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Against Identity Politics

Discussion in 'Anarchism and radical activism' started by kyledewolf85, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. kyledewolf85

    kyledewolf85Member New Member




    May 10, 2020
    New York, United States United States
    CW: rape apology, homophobia, racism, all the stuff

    Against Identity Politics | Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed

    This article from Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed encapsulates a lot of the reservations that I have about so-called identity politics on the left. I am certainly not against movements to liberate women, LGBTQ+ people, or people of color, and I have always been supportive of Black Lives Matter even though most people I know consider it a racist and terrorist organization. Yet I am concerned about the puritanical moralizing, repression, and authoritarianism, which is often associated with identity politics.

    For instance, when I was foolish enough to get involved in the Socialist Party USA briefly in 2017-18, I was subjected to constant demands to block or unfriend people on Facebook for perceived offenses like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, rape apology, etc. In many cases, the evidence for these offenses was very slight or tenuous. Meanwhile, in real life, I still have to live in a community where those offenses are the norm. In 2017-18, I lived with my parents while recovering from an episode with PTSD that led to a six-month incarceration. I was getting a little money from veteran's benefits, but I could not afford to rent my own apartment. My parents aren't exactly woke. I could count on them to spew an endless barrage of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, rape apology, etc., on a daily basis, whether it was my mom defending Brett Kavanaugh and denouncing Greta Thunberg because teenage girls should not be allowed to tell adults what to do, or my stepdad calling for migrant caravans to be bombed.

    My mom is literally a rape apologist and I will spare you the gory details. Yet she is also the woman who has supported me the most and cooked for me and stood by my side whenever I have been in the most trouble. The real world is a messy and complicated place where your self-righteous little purges, banhammers, and gulags don't really work. I argue with my parents all the time when they make shitty arguments, sometimes to the point where they are screaming at me at the top of their lungs. But I couldn't afford to get my own place until I met my current partner who gets disability benefits, and between the two of us, we could scrape together just enough money to rent an apartment and buy a used car. So how could I justify blocking all these people online, when my own parents were making far more outrageous comments and I still depended on them for support until I could get back on my feet?

    At some point, you have to recognize that a person is more than the sum total of their shittiest opinions, which is probably a result of the indoctrination to which they have been subjected. I ended up leaving the Socialist Party USA because I couldn't handle living in Wokesville, where there's a simple answer to everything, and it usually boils down to circling the wagons, surrounding yourself with people who think exactly like you, and casting out anybody who says anything minutely wrongheaded or offensive, based on six degrees of separation (like blocking people for not blocking people). It makes me worry about what people like that would do if they had any real power, and I can only take comfort in the fact that their strategy of self-righteous posturing renders them unable to build a mass movement and bring about any meaningful social change.

    This is just one example and you might not think that it is a very significant example. Living with reactionary parents for a couple of years is not as bad as getting murdered by the police. But I want to point out one fact which is germane to the article. My parents are very poor, working-class people, who are definitely members of the precariat. The community in which I live consists of many poor whites who are just like them. It is undoubtedly the case that my parents and many of their friends and neighbors would benefit from a little class warfare and little wealth redistribution. There is a lot of support for anti-war rhetoric and anti-government rhetoric. Yet the district is overwhelmingly Republican and even the few people of color support the Patriot movement.

    All the identity politics in the world seem to do little more than inflame public sentiment against the left and harden their attitudes. It is impossible for radicals or progressives to make any dent here. If I bring any of this up with so-called radicals and progressives, I am usually accused of pandering to white entitlement and resentment, which of course results in me getting blocked, banned, expelled, and excommunicated. What is the strategy here? What are we trying to accomplish? I would personally like to convince the people in my community that they should throw off the shackles of government, and that they should not be slaving away just to support violent and coercive institutions, but what I am hearing from a lot of people on the left is that I should not talk to those people or associate with them in any way because it would sully my purity and offend my delicate ears if they were to say something problematic, which is an oddly religious perspective (see no evil, hear no evil, etc.).

    For example, the one black man in my class at school made some comments which could be perceived as anti-feminist, because he was claiming that the women's movement has damaged the black family structure and hurt black men by telling women that they don't need a man. So maybe I should ostracize the one black man at school. The only black man in my stepdad's circle of friends owns a Confederate flag and belongs to a Patriot group. Maybe I should shun him too. I can be the one self-righteous white radical who ostracizes minorities because they're not woke enough. Or maybe it depends on your skin color. If you happen to be black, then and only then do you get a free pass for harboring reactionary sentiments. We'll have one set of rules for white people and another set of rules for black people. What should I do about the one black man who called me a faggot twice, once at Social Services, and once at Walmart? Should I be washing his feet or something?

    I just think real life and real people are a little more complicated than identity politics makes them out to be. I feel that my black classmate might have a distorted view of feminism, but he is not a bad guy and he does not deserve to be shunned. I feel like I could talk to him and have a productive conversation. I know that he's a Christian and he's probably getting bad information from his pastor. But he's not a jerk. I feel that my stepdad's black friend is probably angry at the government. He is worried about the future. The Patriots talk about guns and survival. His Patriot group does not seem to be discriminating against him. I could probably talk to him about anarchism. The guy who keeps calling me a faggot is probably just a homophobic jerk, and I'm just going to avoid him. If he's willing to call me names without even knowing me, then he's probably not reachable.

    In this post, I have mainly focused on one aspect of identity politics, the constant demand to ostracize people. But the article discussed many other aspects of identity politics which are problematic from an anarchist perspective, and a lot of what it said resonated with thoughts and feelings that I have had, but could not articulate so well. I guess my overall concern in the point that I have discussed is that it tends to shut down conversations, which makes it impossible to win hearts and minds. Even though white people might be the current target, it will eventually spill over onto people of color, who are sometimes guilty of things like sexism or homophobia. Ostracizing black people is not a good optic for woke whites in a community where there is already a lot of racism and a significant KKK presence, but apparently they are welcome in the Patriot movement. I feel like we've got to be open to talking to anybody and having a reasonable conversation about problematic views.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020

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  1. kyledewolf85
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