Lionel Shriver: Identity Politics Are by Definition Racist

By Shriver, Lionel | The Spectator, August 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

Lionel Shriver: Identity Politics Are by Definition Racist


Shriver, Lionel, The Spectator


To mark last weekend's one-year anniversary of the violent right-wing demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, a meagre two dozen card-carrying white supremacists showed up in the town, vs thousands of anti-racism protesters -- proportions that may reflect the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, ever since the 2017 rally, the American left has thrown around the pejorative 'white supremacist' with such abandon that you'd think the country was jagged with peaked white hats from sea to shining sea.

By fits and starts, the past 50 years have seen equality of opportunity for minorities in the States improve dramatically. Yet racial rhetoric, and the overall touch-and-feel of race relations on the ground, is deteriorating.

An astonishing 55 per cent of Americans now consider being white important to their identity. I don't count myself among them. All of greater Europe and its vast diaspora is too diffuse an association to do anything for me. I may be feebly interested in my German heritage, but should DNA analysis prove that my forebears were actually Bangladeshi, if anything I'd throw a party. ('Yay! I'm not white! Nothing's my fault!') I don't much care about being female or American, either. These are all attributes foisted upon me at birth that I did not choose.

Having little attachment to your race is a luxury, of course. Historically, African-Americans have had to consider their race important, because it was too important, in the worst way, to others. Yet luxuries aren't to be wasted, so I plan on continuing to be so-what about my skin colour. Progress, to me, involves us all becoming so-what about race -- but that's not the direction we're headed.

White Americans may be embracing a race long associated with blandness and bad bread in part because they're within shouting distance of becoming a minority in what they had been regarding as their country. Donald Trump is an aggravating factor, but American retreat to racial foxholes well predates his watch. For I also blame identity politics -- which have whipped up racial antagonism, encouraged nakedly anti-white bombast and ushered in a glaring double standard that's unsustainable. You cannot have black identity politics, and Latino identity politics, without conjuring the pastel version. Yet only 'white identitarians' are demonised as driven by hatred. Whites are the sole race the mainstream western media forbids to forge a sense of unity or to defend their own interest. The only identity whites are allowed is self-disgust. Whites who stray from ceaseless self-crit are moral degenerates.

Last week on the PBS NewsHour, a moderator, the New York Times columnist David Brooks and the Washington Post deputy editor Ruth Marcus discussed a 2016 poll by the Institute for Family Studies. It asked some 3,000 non-Hispanic whites, roughly: 1) Do they have a strong sense of white identity? 2) Do they have a strong sense of white solidarity? 3) Do they think whites face discrimination? (After 50 years of affirmative action and the latest consuming obsession with 'diversity' in hiring, you wouldn't have to be demented to suppose that white Americans might face some discrimination. …

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