An Obituary for Identity Politics

Flower Bomb

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I began writing this text about a couple months before the uprising in response to George Floyd’s death. The uprising, which now has become a global event, has motivated me to share my perspective in this text. My experiences in Minneapolis from the 26th through the 30st of May have furthered my contempt for identity politics and so I have included additional critiques of it based on those experiences.

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Rewind back to a time and place where people used pagers and pay phones. When front porches and public parks were the hang-out spots. A time when conflicts were resolved face-to-face and shit-talking came with real life consequences. These were the days before ‘call-out culture’, ‘troll-baiting’, and other internet-dominated social activities. Some say the internet and technological expansion have advanced the fight against oppression. My opinion? The internet is where all potential for social revolt goes to die. In addition to pointless petitions and endless memes, recognition as a rebel can be gained through pity parties and academic loyalty rather than hands-on direct action. While providing an excellent breeding ground for keyboard warriors and pretentious academics, the internet also allows for the stunted development of social skills necessary in navigating face-to-face communication. Conflict resolution takes the form of indefinite internet drama and at most an awkward in-real-life re-construction of judge, jury, and executioner. Face-to-face interaction is almost unnecessary in the techno-society where phones have become a personalized commodity seemingly fused to one’s hand. From a screen with adjustable dimming, a full spectrum of emotional expression can now be digitally represented from a cache of emoticons.

The internet is also a place where the lynch-mob mentality of “call-out culture” encourages people to view one another as one-dimensional beings – only defined by mistakes and imperfections. In the name of ‘social justice’ and ‘outing abusers’, a new statism emerges, utilizing fear and guilt to coerce allyship conformity. And similar to being charged by the State, once condemned on the internet, an individual may never escape that reputation. Instead, any or all personal growth and development remains trivial to the static nature of their past mistakes. Despite personal improvement, a convicted individual is sentenced to forever remain captive by the essence of their online portrayal.

In my experience as a ‘marginalized voice’ I’ve seen identity politics used by activists as a tool of social control aimed at anyone who fits the identity criteria of ‘oppressor’. The traditional power-struggle for equality has turned into an olympic sport for social leverage, inverting the same social hierarchy that should have been destroyed in the first place. Many identity politicians I’ve come across are more interested in exploiting “white guilt” for personal (and even capital) gain than physically confronting any organizational model of white supremacy. I’ve witnessed victimhood used to conceal blatant lies and bullying, motivated by personal revenge. All too often I have seen how identity politics creates a culture where personal experiences are trivialized to the point of passive silence. But this is all old news. Any experienced, self-identifying anarchist has seen or probably experienced some form of being ‘called-out’ or ‘cancelled’. So why do I bring it up? Because I still see this shit happening and I still see so many people lacking the courage to openly confront it.

I don’t expect this text to bring identity politics to a grinding halt. I am merely expressing my hostility for it and its authoritarian, anti-individualist nature. I still see self-proclaimed anarchists fussin’ over ‘white’ dreads (as well as seeing people cut their dreads under social pressure). I still see people justify voting like they did for Obama (this time it’s for Bernie). And I still see ‘allies’ mumbling frustration under their breath, too scared to confront the authoritarianism they see right in front of ‘em.

How many ‘white’ anarchists were called racist (or privileged) and shamed for refusing to vote this past 2020 election?

Imagine what anarchy would look like if people refused to obey the condescending demands of identity politicians. Would people feel more free to explore their lives beyond the narrow limitations of prescribed identity? Would they fearlessly reclaim their power to formulate their own opinions? Is there a joy to be experienced in the hysterical mockery of academic elitism?

Would this text be less valid if it wasn’t written by a queer person of color? What if I was a ‘white’, ‘cis’ ‘male’? Why would it matter?

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t. Because after all, this isn’t just about identity. This is about anti-authoritarian anarchy. If there is one thing I have seen the most in the past few years, it’s how identity politics moves like a plague, consuming every social space — ironically including anarchist circles. For me, anarchy is about destroying socially assigned identity and all the limitations it imposes upon the imagination. Anarchy is an individualist experience that finds itself held captive by the prison of assigned identity. Rather than destroying that prison along with the society that constructs it, anarchism today has become a cemetery of dead potential, internalized victimhood, and an ideological competition for who is ‘most oppressed’.

Read the rest of this piece here on The Anarchist Library

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