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Identity Politics

We need to stop talking so much about whether policies are good or bad for particular groups of Americans. There is no “black America” or “white America.” There is no “patriarchy” or “matriarchy.” We are all in this together. We are one federal republic, and while we can have major policy differences with regard to our local affairs (that’s federalism), our national policies must be unified and applied equally to all.

The constant efforts to separate and differentiate between Americans undermines our unity and hurts the very people it purports to help, because it builds resentments. A policy designed to help one specific group, no matter how good its intentions, will inevitably make everybody else feel like they are being treated unfairly…because they are.

This is why policies like “affirmative action,” which are intended to give a boost to groups that had previously suffered institutional discrimination, are not effective in the long run. This principle ought to be universally acknowledged, but isn’t: You cannot fix past discrimination with present discrimination. If you try, you are just ensuring that the hate and mistreatment continues in a different way.

Equal treatment under the law is not just a pleasant idea — it’s a fundamental human right, part of the right to liberty. I oppose any policy, no matter its intentions, that gives any group(s) of people benefits at the expense of any other group(s).

Race

The only politicians who seem to be willing to talk about race at all are the ones who have built their careers on race-baiting and race conflict. Everybody else is walking on eggshells and afraid of offending people. I’m not interested in any of that nonsense.

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that racial minorities in the United States — African Americans first and foremost, but others as well — have been badly mistreated here in the past. The worst and most unforgivable example was the chattel slavery of African Americans. This ended in 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

U.S. Constitution, Amendments, Article XIII, Clause 1

Some have called slavery “America’s original sin.” This is a good and accurate description. And when it was finally vanquished in bloody civil war, the southern states just adopted “Jim Crow laws” that codified institutional racism against African Americans. These continued until they were finally eliminated by the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

But, since 1968, there has been no institutional racism in the United States. This is not a typo, nor is it a denial of reality, it is a simple and intentionally precise statement of fact. Institutional racism is racism that is allowed (or required) by laws and official policy. Although racism still exists in the U.S., institutional racism does not…because if any institution discriminates on the basis of race, it is breaking the law and can (and often is) punished by the courts. Our institutions explicitly prohibit racism.

The racism that remains is individual racism…individual people discriminating in their lives or (without legal authorization) in their places of work. And while we should fight it where we can, it can never be completely eliminated. There will always be racists. That’s an unfortunate side-effect of people being people.

In recent years, that have been two troubling developments in the world of racism…one that is a concern, but not a huge one, and another that is much more pernicious and harmful.

The first is the rise of explicit racism on the extreme right. This is casually confused with the so-called “alt-right,” which is a separate (but sometimes interrelated) movement. But I’m not talking about those who are just trying to “put America first,” I’m talking about the actual white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Although these remain small fringe movements, they have grown in power and prestige…but not nearly as much as the press would have us believe. Regardless, we should oppose them in every way we can.

But the more poisonous kind of racism in recent years has been casual and politically-acceptable left-wing racism.

First, by labeling everything their opposition does — no matter how innocuous — as “racist,” it diminishes the term and makes it more difficult to fight actual racism…and sometimes reveals racism on the side of the accuser. As an example, when prominent politicos label President Trump “racist” for stating that violent criminals are coming across the border from Mexico, they are themselves strongly implying that comments about “illegal immigrants” apply to all Mexicans. That’s far more insulting to the good people of Mexico than the initial comment, unless you willfully misrepresent its meaning. “Illegal immigrant from Mexico” is not shorthand (longhand?) for “Mexicans,” and how dare anybody claim otherwise?

Second, there has been a horrifying rise in left-wing antisemitism…a rise that has been far larger and far more readily accepted into the political mainstream than the growth of right-wing neo-Nazi groups. We now have openly antisemitic members of Congress, and they all have a “D” after their name. The Democratic majority in the House has not taken any steps to censure or remove its antisemitic members, and in fact continues to leave them in important leadership roles.

Third, many of the supposed pro-minority policy positions put forth by left-wing politicians reveal a pernicious lack of faith in the intelligence and capabilities of minority Americans. Consider “Affirmative Action” programs that give African Americans (and others) extra “help” getting into schools, jobs, and so-on. How insulting to claim that minorities are too dumb or too unskilled to get into good schools or get good jobs on their merits through nondiscriminatory admissions and hiring practices! How condescending! How hateful!

When presented with this argument, some will point out that schools in African American communities are no good. This is often true. But this isn’t because of race! Look at the schools in Washington, DC, for example. They are among the best funded schools in the world. They are managed mostly by African American civic leaders and principals. There is no racial animus anywhere in its structure or management. The system has no structural disadvantage as compared to the schools in, say, nearby Fairfax County, Virginia.

If the main problem with minority success is the low quality of schools in minority neighborhoods, then let’s deal with that instead of using race as an imprecise (and illegal) proxy. How about “Affirmative Action” for kids from bad schools, regardless of color? How about fixing the bad schools? There are lots of ways to solve — or at least improve — these issues without the insult of policies that treat African Americans and others as if they are inherently less capable. They aren’t. I know better. So do you.

And let’s be perfectly clear about another thing: I don’t owe anybody a cent for something my ancestors might (or might not) have done to somebody else’s ancestors. Nobody is entitled to “reparations” for anything that did not happen to them personally. Nobody is responsible for something their ancestors did, and nobody is entitled to special treatment because of something that happened to their ancestors either. We are individuals. In a free society like ours, our lives are largely under our own control, and we are only responsible for the things we have actually done.

One other matter relating to race that needs to be addressed is the issue of police violence, which led to the “Black Lives Matter” protests in recent years. This is covered on a separate page about police violence.

Sex

Men and women are not interchangeable. They both exist, and they have differences from one another. This is a biological fact, and I am pro-science.

Similar to how we have eliminated institutional racism, we have also eliminated institutional sexism. It is a crime to discriminate against women in college admissions, hiring, compensation, etc. It is perplexing that some left-wing politicians continue to advocate for “equal pay” laws and the like, since underpaying women is already illegal. If there actually is a “wage gap,” how will making it more illegal help?

It won’t. And it couldn’t anyway, since there is no actual “wage gap.” It is simply not true that women get paid seventy-cents on the dollar for the same work. After correcting the raw data for differences in education and experience, the apparent gap evaporates. And just think about this logically for a moment…if businesses could get away with paying women thirty percent less than men for the same work, why would any of them keep hiring men?

On average, men and women make different education and career choices. This is not a bad thing. As long as there is no coercion or pressure involved, everybody should make whatever choices they want to make. And if women voluntarily choose in higher numbers than men to go into lower-paid fields, or take longer amounts of time away from their careers, then that is fine. The fact that there are more male than female CEOs doesn’t necessarily mean that there is discrimination; it may just mean that fewer women want to be CEOs, or fewer women are willing to make the many sacrifices necessary to reach that level.

Should we assume that solid waste companies are discriminating against women because, statistically, there are very few women on the backs of trash trucks? Of course not. Maybe that’s just a job that more men, and fewer women, are willing to do. Show me evidence of actual discrimination against the women who want to do that kind of work and I’ll protest it right along with you. But you can’t assume that discrimination is the cause of every difference, especially in a society where actual sex discrimination is a crime and is regularly prosecuted.

As in the case of race, there are individual sexists, and we should oppose them wherever we can. When they act in a sexist manner in any official capacity, they should be fired. Sexual harassment should be condemned wherever it occurs.

But we must not over-correct. We have been trying so hard to ‘level the playing field’ for women in higher education, for example, that now it is the men who are at a significant disadvantage in college admissions.

And one of the more troubling recent trends has been the “believe all women” mantra, which results in the short-circuiting of due process rights and the automatic condemnation of men who are sometimes quite innocent of the crimes for which they are accused. Yes, most accusers aren’t lying. But some are. And we’re not talking about a fraction of a percent of accusers either. Some studies have found that as many as ten percent of sexual assault accusers are lying — either an assault did not occur at all, or it was in fact a consensual encounter.

Men and women are entitled to equal treatment under the law. Neither should get any special treatment whatsoever.

Other Identities

Race and sex are the most obvious identities around which we have been mired into these “us vs. them” fights, but they aren’t the only ones. Politicians and the press keep trying to break us down into ever smaller groups based on beliefs, abilities, attractions, and even mental illnesses.

Enough is enough.

Let’s stop trying to categorize everybody into little groups. The only possible reason to do that is to judge those groups, to discriminate for or against them, or to use them as a political bludgeon against others.

The government must treat everybody equally under the law. Other than that, nobody owes you anything. Nobody has to like you or accept you, and you don’t have to like or accept them in return. Your rights impose no obligations on others. Maybe you’re so open minded that your brain fell out. Maybe you’re so close minded that you hate everybody who isn’t a six-foot-two, straight, blonde, Scientologist. So what. Live and let live.

Tolerance is a virtue, but it is not a synonym for acceptance. It means that we tolerate people even when we deeply disagree with them…even when we hate the ideas they express. It means that when you disagree with everything I wrote in this essay, I tolerate your disagreement. And you tolerate mine. We don’t have to agree with each other. You don’t need my affirmation. I don’t need yours.

You might think I’m a misguided Pollyanna, and I might think you’re a race-baiting opportunist. So what? I won’t try to force you to comply with my beliefs as long as you don’t try to force me to comply with yours. And the government’s job is to stay out of both of our ways as long as we aren’t imposing upon the life, liberty, and property of others.

Switch the Roles

I have a very simple approach to determining if a statement is racist, sexist, or any other -ist. Switch the roles and see how it feels.

For example, I have heard a lot of people say things like: “I don’t think a bunch of old, white men should be making decisions about women’s health care.”

So, switch that around a bit. What if I said: “I don’t think a bunch of young, black women should be making decisions about men’s health care.” You would probably tell me that I was being ageist, racist, and sexist. How dare I assume that a young, black woman is any less qualified than anybody else to make public policy!

And you would be right. My hypothetical statement is ageist, racist, and sexist. But so was that first statement. A statement that targets old people, white people, or men cannot be any more or any less racist than a similar one targeting young people, black people, or women.

The same applies in countless other cases. It is racist to think it is acceptable to establish school clubs that exclude whites, and it is equally racist to think it is acceptable to establish school clubs excluding blacks. Separate-but-equal was thrown out by the Supreme Court, with good reason, and we need to learn from our history and stop re-segregating ourselves.

Again, we’re all in this together. Let’s start acting like it.