“Identity grants experience”

J. Bryan Lowder wrote the best response to Jonathan Chait’s essay about identity politics. I wasn’t kind to Chait myself. For one, he’s not the Iraq War supporter and netroots skeptic from whom I want complaints about rude progressives. Lowder:

The problem with identity politics—in this particular manifestation, anyway—is that it assumes that just because a person claims a certain identity label, that person is necessarily empowered to be judge and jury on all issues pertaining to that category. The truth is, identity grants experience (and experience should be valued to a point); but it does not automatically grant wisdom, critical distance, or indeed, unassailable righteousness. To forget this is to turn individual people who possess a range of intelligences, backgrounds, self-interests, and flaws into two-dimensional avatars for the condition of humanity in which they happen to share. And, by corollary, to assert that it is impossible on some fundamental level for those who don’t share that condition to ever relate or speak to that person as merely another human being with ideas and opinions.

I’d add, “To forget this is to vilify individual people who possess a range of intelligences, backgrounds, self-interests, and flaws into two-dimensional avatars for what’s wrong with humanity.”

If someone else had written a column or essay in which “microaggressions” and “mansplaining” are called out as the jargon they are, I would have been more sympathetic. Those words have their place but like all jargon they get fuzzy plucked from their contexts. I’ve been obtuse about trigger warnings, thanks to reading ideologically driven hair-on-fire dismissals in a half-assed way. Dealing with students all week can get dangerous. To speak from a position of power means risking the possibility that, passively or not, my students will accept my bilge without comment.

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