Did Identity Politics Originate in Government Rules–And Can the Trump Administration Do Something about This?

source: February 28 2018 Independent Women’s Forum by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Identity politics—the artificial segmentation of Americans into antagonistic groups organized along often imagined ethnic, racial and sexual categories—is tearing America apart. President Trump can do something about it.

Edwin Meese and Mike Conzalez in today’s Wall Street Journal


According to former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and Heritage Fellow Mike Conzalez, the reason that President Trump could do something to overcome identity politics is that “government played a key role in creating these identities.” Thus government might be able to undo some of the damage.

It started innocently enough in 1966, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began collecting employment data on African Americans and a few other groups to ferret out racial discrimination. Tragically, this laudable goal ended up promoting victimhood, say Meese and Gonzalez.

“Being listed on the EEO-1 was a crucial prerequisite for benefiting from a difference-conscious justice,” [University of California, San Diego political scientist John Skrentny] concludes [in his book The Minority Rights Revolution]. “Without much thought given to what they were doing, [policy makers] created and legitimized for civil society a new discourse of race, group difference and rights. This discourse mirrored racist talk.”

In 1977, the Office of Management and Budget took a step forward on the road to identity politics by standardizing what it meant to be  “white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian and Alaska native” nationwide. The Census Bureau, dubbed “the ethno-racial pentagon,”  then divided the country by race, with great detail. Think of all those boxes with different ethnic options.

The 2020 Census is projected to go further along the lines of identity with a new “write-in area” for the country from which the families of respondents, black and white, as well as Hispanics, come; nevertheless this increased specificity “will still divide [respondents] under the pan-ethnic umbrellas.”

Meese and Gonzalez propose ending government sanctioned fixation on race and ethnicity:

The Commerce Department must submit 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of next month. Mr. Trump should issue an executive order directing the OMB to rescind the 1977 directive (and a 1997 revision) and the Census Bureau to abandon pan-ethnic categories in favor of a question about national origin—either fill-in-the-blank or a box for every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The order should further instruct all federal agencies to root out the collection of this faux data—which occurs internally throughout the executive branch and is forced on states and government contractors through federal policies and regulations. Mr. Trump could instruct agencies to report back on their progress after, say, six months.

“It is necessary and desirable to recognize and encourage the ongoing assimilation of the many strands that make up the American people into a common culture,” Mr. Glazer wrote. “One encourages what one recognizes and dissuades what one does not.” Mr. Trump has an opportunity to encourage unity and dissuade the division of Americans by race and ethnicity.

We can all be proud of our origins, but identity politics promotes assimilation, sows discord, and most of these minute and divisive distinctions are statistically meaningless anyway.

Why not identify as Americans?

Criticize harmful national origin data collection bill

source: Wednesday March 28th, 2018 GRA by Ye Pogue

The Connecticut legislature held a March 8 hearing on Senate Bill 359, an act that called for banning ethnic subgroup data disaggregation in the Connecticut education system. As a Ph.D. candidate in Social Policy who studies mental health and trauma,  I was invited by the bill’s supporters to testify on the damage a potential data collection program would impose on students, parents and teachers.

This March, three bills were introduced into the Connecticut Legislature on the ethnic origin data collection issue. The hearing for the first bill was scheduled the second day of a snow storm; I drafted my husband for this hundred-mile ride. I was able to join the 500 allies of the bill who were mostly Chinese parents with their American children. The children distributed small scarves to supporters that resembled American flags. Their cheerful, yet serious young faces made them appear more mature than their age.

In the past six months, the Chinese immigrant community has been actively engaged in opposing national origin data collection. One day after the hearing, another bill was introduced in the Public Health Committee, calling for detailed ethnic subgroup data collection in order to address health disparities. The bill was considered racist by many because whites were exempted from this ethnic subgroup data collection. Chinese immigrants in Connecticut quickly organized a group of physicians, statisticians and other concerned individuals to testify against the bill. I submitted a letter as well.

From what I learned from social media, due to the large number of bills scheduled for hearings that day, people coming to advocate on behalf of this particular bill waited until midnight. One of the major arguments supporting ethnic data disaggregation is that immigrants from Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia came to United States as refugees because of war and political persecution. As a result, they endured traumas and hardships that affect their overall well-being. Advocates sincerely believe that ethnic and national origin disaggregation can address the health disparity.

I feel very personally connected with these refugees who fled their homes because what they went through was very similar to what my family experienced. During the Cultural Revolution in China, my grandparents were sent to a labor camp for 10 years, leaving their three sons to grow up without their parents. My grandmother spent the rest of her life criticizing the communist government, and I was her captive audience. Even though I was born 10 years after the Cultural Revolution, these horrific images and stories were carved into my heart.  I came to the U.S. as an international student; however, in my heart I am still that child whose family so desperately wanted to flee the country but failed to do so. When I passed the security check at U.S. customs, I felt like a burden had been lifted because the people who had perished could finally rest in peace. Trauma can carry over for generations, and it leads to adverse health outcomes; I see these traumas manifested in my family. I have loved ones who have died by suicide or are disabled because of their mental illnesses. The claws of intergenerational trauma have a hold on my generation as well.

However, ethnic data disaggregation is not the solution. National origin cannot and should not be used as a tool to identify any specific health need. For example, not every Cambodian immigrant is a refugee, and not every refugee develops trauma-related illnesses. This same logic applies to Chinese, Syrians, Cubans, Jews and other immigrants who were exposed to tremendous stress and hardship before they immigrated. Linking a specific ethnicity to a certain illness is very dangerous to that community. It attaches a label of “medical burden” to whole communities, and “healthy” people can begin shaming and avoiding people who are sick for weighing down the whole community.

For people with mental health needs, health care providers conduct background screenings, and always ask for a detailed family history and personal history. If someone is a refugee or child of a refugee either from mainland China, Cambodia, or Rwanda, health care providers will know. People tell their needs and personal stories to their healthcare providers because there is always a basic level of trust between doctor and patient.

Many advocates may overlook the fact that immigrants do not trust the government as much as native-born citizens. A national origin data collection program can cause a psychological burden. Government data collection is abusive and coercive because of the huge power the state wields over individuals. Many refugees fled home because of government oppression. Communities that have experienced brutality at the hands of their own country can feel betrayed if doctors are asking for private information on the government’s behalf. When feeling threatened, patients either skip the question if they can, or opt to skip the treatment appointment entirely.

More importantly,  dividing disease burden by national origin can cause grave long-term consequences, such as immigration restriction. When talking about public health, people tend to think it from a domestic policy perspective and overlook immigration policy. The mission of departments of public health on both the  federal and state level is to reduce the medical burden on U.S. soil. Scholars and advocates focus on treatment for the sick and epidemic prevention by monitoring international travelers. The Department of Homeland Security also has an obligation to protect public health, which they have the sole right to enforce. They could determine “if a foreign national meets the health-related standards for admissibility.”

Every immigrant who wants to obtain the status of permanent resident will have to go through a complex immigration physical exam, and many health conditions are render one “inadmissible.” For people with mental illnesses and trauma experience, their immigration physical exam can be very tough. Histories of self-harm or suicide attempts are considered a red flag for immigration. Additionally, having a history of substance use disorders is a deal breaker. If a person is taking any antidepressants or mood stabilizers, the doctor will immediately start to grill the person. I know this first-handed because I am a peer counselor for immigrants. I advised many people about their exams and visa interviews. During my own exam, I barely managed to defend myself. The assistants asked loaded questions about my health history and I summoned all my nerve to demand to know the legal ground of asking me, “Did you ever hurt anybody?” Even though I am a human rights activist, this question scared me. If I failed to convince them that I had no intention to hurt myself despite having a mood disorder, then I would have been rejected for a legal residency application.

Immigration systems have the ability to strike down many people with various illnesses. I understand that the American immigration system prefers healthy individuals. However, this government-mandated data collection was not designed as a representative sample, and will not be carried out by professionals or community members. Therefore, the program will produce poor quality data that will not yield reliable results about disease burden.

With these flawed “disease burden by national origin” data, immigrants can be easily “ranked,” and some immigrants are bound to fall into the bottom category. The federal government can implement a stricter screening targeted at applicants from certain countries for public health concerns. It is entirely legal and not considered anti-immigration. Currently, the U.S. is having an immigration crisis, with President Donald Trump saying he welcomes immigrants from certain countries, like Norway, but not from some others. He made a hugely offensive statement about Haitians, that they “all have AIDS,” according to a Dec. 23, 2017 New York Times article. The President’s comments are especially risky because people with certain illnesses, such as AIDS, are indeed inadmissible to U.S. soil.

The third Connecticut bill was introduced in the Judiciary Committee on March 20 to restrict ethnic data collection. The bill’s sponsor advocated on our behalf; however, the final legislative language was considered to legitimize the practice of dividing immigrants by place of birth. Hearing our concerns, the bill was withdrawn a day later. Most likely, none of the three bills will be made into law, and Chinese immigrants are considering this a victory. Finally, our voices were heard. Instead of being treated as data points to be studied, all we want is to be respected.

(This article was originally published on the Justice, Brandeis University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1949, Waltham, MA)

亚裔细分法简介 —— 从加州说起

来源: 2018-03-06 百合, Wennan 美国华人之声

编者按: 最近我们一直在刊登有关“亚裔细分”的文章。 很多读者询问,究竟什么是“亚裔细分”? 这个问题不难回答。 “亚裔细分”,是美国政治游戏的一个“特产”,这就是规定所有的亚裔美国人在填写一些表格中的有关“种族”的问题时,必须按照祖上的原住国填写自己的种族。 例如,如果一个亚裔的祖上是来自越南,这位就必须填写“越南”;如果是柬埔寨,就必须填写“柬埔寨”。 看上去这并不是什么问题,但细究起来问题就大了。 因为美国别的种族不需要这样仔细填写。 例如白人就只须填写“白人”就行了,不必填写自己祖上是来自英国还是俄罗斯,法国还是波兰,等等。  黑人也只须要填写“黑人”。 单独逼迫亚裔填写的这么仔细,这样一来挑起了亚裔内部火拼,互相争夺政府资源(小的族裔需要照顾,大的族裔需要出血。 华裔是美国亚裔最大一族,自然是要当冤大头)。 而且由于细分,美国亚裔的子子孙孙都要被打上祖宗原住国的烙印。 假如一个亚裔去竞选公职,那么人家就会指指戳戳地说:看这个老挝人在竞选市长,那个韩国人在竞选议员,那位中国女生在竞选州长……。 这无形中把美国亚裔变成了永久的外国人,不被美国主流社会所接纳。  更可笑的是,“亚裔细分”甚至把来自于海峡两岸的华人给分成两个不同的民族。 我们知道,来自海峡两岸的华人,同文同种,大部分都是汉族,文化和生活习俗都是一样的,怎么一细分就成了两个民族呢?


Wennan: 加州的亚裔细分法的出笼经过





百合: @Wennan 正解!看下面这个图:

百合: 看上表,1989 皇军Floyd第一次尝试亚裔细分,没出门就被灭了。 2006年伪军刘云平来了,2011年刘升官当了参议员,和另一个伪军伍国庆(伍是赵美心老公),两人联手打造了亚裔细分基石。外面以讹传讹,说2016年开始的,其实2016被我们拼了老命拔掉了一颗毒牙,但是毒蛇是2011年被放出来的…

Identity politics (身份政治——编者译)。相信这个的人们是民主党坚定不移的票仓,昨日、今日,将来?D’Souza在Hillary’s America里面引经据典、用统计数据表明当初KKK党是民主党中坚,这些中坚在所谓1960年主党和和党大换血时,只有百分之一、二去了共和党,剩下都留在主党,名人包括变暖教教主Al Gore的老爸Al Gore Senior。当时权倾民主党朝野,曾经带领主党filibuster against 黑人的Civil Rights。”It was June 1964, less than five months before the elder Gore was to face Tennessee voters. Southern Democrats, representing the powerful segregationist wing of the party, were in the midst of a 57-day filibuster to prevent the Senate from voting on the Civil Rights Act.” 另一个名人是Robert Byrd,希拉里称他是自己的导师。Byrd曾经带了100个KKK进去主党。是民主党永远的痛。我个人觉得任何党派搞identity politics都是咱们少数民族的敌人,如果有朝一日共和党转成搞identity politics为党的首要任务(当时Bonta在2016亚裔细分法听证会上公开说搞亚裔细分是全国主党的首要任务、没有回旋余地)我也一样会扁共和党 。

D’Souza还揭露了一点,南北战争时期的南军将士大多是平民,并非拥有黑奴的(想想可靠性很高,农场主哪里会大批去送死,他们连做事情都不亲自动手了)。为何主党你能够调动这些白人呢?因为他们被拉进了一个套路:虽然赤贫,可他们自己觉得是上等人。人为的种族隔离,使他们自我感觉良好。所以会为理想舍生。反观现在白左极端分子宁愿政府关门也要支持非法移民的做派,是否惊人类似?我见到的最让我受不了的种族份子是那些在川普上台后,见到我就拉着我手说,“不要怕,别伤心,我们和你们在一起…” 意思是我们和非法移民没啥区别,属于异类。

再多啰嗦几句,在美国的黑人被少数领袖代表了,本来黑人是非常有能力有创造性的民族,被豢养起来之后反而一蹶不振,被来自世界各地的其他黑人看不上眼,他们自己群体里也有很多精英,不少是和党的坚定信徒,包括联邦大法官Clarence Thomas和加州Prop 209的创始人之一当时加州大学摄政Ward Connerly。他们这些黑人精英认为主党的愚民政策导致了在美黑人的社会经济地位普遍偏低。D’Souza更是讥讽主党把种植园从农庄搬到了都市中心,仍然起到了隔离黑人的作用。现在明白为何民主党要抵制charter school了吧?有了这种混合入学的方式,黑人下一代就不那么好糊弄了。所以你看,黑人也好,华人也好,都是会被伪军带沟里的

How America’s identity politics went from inclusion to division

source: 3/1/2018 The Guardian

Political tribalism has reached a new peak, writes Amy Chua in her new book, and it leaves the US in a new perilous situation

We are at an unprecedented moment in America.

For the first time in US history, white Americans are faced with the prospect of becoming a minority in their “own country.” While many in our multicultural cities may well celebrate the “browning of America” as a welcome step away from “white supremacy”, it’s safe to say that large numbers of American whites are more anxious about this phenomenon, whether they admit it or not. Tellingly, a 2012 study showed that more than half of white Americans believe that “whites have replaced blacks as the ‘primary victims of discrimination’.”

Meanwhile, the coming demographic shift has done little to allay minority concerns about discrimination. A recent survey found that 43% of black Americans do not believe America will ever make the changes necessary to give blacks equal rights. Most disconcertingly, hate crimes have increased 20% in the wake of the 2016 election.

When groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.

In America today, every group feels this way to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against.

Of course, one group’s claims to feeling threatened and voiceless are often met by another group’s derision because it discounts their own feelings of persecution – but such is political tribalism.

This – combined with record levels of inequality – is why we now see identity politics on both sides of the political spectrum. And it leaves the United States in a perilous new situation: almost no one is standing up for an America without identity politics, for an American identity that transcends and unites all the country’s many subgroups.

This is certainly true of the American left today.

Fifty years ago, the rhetoric of pro–civil rights, Great Society liberals was, in its dominant voices, expressly group transcending, framed in the language of national unity and equal opportunity.

In his most famous speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr proclaimed: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

King’s ideals – the ideals of the American Left that captured the imagination and hearts of the public and led to real change – transcended group divides and called for an America in which skin color didn’t matter.

Leading liberal philosophical movements of that era were similarly group blind and universalist in character. John Rawls’s enormously influential A Theory of Justice, published in 1971, called on people to imagine themselves in an “original position”, behind a “veil of ignorance”, in which they could decide on their society’s basic principles without regard to “race, gender, religious affiliation, [or] wealth”.

At roughly the same time, the idea of universal human rights proliferated, advancing the dignity of every individual as the foundation of a just international order.

Thus, although the Left was always concerned with the oppression of minorities and the rights of disadvantaged groups, the dominant ideals in this period tended to be group blind, often cosmopolitan, with many calling for transcending not just ethnic, racial, and gender barriers but national boundaries as well.

Perhaps in reaction to Reaganism, and a growing awareness that “colorblindness” was being used by conservatives to oppose policies intended to redress racial inequities, a new movement began to unfold on the left in the 1980s and 1990s – a movement emphasizing group consciousness, group identity, and group claims.

Many on the left had become acutely aware that color blindness was being used by conservatives to oppose policies intended to redress historical wrongs and persisting racial inequities.

Many also began to notice that the leading liberal figures in America, whether in law, government, or academia, were predominantly white men and that the neutral “group-blind” invisible hand of the market wasn’t doing much to correct long-standing imbalances.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the anti-capitalist economic preoccupations of the old Left began to take a backseat to a new way of understanding oppression: the politics of redistribution was replaced by a “politics of recognition”. Modern identity politics was born.

As Oberlin professor Sonia Kruks writes, “What makes identity politics a significant departure from earlier [movements] is its demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition … The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of ‘universal humankind’ … nor is it for respect ‘in spite of’ one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.”

But identity politics, with its group-based rhetoric, did not initially become the mainstream position of the Democratic Party.

At the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Barack Obama famously declared, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

A decade and a half later, we are very far from Obama’s America.

For today’s Left, blindness to group identity is the ultimate sin, because it masks the reality of group hierarchies and oppression in America.

It’s just a fact that whites, and specifically white male Protestants, dominated America for most of its history, often violently, and that this legacy persists. The stubborn persistence of racial inequality in the wake of Barack Obama’s supposedly “post-racial” presidency has left many young progressives disillusioned with the narratives of racial progress that were popular among liberals just a few years ago.

When a grand jury failed to indict a white cop who was videotaped choking a black man to death, black writer Brit Bennett captured this growing mistrust in an essay entitled, “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People”:

We all want to believe in progress, in history that marches forward in a neat line, in transcended differences and growing acceptance, in how good the good white people have become … I don’t think Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo set out to kill black men. I’m sure the cops who arrested my father meant well. But what good are your good intentions if they kill us?

For the Left, identity politics has long been a means to “confront rather than obscure the uglier aspects of American history and society”.

But in recent years, whether because of growing strength or growing frustration with the lack of progress, the Left has upped the ante. A shift in tone, rhetoric, and logic has moved identity politics away from inclusion – which had always been the Left’s watchword – toward exclusion and division. As a result, many on the left have turned against universalist rhetoric (for example, All Lives Matter), viewing it as an attempt to erase the specificity of the experience and oppression of historically marginalized minorities.

The new exclusivity is partly epistemological, claiming that out-group members cannot share in the knowledge possessed by in-group members (“You can’t understand X because you are white”; “You can’t understand Y because you’re not a woman”; “You can’t speak about Z because you’re not queer”). The idea of “cultural appropriation” insists, among other things, “These are our group’s symbols, traditions, patrimony, and out-group members have no right to them.”

For much of the Left today, anyone who speaks in favor of group blindness is on the other side, indifferent to or even guilty of oppression. For some, especially on college campuses, anyone who doesn’t swallow the anti-oppression orthodoxy hook, line, and sinker – anyone who doesn’t acknowledge “white supremacy” in America – is a racist.

When liberal icon Bernie Sanders told supporters, “It’s not good enough for somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me,’ ” Quentin James, a leader of Hillary Clinton’s outreach efforts to people of color, retorted that Sanders’s “comments regarding identity politics suggest he may be a white supremacist, too”.

Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition.

Today, there is an ever-expanding vocabulary of identity on the left. Facebook now lists more than fifty gender designations from which users can choose, from genderqueer to intersex to pangender.

Or take the acronym LGBTQ. Originally LGB, variants over the years have ranged from GLBT to LGBTI to LGBTQQIAAP as preferred terminology shifted and identity groups quarreled about who should be included and who come first.

Because the Left is always trying to outleft the last Left, the result can be a zero-sum competition over which group is the least privileged, an “Oppression Olympics” often fragmenting progressives and setting them against each other.

Although inclusivity is presumably still the ultimate goal, the contemporary Left is pointedly exclusionary.

During a Black Lives Matter protest at the DNC held in Philadelphia in July 2016, a protest leader announced that “this is a black and brown resistance march”, asking white allies to “appropriately take [their] place in the back of this march”.

The war on “cultural appropriation” is rooted in the belief that groups have exclusive rights to their own histories, symbols, and traditions. Thus, many on the left today would consider it an offensive act of privilege for, say, a straight white man to write a novel featuring a gay Latina as the main character.

Transgressions are called out daily on social media; no one is immune. Beyoncé was criticized for wearing what looked like a traditional Indian bridal outfit; Amy Schumer, in turn, was criticized for making a parody of Beyoncé’s Formation, a song about the black female experience. Students at Oberlin complained of a vendor’s “history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines”. And a student op-ed at Louisiana State University claimed that white women styling their eyebrows to look thicker – like “a lot of ethnic women” –was “a prime example of the cultural appropriation in this country”.

Not everyone on the Left is happy with the direction that identity politics has taken. Many are dismayed by the focus on cultural appropriation. As a progressive Mexican American law student put it, “If we allowed ourselves to be hurt by a costume, how could we manage the trauma of an eviction notice?”

He added: “Liberals have cried wolf too many times. If everything is racist and sexist, nothing is. When Trump, the real wolf, came along, no one listened.”

As a candidate, Donald Trump famously called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, described illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists”, and referred disparagingly to an Indiana-born federal judge as “Mexican”, accusing the judge of having “an inherent conflict of interest” rendering him unfit to preside over a suit against Trump.

Making the argument that Trump used identity politics to win the White House is like shooting fish in a barrel. But us-versus-them, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments were bread and butter for most conservatives on the 2016 campaign trail. Senator Marco Rubio compared the war with Islam to America’s “war with Nazis”, and even moderate Republicans like Jeb Bush advocated for a religious test to allow Christian refugees to enter the country preferentially.

We are also seeing on the right – particularly the alt-right – political tribalism directed against minorities perceived as “too successful”. For example, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist, has complained that America’s “engineering schools are all full of people from South Asia and East Asia … They’ve come in here to take these jobs” while Americans “can’t get engineering degrees … [and] can’t get a job”.

This brings us to the most striking feature of today’s right-wing political tribalism: the white identity politics that has mobilized around the idea of whites as an endangered, discriminated-against group.

In part this development carries forward a long tradition of white tribalism in America. But white identity politics has also gotten a tremendous recent boost from the Left, whose relentless berating, shaming, and bullying might have done more damage than good.

One Trump voter claimed that “maybe I’m just so sick of being called a bigot that my anger at the authoritarian left has pushed me to support this seriously flawed man.” “The Democratic party,” said Bill Maher, “made the white working man feel like your problems aren’t real because you’re ‘mansplaining’ and check your privilege. You know, if your life sucks, your problems are real.” When blacks blame today’s whites for slavery or ask for reparations, many white Americans feel as though they are being attacked for the sins of other generations.

Or consider this blog post in the American Conservative, worth quoting at length because of the light it sheds:

I’m a white guy. I’m a well-educated intellectual who enjoys small arthouse movies, coffeehouses and classic blues. If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably mistake me for a lefty urban hipster.

And yet. I find some of the alt-right stuff exerts a pull even on me. Even though I’m smart and informed enough to see through it. It’s seductive because I am not a person with any power or privilege, and yet I am constantly bombarded with messages telling me that I’m a cancer, I’m a problem, everything is my fault.

I am very lower middle class. I’ve never owned a new car, and do my own home repairs as much as I can to save money. I cut my own grass, wash my own dishes, buy my clothes from Walmart. I have no clue how I will ever be able to retire. But oh, brother, to hear the media tell it, I am just drowning in unearned power and privilege, and America will be a much brighter, more loving, more peaceful nation when I finally just keel over and die.

Trust me: After all that, some of the alt-right stuff feels like a warm, soothing bath. A “safe space,” if you will. I recoil from the uglier stuff, but some of it— the “hey, white guys are actually okay, you know! Be proud of yourself, white man!” stuff is really VERY seductive, and it is only with some intellectual effort that I can resist the pull … If it’s a struggle for someone like me to resist the pull, I imagine it’s probably impossible for someone with less education or cultural exposure.

Just as the Left’s exclusionary identity politics is ironic in light of the Left’s ostensible demands for inclusivity, so too is the emergence of a “white” identity politics on the right.

For decades, the Right has claimed to be a bastion of individualism, a place where those who rejected the divisive identity politics of the Left found a home.

For this reason, conservatives typically paint the emergence of white identity as having been forced on them by the tactics of the Left. As one political commentator puts it, “feeling as though they are under perpetual attack for the color of their skin, many on the right have become defiant of their whiteness, allowing it into their individual politics in ways they have not for generations”.

At its core, the problem is simple but fundamental. While black Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, and many others are allowed – indeed, encouraged – to feel solidarity and take pride in their racial or ethnic identity, white Americans have for the last several decades been told they must never, ever do so.

People want to see their own tribe as exceptional, as something to be deeply proud of; that’s what the tribal instinct is all about. For decades now, nonwhites in the United States have been encouraged to indulge their tribal instincts in just this way, but, at least publicly, American whites have not.

On the contrary, if anything, they have been told that their white identity is something no one should take pride in. “I get it,” says Christian Lander, creator of the popular satirical blog Stuff White People Like, “as a straight white male, I’m the worst thing on Earth.”

But the tribal instinct is not so easy to suppress. As Vassar professor Hua Hsu put it in an Atlantic essay called “The End of White America?” the “result is a racial pride that dares not speak its name, and that defines itself through cultural cues instead.”

In combination with the profound demographic transformation now taking place in America, this suppressed urge on the part of many white Americans – to feel solidarity and pride in their group identity, as others are allowed to do – has created an especially fraught set of tribal dynamics in the United States today.

Just after the 2016 election, a former Never Trumper explained his change of heart in the Atlantic: “My college-age daughter constantly hears talk of white privilege and racial identity, of separate dorms for separate races (somewhere in heaven Martin Luther King Jr is hanging his head and crying) … I hate identity politics, [but] when everything is about identity politics, is the left really surprised that on Tuesday millions of white Americans … voted as ‘white’? If you want identity politics, identity politics is what you will get.”

From Political Tribes by Amy Chua. Published by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Amy Chua.