Identity politics is about perpetual division. Its goal is not to unite, but to find new ways to break down groups, turning former allies into enemies.
Here’s California dividing black people.
California has become the first in the nation to require state agencies to include a separate category for descendants of enslaved people in its collection of employee data.
Why it matters: Advocates say the data disaggregation will help identify and address long-held inequities within black communities. Many descendants see it as a model for other states — and the federal government — to follow.
An obvious point is that many of the country’s highest black officials are the children of African immigrants or visitors, including Obama and Kamala Harris.
A 2016 study found that in Los Angeles, the median net worth for a black descendant of enslaved people is $4,000 compared to $72,000 for a recent immigrant from the African continent.
Also obviously true. And it makes a certain amount of sense to focus affirmative action benefits on American black people rather than African immigrants. But the upshot is that this pushes further subdivisions into identity politics.
Organizers took a page out of Asian American advocates’ book after seeing their successful effort to push the state to break down different ethnic groups in health data collection.
If you thought American identity politics wasn’t divisive enough, we’ll start creating black ethnic groups to build new models of privilege and oppression within the black community.
No one is denying that back people at large are marginalized in America, said Chris Lodgson, lead organizer of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California. But the kind of historical oppression he faces as a descendant has different consequences than the inequities more recent immigrants face, he added.
“One of the things that is core to any group’s existence is their identity,” Lodgson noted. “When we use these big broad categories called black or African American, not only do we hide the differences between the different groups … [it also] prevents us from even being able to do anything about any of those differences.”
What the Axios story doesn’t mention is that the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California is all about “:reparations” and this paves the way for deciding who gets them and who doesn’t.