During the MSNBC program AM Joy this past Sunday, host Joy Reid asked Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris if, during her campaign, it would “be difficult … to advocate race-based policy” without becoming vulnerable to the charge that she was engaging in identity politics. In her response, Harris said:
“I want to talk about the issue of identity politics, Joy. This term identity politics, people will use that term — it’s like people used to talk about the race card. They bring this term up when you talk about issues that are about race, about sexual orientation, about religion. They’ll bring it up when we are talking about civil rights issues as a way to marginalize the issue, as a way to frankly try to silence you or shut you up. We need to call it what it is, which is to try and divert away from a conversation that needs to happen in America. Why? One, because we must speak truth. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism are all real in this country, so we need to have that conversation and address it. Two, and this is equally important, how America deals with the issues and the disparities, and also the hate that can be — that causes these issues to become lethal in proportion — how America deals with these issues is a matter of American identity. This is not about identity politics, and if it is, it’s about the identity of the United States of America. How we handle the issues will be about our collective identity.”
If we distill Harris’s meandering reply down to its essence, she is saying that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with identity politics, because identity politics is ultimately a vehicle for helping more Americans understand that the very “identity of the United States of America” has always been — and continues to be — thoroughly infested with the ineradicable sins of “racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, [and] anti-Semitism.”
Harris recently touched on this same theme at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she voiced her support for doing away with the Columbus Day holiday and replacing it with “Indigenous People’s Day.” In other words, identity politics is perfectly appropriate in this case because, as Harris puts it, America represents “the scene of a crime when it comes to what we did with slavery and Jim Crow and institutionalized racism in this country, and we have to be honest about that.” Thus, Harris argues that drawing distinctions between different groups of people is not only desirable but necessary, since that is the only method by which we can properly identify our population’s victimizers and victims, guilty and innocent, evil and good.
Wherever this identity-politics mindset has been used as the raw material of public policy, never once has it led to increased harmony between separate demographic groups. Without exception, it has increased intergroup hostility and violence. This has proven true not only in the United States, but also in nations as varied and far-flung as India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Malaysia, where preferential policies that were designed to somehow right historic wrongs, instead unleashed torrents of rage that in some cases brought colossal levels of violence and bloodshed to places that previously had been relatively tranquil. Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell has very clearly and concisely laid out the facts regarding this international phenomenon.
But such realities could never persuade egomaniacal, power-obsessed demagogues like Kamala Harris to reconsider their approach. Such individuals care only about implementing their political agendas, even if truths like those laid bare by Dr. Sowell must be swept under the carpet. That is why Harris so eagerly and reflexively jumped aboard the identity-politics bandwagon in response to the recent race hoax perpetrated by the black, openly gay actor Jussie Smollett.
On January 29, the senator reacted with instant, horrified outrage when media outlets first reported that Smollett was claiming that he had just been victimized by a hate crime perpetrated by two white men who had assaulted him, poured bleach on him, draped a rope around his neck, and shouted “This is MAGA country,” along with a variety of anti-black and anti-gay slurs. Unable to wait even a few moments for additional facts to unfold regarding this beautifully scripted gift from the gods of identity politics, Harris rushed to her computer keyboard and tweeted: “This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”
A couple of weeks later, Harris and fellow senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott asked for unanimous consent on the Senate floor to pass the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation aimed at formally criminalizing the act of lynching for the first time in U.S. history. After all, the white attackers had put a rope around poor Jussie’s neck, right? The motion was passed.
Then, when it subsequently became obvious that Smollett’s tale was a complete fabrication that he himself had orchestrated, a reporter asked Senator Harris to comment on the matter. Suddenly she was interested in waiting for more information: “I think the facts are still unfolding and … I think that once the investigation has concluded, then we can all comment, but I’m not going to comment until I know the outcome of the investigation.”
In other words, by now Harris knew that the whole story was a toxic brew of lies, so she needed to back slowly and inconspicuously away from the absurd remarks she had made earlier. And then, when Smollett was finally charged with a felony for having filed a false police report, Harris tweeted that she was “sad, frustrated and disappointed.” But she felt that way only because the actor’s false report “diverts resources away from serious investigations” of similar crimes that supposedly are commonplace, while making it “more difficult for other victims … to come forward.”
As Harris expanded on those remarks, she made it clear that, in her view, the main lesson of the Smollett incident was that no one should “dismiss and downplay” the fact that “hate crimes” of that type “are on the rise in America.” Yet she made no mention of the fact that the incidence of black-on-white violence in the U.S. has dwarfed the incidence of white-on-black violence for as long as criminal-victimization statistics have been kept. Facts like that don’t matter at all to identity-politics charlatans like Kamala Harris. That is why, even after having made a contemptuous fool of herself with her breathless condemnations of “a modern-day lynching,” she still managed to regain her footing upon the pedestal of moral preeners, as she announced heroically: “I will always condemn racism and homophobia. We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice. That is what I will keep fighting for.”