Tuesday, March 03, 2015

sophistry, spells, livestock management and the war of words...,


aljazeera |  According to conservatives, political correctness was hampering free speech, restricting behavior and hindering ostensibly objective policies such as school admissions. America the great, birthplace of freedom and liberty, taken hostage by college students armed with ideas from Franz Fanon, Judith Butler or Michel Foucault and a rising tide of people who insisted their identities and experiences be accurately described and taken into account. I was one of those college students and was rigorously trained to deconstruct everything from your coffee cup to your favorite television show to ensure you understand the full meaning of what you are seeing, hearing and saying.

Building off the civil rights movement and feminist activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, identity politics as a field emerged in response to the unfair treatment that people from marginalized groups received in daily life and the ways in which American culture did not reflect or include our experience or realities. Identity politics emerged in academia as a response to history’s not including the plight of Native Americans, women or black people. It was a response to racism, sexism and homophobia that pushed back on the assumption that everyone was straight, white, cisgender and middle-class. Identity politics — also known as the fields of women’s studies, ethnic studies, African-American studies, queer studies and the like — paved the way for Edward Said to study colonization’s role in how the West understands “the Orient,” Kimberle Crenshaw to consider a politics of intersectionality and the powerlessness of women invisible to the legal system and Audre Lorde to insist that her words as a lesbian and woman of color mattered.

This group of supposed pc bullies paved the way for generations to feel as though they belong to something even if they don’t see themselves reflected in the world around them. The development of identity politics was a transformative moment: the beginning of a push to make the country a more inclusive, less hateful place for those who are different — the very values politicians of all stripes tout as a great characteristic of a great nation. It was also an important intervention to political dialogue and intellectual thought production and pushed academic institutions to be more thorough and rigorous in their assumptions, values and research. And it refuted the idea that there is an objective truth, as opposed to subjective realities, when it comes to telling stories about our lives.

But the rise of identity politics as an academic, political and cultural movement came with some baggage. A side effect of people feeling invisible for generations is anger. While identity politics pushed culture and politics, it also released decades of anger and animosity that previously went unexpressed in our finest educational institutions. This scared those who preferred to assume that everyone was happy in the good old days or believed that certain ideas were universally true. Of course, fear and anger had always been under the surface; it just finally had a chance to breath.

This isn’t to say that the sanctimonious overreliance on saying the right thing can’t be distracting and self-serving. Looking back at my college activism, I am slightly embarrassed by the emotional energy and time I spent judging other people’s politics and decisions. It was a natural part of growing into a political thinker and differentiating myself, but in other ways it distracted me from looking at broader issues outside my day-to-day life.