Beyond Race, Class, and Sex

The default setting for present-day intellectuals is race, class, and sex.  Nearly every academic study, as well as innumerable general books and the entire liberal media, relies on the hackneyed notion that social identity constitutes the only way to view reality.  In fact, this trifecta is evidence of a shocking lack of original thought.

Academics are essentially lazy-brained and meek individuals who don't like to stray outside their comfort zone, but there does exist another, and truer, way of viewing the world — one in which human beings can be seen according to their true characteristics, not as "blacks," "women," and "the poor," but as individuals with specific qualities.  I have an acquaintance from Jamaica whom I consider delightful, kind, generous, and fun, among other things.  I would never call her a "black woman," the first and only thing a progressive might see in her.  Progressives would strip her of her humanity by placing her in categories that allow for no individuality.  And those categories should not exist to begin with within the public discourse.

Democrats can't see beyond identity politics because it's all they have.  While Joe Biden was apologizing for being a mature white male, Beto O'Rourke insisted that he still has a right to run, even though he is white and male.  As for the rest, they are eagerly proclaiming that they will be the first woman, first black woman, first Hispanic, first real black American.  Not five minutes into the campaign, and we're already mired in race, class, and sex.  Why not try to say something about at least one real issue?

For progressives, that is impossible, because until one sees people as individuals, one has no sense of what is important to them.  That was Hillary's problem.  Despite all the fake smiles and scripted lines of "fighting for working families," Hillary came across as a monster of callous indifference.  She chuckled at putting 100,000 decent, hardworking coal miners out of work.  Only a commissar mentality can do that, not a caring human being.  And race, class, and sex, along with environmental radicalism, is the basis of a new authoritarianism not unlike the old Soviet mentality.  It is rigid, inhuman, and antidemocratic.  It assumes governance through executive order and agency regulation to circumvent Congress and the Constitution.  Above all, it is fanatical, as it reduces life to a few crude propositions.      

What is the alternative to identity politics?  It is based on the recognition of man's true characteristics.  They are the qualities that have been known for millennia as man's true nature.  Nobility, courage, faith, love, and honor on the one hand, greed, faithlessness, envy on the other.  Instead of first, or ever, referring to Kamala Harris as a black woman, for example, why not call her what she is: an opportunistic politician, capable of adopting any number of opposed positions as a means of self-advancement?  That is a description well understood by Shakespeare and other classic writers.  Call her Lady Macbeth.  It's more revealing, and more accurate, than a "black woman."

Why not speak of "the poor" in the same manner?  Is "poor" the most important thing one can say about someone?  Is it relevant at all?  Larry Ellison was once a poor young man, one who might have remained a member of this mislabeled class were it not for his drive and initiative.  He is now one of the wealthiest individuals in America.  It is not his status as "the rich" that distinguishes him, but his contribution to others. As the founder of Oracle Corporation, he has advanced global civilization.  Forget "the fourth richest person in America."  How about "a noble man dedicated to improving business and trade," the creator of a hundred thousand jobs, and a world-class philanthropist?

The worst offender in terms of class warfare is Elizabeth Warren.  The content of her speeches, even her speaking style — arms battling the air, tottering from side to side, her thin voice piercing the air — is reminiscent of Lenin.  Warren seems to live in a time warp in which she relishes the idea of joining downtrodden workers at the barricades.  There was a time a century ago when downtrodden workers existed — though it was not just factory workers, but farmers, shopkeepers, government workers, even the professional class that eked out a meager existence relative to what we have now.  But Democrats now have to reach down into the small underclass to find anything resembling downtrodden.

But Warren can only snarl that if someone makes over a million, he should have most of his "excess" earnings seized.  You'll hear Warren yapping away at this for the next twelve months, her little fist clenched tight as a rock, her eyes glazing over, and always the same note: "The rich are evil — get them!"  

And what is it about those teeth?

Ideas are, by definition, complex arrangements of mental observations organized in a particular way.  I can find nothing resembling an idea in Warren's speeches.  What I hear is the embittered commissar driven by a single crude impulse — an instinctual resentment of wealth that does not reach the level of an idea.  That passion-driven message, combined with ruthless organization and total callousness toward human life, worked for Lenin, and it may work for Warren among the credulous and desperate few who actually believe that "the rich" can pay for their housing, college education, health care, and the rest.  I doubt if it would work in the general election.

"Us" versus "them" is not an intellectual proposition.  It is an appeal to greed.  It's not at all different from the impulse that drives a young street thug to grab the purse of a helpless elderly woman.  

It's obvious that identity politics hasn't done much for the ordinary people of Chicago.  With rising violence and a sense of indifference on the part of the mayor's office, Rahm Emanuel's approval rating dropped to 25% before he decided not to seek re-election.  The violence continues.  No one seems to care about the children of Chicago enough to do anything, and it's Democrats who've governed the city for 88 years.

Isn't it time to see these children as precious human beings and not as black or poor?  That simple act would do more to change the situation than all the taxes Warren could imagine proposing.

One of the most inspiring moments of 2018 was when a young man celebrating life on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial refused to back down, or offer any sign of concession, to an activist who approached him and pounded a drum in his face.  By smiling down his antagonist, the young man seemed to assert that he had as much right as anyone to be there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was a moment that reminded us of what America once was — a place where a young man could stand peacefully expressing his views, in this case pro-life, and not be intimidated by charges of racism, sexism, and classism.  Progressives were appalled by the young man's courage, and they called for him to be taught a lesson, even with suggestions of grotesque violence.  If you step on the sacred ground of progressive politics — race, class, and sex — you too will face the same attacks.  That is what we have come to.

The sooner we drop the "race, class, and sex" business, the sooner we get back to seeing human beings as they are.  Conversely, we will never see the humanity of others so long as we insist on seeing them, first and foremost, as "black," "poor," or "female."  It's time to exit the cave and walk in the light.  Time to look upon a person of African or partial African derivation and see only his humanity.  Time to look upon a person of European or partial European derivation and see only his humanity as well.  Time to radically revise the way in which we have viewed other human beings for at least a half century.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Edward Kimmel via Flickr.

The default setting for present-day intellectuals is race, class, and sex.  Nearly every academic study, as well as innumerable general books and the entire liberal media, relies on the hackneyed notion that social identity constitutes the only way to view reality.  In fact, this trifecta is evidence of a shocking lack of original thought.

Academics are essentially lazy-brained and meek individuals who don't like to stray outside their comfort zone, but there does exist another, and truer, way of viewing the world — one in which human beings can be seen according to their true characteristics, not as "blacks," "women," and "the poor," but as individuals with specific qualities.  I have an acquaintance from Jamaica whom I consider delightful, kind, generous, and fun, among other things.  I would never call her a "black woman," the first and only thing a progressive might see in her.  Progressives would strip her of her humanity by placing her in categories that allow for no individuality.  And those categories should not exist to begin with within the public discourse.

Democrats can't see beyond identity politics because it's all they have.  While Joe Biden was apologizing for being a mature white male, Beto O'Rourke insisted that he still has a right to run, even though he is white and male.  As for the rest, they are eagerly proclaiming that they will be the first woman, first black woman, first Hispanic, first real black American.  Not five minutes into the campaign, and we're already mired in race, class, and sex.  Why not try to say something about at least one real issue?

For progressives, that is impossible, because until one sees people as individuals, one has no sense of what is important to them.  That was Hillary's problem.  Despite all the fake smiles and scripted lines of "fighting for working families," Hillary came across as a monster of callous indifference.  She chuckled at putting 100,000 decent, hardworking coal miners out of work.  Only a commissar mentality can do that, not a caring human being.  And race, class, and sex, along with environmental radicalism, is the basis of a new authoritarianism not unlike the old Soviet mentality.  It is rigid, inhuman, and antidemocratic.  It assumes governance through executive order and agency regulation to circumvent Congress and the Constitution.  Above all, it is fanatical, as it reduces life to a few crude propositions.      

What is the alternative to identity politics?  It is based on the recognition of man's true characteristics.  They are the qualities that have been known for millennia as man's true nature.  Nobility, courage, faith, love, and honor on the one hand, greed, faithlessness, envy on the other.  Instead of first, or ever, referring to Kamala Harris as a black woman, for example, why not call her what she is: an opportunistic politician, capable of adopting any number of opposed positions as a means of self-advancement?  That is a description well understood by Shakespeare and other classic writers.  Call her Lady Macbeth.  It's more revealing, and more accurate, than a "black woman."

Why not speak of "the poor" in the same manner?  Is "poor" the most important thing one can say about someone?  Is it relevant at all?  Larry Ellison was once a poor young man, one who might have remained a member of this mislabeled class were it not for his drive and initiative.  He is now one of the wealthiest individuals in America.  It is not his status as "the rich" that distinguishes him, but his contribution to others. As the founder of Oracle Corporation, he has advanced global civilization.  Forget "the fourth richest person in America."  How about "a noble man dedicated to improving business and trade," the creator of a hundred thousand jobs, and a world-class philanthropist?

The worst offender in terms of class warfare is Elizabeth Warren.  The content of her speeches, even her speaking style — arms battling the air, tottering from side to side, her thin voice piercing the air — is reminiscent of Lenin.  Warren seems to live in a time warp in which she relishes the idea of joining downtrodden workers at the barricades.  There was a time a century ago when downtrodden workers existed — though it was not just factory workers, but farmers, shopkeepers, government workers, even the professional class that eked out a meager existence relative to what we have now.  But Democrats now have to reach down into the small underclass to find anything resembling downtrodden.

But Warren can only snarl that if someone makes over a million, he should have most of his "excess" earnings seized.  You'll hear Warren yapping away at this for the next twelve months, her little fist clenched tight as a rock, her eyes glazing over, and always the same note: "The rich are evil — get them!"  

And what is it about those teeth?

Ideas are, by definition, complex arrangements of mental observations organized in a particular way.  I can find nothing resembling an idea in Warren's speeches.  What I hear is the embittered commissar driven by a single crude impulse — an instinctual resentment of wealth that does not reach the level of an idea.  That passion-driven message, combined with ruthless organization and total callousness toward human life, worked for Lenin, and it may work for Warren among the credulous and desperate few who actually believe that "the rich" can pay for their housing, college education, health care, and the rest.  I doubt if it would work in the general election.

"Us" versus "them" is not an intellectual proposition.  It is an appeal to greed.  It's not at all different from the impulse that drives a young street thug to grab the purse of a helpless elderly woman.  

It's obvious that identity politics hasn't done much for the ordinary people of Chicago.  With rising violence and a sense of indifference on the part of the mayor's office, Rahm Emanuel's approval rating dropped to 25% before he decided not to seek re-election.  The violence continues.  No one seems to care about the children of Chicago enough to do anything, and it's Democrats who've governed the city for 88 years.

Isn't it time to see these children as precious human beings and not as black or poor?  That simple act would do more to change the situation than all the taxes Warren could imagine proposing.

One of the most inspiring moments of 2018 was when a young man celebrating life on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial refused to back down, or offer any sign of concession, to an activist who approached him and pounded a drum in his face.  By smiling down his antagonist, the young man seemed to assert that he had as much right as anyone to be there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was a moment that reminded us of what America once was — a place where a young man could stand peacefully expressing his views, in this case pro-life, and not be intimidated by charges of racism, sexism, and classism.  Progressives were appalled by the young man's courage, and they called for him to be taught a lesson, even with suggestions of grotesque violence.  If you step on the sacred ground of progressive politics — race, class, and sex — you too will face the same attacks.  That is what we have come to.

The sooner we drop the "race, class, and sex" business, the sooner we get back to seeing human beings as they are.  Conversely, we will never see the humanity of others so long as we insist on seeing them, first and foremost, as "black," "poor," or "female."  It's time to exit the cave and walk in the light.  Time to look upon a person of African or partial African derivation and see only his humanity.  Time to look upon a person of European or partial European derivation and see only his humanity as well.  Time to radically revise the way in which we have viewed other human beings for at least a half century.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Edward Kimmel via Flickr.