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Today’s identity politics erases the goal of a color-blind society

Written By | Jul 23, 2019

WASHINGTON: There was a time not long ago when men and women of goodwill, liberal and conservative, sought to create a genuinely color-blind society. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously declared,  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”

But today’s identity politics is destroying diversity acceptance.

On the left, four freshman U.S. representatives of growing prominence embrace a contrary philosophy.

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One of them, Rep.Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., declared:

“We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be brown voices. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be black voices.”

In response to Pressley and the other three in her “Squad”, President Trump said that if they were unhappy in America, they should go home and fix the broken societies there. Only one of them, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a native of Somalia, was born outside the US.

When a crowd at a Trump rally in North Carolina began to chant, “Send her back,” many saw a different version of identity politics at play. This, they argued, was white identity politics.

Race-based identity politics is identifiable across our society.

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A National Association of Scholars study indicates that:

“…at least 75 American colleges have black-only graduation ceremonies and 43 percent of surveyed colleges offer segregated residential halls. The organization refers to this as “neo-segregation.””

Harvard’s separate commencement for African-Americans first made national news in 2017. The New York Times headline read, “Colleges Celebrate Diversity With Separate Commencements.”

Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute and a black critic of race-based programs says that separate commencement ceremonies

“…serve only to amplify racial differences. College is the place where we should be teaching and preaching the view that you’re an individual, and choose your associates based on factors other than skin-color.”

(Ward Connerly Warns Against Washington State’s “Racial Preferences” Initiative)

Connerly is a businessman, author, political figure, and former regent of the University of California. He is the author of Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences and Lessons from My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of Our Character.

The leaders of the civil rights movement, who worked to achieve a genuinely color-blind society, would be disappointed to see the emergence of identity politics in today’s American society.

Thurgood Marshall, who would become our first black Supreme Court justice, in arguing for the NAACP in the case of Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma (1948) declared that,

“Classifications and distinctions based on race and color have no moral or legal validity in our society.”
The complications inherent to our racial history

After slavery was abolished, black Americans began fighting the legal barriers of segregation as committed patriots.

identity politics, raceProfessor Benjamin Quarles, a distinguished black historian, points out that, from the beginning, black Americans made one crucial decision: They would remain in America. There were many, going back to the Revolutionary War, who did advise blacks to return to Africa.

Overwhelmingly blacks in America chose to stay in America.

At a black church meeting in Rochester, New York in 1853, noted orator Frederick Douglass, chairman of the assembled group, said:

“We ask that in our native land, we shall not be treated as strangers.”

The delegates officially rejected any move to abandon the United States. Instead, supporting a proposal to establish a manual labor school to teach skill base trades.

Professor Quarles notes that for most black Americans,

“The vision of the founders of this republic … is still a vital force. American to the core, they believe that freedom and equality for all could be achieved in their native land; The belief has been one of their significant contributions in the making of America. He (the black American) has been a watchman on the wall. More fully than other Americans, he knew that freedom was hard-won and could be preserved only by continuous effort. The faith and works of the Negro over the years has made it possible for the American creed to retain so much of its appeal, so much of its moving power.”
Identity politics violates every principle of American history

It violates our principles whether espoused by radicals in the minority community, or by the white and cheering crowd in North Carolina.

It is time that we return to the goal of a color-blind society, in which men and women are seen as unique individuals, not representatives of one tribal group or another. Any other path leads to a society that does not work. Glimpses of that are now on the horizon.

Allan C. Brownfeld

Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.