The Anti & Un Identity Thing
The recent US election season was a fascinating study in political spin. In particular, the far Right’s strategy of claiming Obama was being Anti or Un- American. It’s a “Rovian” strategy; take a politician’s key strength (in this case Obama’s post-global national identity) and turn it into a perceived weakness (like claiming Obama’s cool, cautious […]
The recent US election season was a fascinating study in political spin. In particular, the far Right’s strategy of claiming Obama was being Anti or Un- American. It’s a “Rovian” strategy; take a politician’s key strength (in this case Obama’s post-global national identity) and turn it into a perceived weakness (like claiming Obama’s cool, cautious detachment is really egoism or a lack of passion for “our” America).
But, it’s also a deeply malfeasant strategy that would be familiar to anyone with a minority background – it’s just another version of the “you’re not really one of us” game that has, at its core, the nascent tinge of racism. In a lot of ways, it feels like a tactic from John Howard’s play-book of Australian politics- the hoary claim that someone or some idea is UnAustralian.
Consider Stanley Kurtz’s short op-ed piece, Wright 101. Notice how Kurtz manages to sneak in the phrase “Anti-American(ism)” nine times and “extremist” seven times, without really substantiating either claim. You don’t have to read with much detachment to get the sense that here extremist might just mean someone the author disagrees with.
But, there is a deeper failure in the piece that is highlighted by this quote from Michael Eric Dyson’s study on Pride,
“…most discussion of race in America centers on what it means to be nonwhite. Very few whites are ever asked to think about what it means to be white or how whiteness defines so much of what we take for granted in the world.
White pride works best when it has not been up for discussion – when it can be denied as the purpose of talk or action and can be seen, instead, as the very framework of normal conversation and behaviour.”
and as he goes on,
“White pride has often been smuggled into national discourse under other labels; citizen, American, individual. many whites, failing to see themselves as members of a race, define themselves as citizens, all the while denying that privilege to others. Whites are individuals and Americans; blacks, Latinos, native_Americans and other minorities are viewed as members of racial and ethnic subgroups. Whiteness has a doubly negative effect: it denies its racial roots while denying racial minorities their American identities.”
In “A Woman’s Place Is In The Boardroom” a similar issue is raised when a group of business leaders are asked to reflect on how gender has shaped and determined their identity in the workplace. Women were able to address the issue with depth and clarity while men, overwhelmingly, did not understand the question.
Cohesion and community flow undeniably from shared identities and experiences. That is true, even of the most diverse groups (where what is shared may be the belief in diversity and the experience of its benefits). Homogeneity is not always evidence of sin.
But, we should ask ourselves what good ever comes from exclusion for the sake of exclusion, from the highlighting of otherness as a sole reason to ostracise someone, from the claim that difference disqualifies someone from the ability to lead.