (September 18, 2012). Full cartoon at http://spectator.org/blog/2012/09/18/voltaire-voided

“This conversation is really common among people who think that race and ethnicity are irrelevant to—or else perhaps, a distraction from—the more important universal concerns,” Moya explained. “Because of the widespread nature of race and ethnicity as important systems of social distinctions, there really is no contradiction between paying attention to them and being concerned about society as a whole.”

“‘That’s just identity politics’ is a favorite of those who think that drawing attention to one’s race or ethnicity is a strategy used by weak people to gain unfair advantage,” Moya continued. “They attach the word ‘identity’ to the word ‘politics’ to convey the idea that someone who advocates for something on the basis of race or ethnicity is acting illegitimately.” (EON)


Exercises:

  • There is a whole sequence of videos on YouTube either on or responding to the trope of “Why I Hate Black History Month.”  Which of these videos invoke the “That’s just identity politics” motif? Are there other conversations that they invoke?
  • During the early 1990s, proponents of the “That’s just identity politics” often used the term PC Police to shut down conversations.  Have students research the use of this term over time and categorize who tends to use it and why.
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