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the perils of identity politics January 18, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, politics, race.
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christopher hitchens in the wsj:

People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of “race” or “gender” alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.

Far from taking us forward, this sort of discussion actually keeps us anchored in the past. The enormous advances in genome studies have effectively discredited the whole idea of “race” as a means of categorizing humans. And however ethnicity may be defined or subdivided, it is utterly unscientific and retrograde to confuse it with color. The number of subjective definitions of “racist” is almost infinite but the only objective definition of the word is “one who believes that there are human races.”

For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my “race,” unless I was permitted to put “human.” The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put “white,” which is not even a color let alone a “race,” and I sternly declined to put “Caucasian,” which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King’s campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you “black.”

Not to dampen any parade, but if one asks if there is a single thing about Mr. Obama’s Senate record, or state legislature record, or current program, that could possibly justify his claim to the presidency one gets . . . what? Not much. Similarly lightweight unqualified “white” candidates have overcome this objection, to be sure, but what kind of standard is that?

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