Identity politics is ruining our campuses
It leads to more division by breaking people down to their most basic identities
What is identity politics? The dictionary definition is: “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” This is a recipe for division and anger. With identity politics, there is no room for dissension or different voices within identities. It splits people into ever smaller sub-categories, with ever more ridiculous results, from which one escapes at the risk of smear campaigns, abuse, character assassination and ruined prospects.
As a disabled history student, some of the rhetoric from disability advocacy groups doesn’t sit well with me. However, rather than claim offence, I’m going to combat their speech with my speech.
The activist group, Black Triangle describe themselves as defending the rights of disabled people in the UK, and calls the government “vicious” in it’s “attack” on the rights of disabled people, and conflates them with the Nazis. There have been instances when people who were plainly too ill or disabled to work were pronounced fit to work. However, that’s a very different thing to implying the government hates disabled people and wants to make them suffer so they can bathe in the tears of their grieving families.
How could you compare our democratically elected government with the Nazis, a group responsible for the deaths of millions (including 300,000 disabled people) and who celebrated the idea of the “strong-man” and the superior Aryan race?
The central problem with this group, as with many other advocacy and activist groups, is that they purport to speak for a group, a group with a common identity that must be adhered to or else you’re not part of that group.
You’re disabled and don’t support disability advocacy groups because they treat disabled people as victims? You’ve internalised the ableism rampant in modern society and therefore hate your disability because it represents an aberration. There are a shocking number of attacks on disabled people, but whether these are directly linked to disability or not remains open to question, and whether these attacks are indicative of a societal level ableist narrative is, I would argue, wide open to debate.
Nowhere is the death of freedom of speech and thought more evident than on British and American university campuses. The academy is riven with the disease of identity politics, and the way it impinges on personal freedoms and liberties is disturbing, as everything is entirely feelings based and fact free.
Free speech has been murdered on campuses through the introduction of the “safe space”, the “microaggression” and the introduction of “trigger warnings” in lectures.
The “safe space” is the physical means of protecting people from ideas different to their own, depriving them of skills that would allow them to function as sensible adult members of a free society. The “safe space” is a place where people whose views disagree with yours are excluded, and is a step on the road to fascism.
Introducing “safe spaces” or housing based on race, such as those at Princeton is playing right into the hands of extremist groups.
The microaggression is the identitarians’ rhetorical weapon, who often threaten and use real aggression when the former proves insufficient, for example when Melissa Click at Mizzou called for “muscle”. The microaggression label is literally applied to anything, so anything you say, do, think, however apparently innocuous, can be construed as a microaggression by some particularly fragile snowflake, who can then shut you down.
The trigger-warning ( which is now too aggressive) is also used to shut down debate. It limits people’s exposure to differing views by allowing them to safely skip over material they may find upsetting or offensive. This is incredibly dangerous, as it mollycoddles students and others, protecting them from the realities of life, and is incredibly infantilising.
The effect of the regressive left’s campaign to shut anyone down who disagrees with them by giving them labels such as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, patriarchal, white privileged, has been disastrous. It gets worse. 40 per cent of Millennials recently said they’d like free speech to be limited if it hurts someone’s feelings. This is the road to tyranny, and these are the voters of the future.
When identity politics leads to calls for a debate about whether Martin Luther King Jr was inclusive enough in his speech, you know the levels of absurdity have reached new highs.
Furthermore, a recent survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute showed that of 1,000 students surveyed, 76% would ban speakers that offended them, 48% wanted universities to be declared safe-spaces, 27% wanted UKIP party members banned from campuses, 38% wanted certain tabloids banned from student unions, and almost 50% wanted libraries to refuse to stock racist, sexist or Holocaust-denial literature.
Once you start in the direction of book burning, even metaphorical book burning, you’re travelling down the path to authoritarian hell.
Two thirds also supported the idea of having trigger warnings in lectures, while more than half wanted to get rid of controversial historical figure at colleges, such as Oxford’s #RhodesMustFall campaign.
As psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues, this action will actually prove harmful to student’s emotional wellbeing, indeed more harmful than if they’d engaged with the triggering material in the first place, and is creating young adults who can’t function in the real world. By creating a generation of triggered victims, we’re creating potentially mentally ill young people who feel it is ok to meet microagressions with real aggression.
Identity politics stunts self-development, leads to more division between people by breaking them down to their most basic identities and ends up hurting the people it’s meant to protect. Although given what we’ve seen on campuses over the last few months, it seems these freedoms are now viewed as overrated, unnecessary and harmful.