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Identity fraud: On the rhetorical weaponization of identity

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  1. NaraVara
    . . . . . .

    Some might refer to this as pulling the race card or any other variation thereof. But such a term has become antiquated, co-opted and tainted by conservatives and those reacting negatively to what they see as excessive “wokeness” in contemporary discourse. My viewpoints do not align with theirs; rather, I would argue that it is to the detriment of left, progressive movements that a bad-faith weaponization of identity has saturated the fount of sociocultural dynamics. The danger of what I’m talking about lies not with the ideas behind brandishing identity — that it is meaningful, and that people of marginalized identities as a whole continue to suffer from inequities — so much as how inadequately this cynical rhetorical strategy addresses those fundamental problems in favor of shallow optics, cheap distractions, and personal gain. And in doing so, it risks adverse ramifications, too.

    . . .

    What made the C.R.C.’s conception so revolutionary half a century ago was its focus on those at the bottom of the pecking order — poor, Black women with little socioeconomic mobility — rather than those who sat atop the pyramid of representation. Identity politics as it is commonly understood today — individualist, tied to shallow ideas of representation and authenticity — is far from the radical imagination of the past.
    That is partly what is so aggravating and even noxious about how contemporary identity politics is wielded: in practice, the concept has been overtaken by a fetishization of optics at the expense of the tangible interests of the most marginalized. Táíwò calls this “elite capture”

    . . .

    But what are the dangers of sustaining this machination? Besides just being intellectually dishonest — boo hoo, who gives a fuck, one might very rationally retort — I fear the corrosive effects of such a cynical wielding of identity: the backlash against (or at least growing impatience with) any critical discussion of racial dynamics in this country; the shrinking possibility of collective solidarity across lines of identity and class, and with it, the hope for more radical change; the reduction of what is certainly not a simple issue into an either-or binary.

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