"Beware of identity politics. I’ll rephrase that: have nothing to do with identity politics.... People began to stand up at meetings and orate about how they felt, not about what or how they thought, and about who they were rather than what (if anything) they had done or stood for." -CH
As a foreigner, the idea of studying at renowned American universities such as Harvard, Yale or Columbia has an almost magnetic attraction. Anywhere in Europe, these institutions are known for their ability to foster intellectual discourse and groom individual thinkers. In my native France, the opportunity to study in an American University is considered a privilege, coveted by many but attainable to only a few.
Hence my surprise, after three years at New York University, upon realizing just how hostile the American academic environment has become to the intellectual values upon which its reputation is based.
Today, intellectual individuality, the basis for rational discourse between thinking human beings, is being discarded in favor of groupthink. No longer are students espousing opinions or views based on moral and rational reasoning; instead they seem to be robotically adopting the opinions shared by members of their specific race, ethnicity, religion, or political party.
When it comes to college political correctness, this has reached tragicomical proportions, where the validity of an argument on any topic is no longer evaluated on its evidence or logic, but instead on the identity of the individual making the argument. On today’s college campuses people are routinely disqualified from a political conversation on, say, police brutality, if they are not black, or Hispanic, or member of a “persecuted” minority group, since they have not had the experience the “persecution” themselves.
In these conversations facts -- and the conclusions surmised from these facts – simply don’t matter... Today In American society there is today a “ladder of victimization” that ranks opinions not on merit or truthfulness, but instead on the level of perceived persecution experienced by the holder of the opinion.
Through this prism, a black student is more qualified to talk about police brutality than a white one, and his views will be indefinitely more valued and accepted, regardless of the view itself. Only a woman is authorized to talk about abortion; a man is automatically disqualified. Only members of the LGBT community are approved opinion holders on the topic of same sex marriage, and so on.
This phenomenon of invalidating/discrediting opinions based on the color of one’s skin, gender, or sexual orientation is nothing new and it has given rise to the too often heard phrase:
“It doesn’t matter what you think, you are (insert individual characteristic) can’t possibly know anything about the topic!”
I've personally heard this very phrase countless times on college campuses, and it never ceases to amaze. It is indeed reminiscent of a day not so long ago in the United States, where skin color was justification enough for discrimination.
Facts don’t care about your identity; they easily resist adoption by anyone willing to preserve their inherit truthfulness, and they cannot be not molded or modified by a specific gender, ethnicity, or cultural origin. Facts remain facts, whoever you are.
This is also further evidence of a worrying trend gripping the United States, one that pushes increasing numbers of individuals to discard free thinking in favor of conformity.
Today, one’s views about abortion should in no way predict one’s views on gun control, healthcare, or foreign policy. Each are unrelated topics that require a unique observation and interpretation of the facts. Yet, if one day you meet someone who argues in favor of the 2nd amendment, it is pretty safe to assume you’ll know her position on abortion, health care and so forth. Americans are running back to their tribes instead of following their own intellectual conclusions.
This is quite terrifying, and in no way indicative of positive things to come. In these cases, the individual forgoes his/her individuality and instead seeks reassurance of a group, political discourse becomes relegated to a “team sport.” This inevitably leads to violent polarization, and the eventual death of unemotional political discourse.
When you make an idea part of your gender or race it becomes one with your identity, and any criticism of that idea is taken as a criticism of self.
But ideas aren’t personality traits. They need be examined and criticized apart from the individuals espousing them. When we fail to do that the lines between intellectual reasoning and our innate characteristics, are blurred.
Although cultural, ethnic or racial diversity are relevant, we must recognize that they shrink in importance in the face of intellectual diversity; and without it, we’ll forfeit the ability to hoister the greatest plurality of ideas and their constant renewal.