The combined forces of Trump administration rhetoric, an addiction to media and the increased fervor in the fight against police violence has resulted in a society defined by identities and labels. Although we blame Trump for increasing division in America, his exit on Jan. 20 will not staunch the tribalism that’s developed in America. Our label-obsessed culture will continue to stoke the fires of division. This brand of identity politics is a scourge on America.
A friend recently told me that they didn’t think white supremacy was a large or hegemonic problem anymore. While I don’t deny that there have been material changes, like repealing the Chinese Exclusion Act with the Magnuson Act in 1943 or passing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, white supremacy undoubtedly exists both in our international and interpersonal communities. We can’t allow it to fester. On March 15, a 28-year-old man opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 and injuring at least 48 others. The shooter’s 74-page explanation of his motivation and 17-minute video of the shooting clue us into the horror of such violence and the justification for it.
To fully understand marginalization, one needs to have experienced said marginalization first-hand. This assumption is increasingly fundamental to today’s practice of identity politics, evident in the higher credence many claim ought to be afforded to those who experience racism, sexism, transphobia and whatever other forms of exclusion we can theorize about. In philosophical language, this notion asserts that there is certain phenomenal knowledge — or knowledge about the subjective, first-hand experience of a phenomenon by a conscious entity — that cannot be a priori deduced from full physical knowledge of that conscious entity. Fully knowing everything about, say, a person’s neurobiology down to the most fundamental, subatomic level will fail to yield insight into what it is like for them to have experienced marginalization. This is particularly evident in leftist attitudes within the United States, where people of a marginalized identity often invoke it — for example, “as a gay person of color, I believe …” — to pontificate from a more authoritative position.