Politics of identity this week

I think, where we are in the situation of the politics of identity can show our stage of progress, and also, the relativity of our social situation. Consider the following instances:

Africa: Zimbabwe, South Africa. Both nations are trying to elevate themselves out of a discourse of racialised politics; the notion of a black Africa has passed; it was a response to a colonial discourse, but now the cultural climate and socio-political situation has become far more subtle. I suppose the acts of Mugabe characterise for us now, how dated an issue of postcolonial social issues are. Mugabe was originally the black visionary against British white rule; now, he’s a tyrant against progress.

USA: A black senator putting himself up for president on the same day that a civil rights leader (who was also black..) spoke 40 years ago. In the age of selling oneself; using the race card is a strategy to win, not a cheap ploy. However, that leads me to another issue I would like to consider (another post). On the same day, the republican opposite announced a (gasp) female running mate!! What’s next, a member of the ‘disabled’ community as the defence secretary? (just for the sake of it) I bet they even disabled him, too…

UK: A top Asian police officer acccuses the top dog, Sir Ian Bliar (sic) of racism. The number two officer accuses him of being on an ego trip and is using race to hide his incompetence. The other side may say that ‘don’t criticise us’ is a crude hiding strategy of racism. It seems to me, a moot point on either side.

It is interesting how the politics of identity comes into play. I was listening to a radio interview earlier today with Lenny Henry; where it was said he shares the same birthday (and age) as Michael Jackson; both are entertainers, both broke a racial barrier to get famous; but only one of them is still black (was the joke of the presenter). It was made a point, or rather, a question, to Henry of whether making a point of his ethnicity significant? On the one hand, sometimes its just pandering to a false ideal of how society actually is to force representation, but on the other, positively affirming the presence of difference in the community, and making our media reflect that. So, we can see black and asian presenters on the News as reflecting society, perhaps even sexual difference or disability (I found out a certain BBC economics correspondent was gay…I wouldn’t have known!); but on the other hand, if you go to some parts of the world, its just not ethnically or factually accurate to force ‘difference’ or ‘diversity’. Its not the case that we need a village black guy; if anything, that’s demeaning…

Still, a difficult issue. But an important one; like discrimination on the basis of belief; it is a sign of an advanced social and moral order that we have such interesting questions coming up, isntead of the more crude issues that have been behind us.

Sinistre (and Antisophie)

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One thought on “Politics of identity this week

  1. There’s no doubt that identity politics have become very complex, and also that it’s no longer solely about race.

    A friend of mine asked me why I defend the (Young Earth Creationist) Christians in the US when they were the majority. This made me wonder: why would persecution of a majority group be acceptable?

    Being in the majority is no longer a defence against discrimination, something Obama has raised in connection with low-income white people in the US. And if we start taking into account all the relevant power blocks that can wield influence (media, academia, etc.) it becomes even more involuted.

    I agree with you that this is a sign of the complexity of the modern social and moral order – and I believe this is the most complex it’s ever been in human history. Because for millennia, cross-cultural (and religious) issues were avoided by mutual agreement not to discuss contentious subjects (such as religion) publicly.

    The internet, among other instances of the new information technology available, makes this kind of solution untenable. Almost all cultures are now in contact with one another, and solutions involving brushing things under the carpet are increasingly difficult to deploy. That makes it all the more important for philosophers to actually address these problems and solve them before they get out of hand.

    We live in interesting times. 🙂

    Best wishes!

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