The consequences of pursuing identity politics

Kevin Beary

COLTON — Noel Ignatiev is not a name familiar to most Americans. Yet the concept he created and promulgated, that of white privilege, has become part of the racial narrative of the Democratic Party and consequently of the mainstream media.

Ignatiev, who passed away in November, was a communist who taught at Harvard and at the Massachusetts College of Art. He famously called for the abolition of whiteness, writing that “so-called whites must cease to exist as whites in order to realize themselves as something else; to put it another way: white people must commit suicide as whites in order to come alive. … We want to do away with the white race as a social category. ... Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist.”

Of course, the notion of a privileged racial or ethnic group existed before Ignatiev. As Adolf Hitler explained in a 1919 letter: “An anti-semitism based on reason ... must lead to systematic legal combating and elimination of the privileges of the Jews. ... The ultimate objective must ... be the irrevocable removal of the Jews in general.”

But the National Socialists had no monopoly on such ideas. In a 1929 speech, Joseph Stalin declared that the Communist Party had “passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class.” It did not take long to pass from the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class to eliminating them physically.

The Democratic Party’s identity politics, its “race matters” ideology and its specific targeting of whites for demonization and aggression, has had some perhaps unforeseen consequences. One is the targeting of Jews.

As reported by the Jewish News Syndicate, Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a leader in Crown Heights, has critiqued the Anti-Defamation League’s politically correct characterization of attacks on Jews in Brooklyn, saying: “I think they’re blaming everything on the alt-right, when in truth in Brooklyn the anti-Semitism is coming from the left.”

And the new wave of progressive, anti-white Democratic legislators includes the well-known U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Besides saying that “our country should be more fearful of white men” then of jihadists, she lamented that “Israel has hypnotized the world” and asked that “Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Under political pressure, she was forced to apologize for the former remark.

The black critique of Jewish influence, however, predates the arrival of Omar. In one of the iconic works of black studies programs, “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” Harold Cruse accuses Jewish members of the American Communist Party of exploiting American blacks “to promote Jewish ethnic group interests while they limited the struggle for Black demands,” as Sid Resnick, who saw Cruse as “an obsessive anti-Semite,” wrote in his review of the book.

One of the risks to a political alliance that stresses the importance of various racial, ethnic and religious identities (as opposed to a common American identity) is that such alliances can and do shift. Today, the target is white privilege (into which, through intersectionality, post-colonial and whiteness studies subsume Jewish privilege); tomorrow, the target might be Asian privilege. Indeed, the battle between Asians and other minorities has already been joined in New York City, where blacks and Latinos complain they are underrepresented in prestigious public schools because of the overrepresentation of Asians.

But any racial group might someday find itself targeted as privileged or supremacist. Even variations in skin tone between members of the same racial group can be a cause for rivalry, as is the case in Haiti, whose history is that of the power struggle between majority noirs and minority mulattres; and as is the case today in the United States, where colorism or shadeism results in fierce conflicts between members of the same group. The worldwide phenomenon of colorism has been analyzed by various writers in “Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters,” an anthology edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, and documented in the film “Dark Girls.”

Ignatiev’s strategy of replacing the idea of class struggle with that of race struggle has been enormously successful in the United States. For decades relegated to the fringes of the Democratic Party, it has in the last few years become the party’s dominant ideology. But even in an America in which whites have been eliminated, race struggle based on skin tone would continue.

“We intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans,” President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 1919. It is unfortunate that such a sentiment is anathema to today’s Democratic Party.

Kevin Beary is a Colton resident. He is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Florence in Italy.

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(10) comments

Newsjunkie39a

Welcome to Sophistry 101. Fling a handful of obscure allusions to convince readers of your “erudition “ and drone on from there.

hermit thrush

i am a white guy and i am here to say that white male privilege in the u.s. is 100% real.

rdsouth

Privilege is real, though I think it should be called "advantage," because I think of "privilege" as something only a few have rather than a minority. When a bully picks on one kid in a class, does that mean the other kids are privileged that they didn't get picked on? Should they be grateful to the bully for not picking on them? But that ship has sailed. We're calling it that and it amounts to his: the deck is stacked against people of color and the system should be reformed to unstack it. There should be enough vertical mobility that nobody stays up or down long. We have no business having unwarranted pride in a biased tale of history or in the supposed achievements of our ancestors or in being successful when the deck is stacked in our favor. But these things are facts of life. If you're white it means you're white and just that, there's no shame or pride to be associated with it, it's a fact and a pretty trivial one. If you're successful, the same, all your success means is you are blessed with perhaps the ability to help.

Nice_Commenter

Also Kevin Beary (who is Conservative and writes blacks are the tool of communists) would like you to know Democrats are the real racists! Did you know Nixon recorded himself saying a mixed race baby was good reason for abortion? Nixon was a Democrat I think!

rdsouth

Yes, obviously Kevin Beary is a racist, as the moniker says. His fear seems to be that society will become less white (they will not replace us!) rather than that the people making up this country, whatever ethnicity, will destroy it rather than try to live up to its putative ideals. Assigning moral value to racial background is against those ideals, regardless of who does it. And sidestepping this reality by saying "it's not racist if your ancestors were victims" is dishonest. At risk of being accused of cultural appropriation because of the color of my skin, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Holmes -- the real one

So, how do certain people with these racist ideas wind up with a regular column in the local news source? Herders, wolves in sheep's clothing, pushed them there.

Now Kevin Beary too can say, "My time has come." https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/white-supremacist-david-duke-runs-u-s-senate-says-time-come

Kevin_Beary_is_racist

I just want to say "Happy Holidays" to Mr. Beary. Or is he upset I didn't say "Merry Christmas"? Good thing Republicans don't engage in identity politics. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Did anybody hear what Trump said to a Jewish group last week?

I'd bet the people in Massena that thought the local Jews ate a baby were big liberals. Nice choices Watertown Daily Times editorial staff, making a strong case for the future of newspapers.

Nice_Commenter

Donald Trump in a speech THAT WAS GIVEN LESS THAN TEN DAYS AGO TO A JEWISH ORGANIZATION:

“We have to get them to love Israel more, because we have people that are Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”

“A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me — you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away!”

Shame on the WDT Editorial staff for running this man's delusional lies. You have said good bye to any editorial ethics. If anything running this is a testament to the intellectual death of the region. At least the meth-makers can do chemistry.

Holmes -- the real one

This is what the WDT has come to:

Data mining

And running regular columns by Jay Ambrose and Kevin Beary.

rdsouth

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Most liberal and progressive policies are excellent and in many ways come from a mentality that contrasts favorably with conservative thinking. However, Marxism is a religion so I'm not surprised that it's where this fundamentalist like thinking came from. It's emphasis on supposedly secular versions of original sin and karma from past lives is incongruous with the rest of progressive thought, which is focused on creating a better world for all. It's results, dividing people up according to category, and lumping individuals into category based on superficial similarities rather than seeing us as individuals, sounds like something a right winger would do. This lumping into groups extends to the notion that if you don't accept this mind boggling hogwash you are a latent racist. Yes, this thinking is very familiar: I remember gay people telling me back in the early 80s that if you are straight that just means you are a latent homosexual. But it has gone from "I can read your mind and you're really like me, " to "I can read your mind and you are committing a thought crime." This right wing way of thinking, that the most important thing about you is your ancestry and you need to purify your soul or be damned, is an infection and we must recognize it as such. I recommend "Once and Future Liberal" by Mark Lilla for an extended discussion of this. I think many candidates in the Democratic party, realizing the left wing must be appeased, are paying lip service. Really, in the face of very real problems like authorities murdering African Americans, is the priority to convince allies that they should lash themselves for thoughts they didn't know they had, and in fact get those thoughts so they can purge them? Really? In the face of suffering on reservations is the priority really to push "decolonization" ie all those with the wrong ancestry going back to where they came from, and America (an offensive word because it came from Europe) being abolished? These are the conceptual equivalents of anarchists breaking windows at a previously peaceful protest march. We need to call them out and deny them power and authority. And of course they will call us counterrevolutionaries and demand that we leave ranks and go over to the other side where we belong. So, how did all those people wind up at the Trump rallies? Herders, wolves in sheep's clothing, pushed them there.

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