Go Ahead, Speak for Yourself

Not every opinion needs to be underwritten by your race or gender or other social identity.

Comments: 208

  1. What a great essay! And one that earns, rather than simply claims, authority.

  2. @Martin

    What a bunch of Kumbaya condescending paternalism and liberal feel good pity nonsense.

    There is only one human race and two procreative human genders.

    You can only speak for and within those two context as a diverse individual accountable person defined by biology, socioeconomics, politics and history. You do not select your own birth identity.

  3. I immediately distrust anyone who uses the phrase "what the American people want (are saying, need, etc.) is..." - it's hyperbole promoted as authority.

    Yes, it's a very popular interjection used throughout the political spectrum - and a hallmark of those who prioritize rhetoric over discourse.

  4. How curious that this essay ignores the primary function of "as a" in informal discussions: establishing the speaker's place in a hierarchy of privilege, which then establishes which ground rules apply.

    One might say "as a woman of color" to establish that one is allowed to criticize, for example, white males in harsher terms than would be tolerated if the direction of the criticism was reversed, because one direction is "punching up" and the other is "punching down."

    In other words, the "as a" is usually used to excuse one's racist or sexist statements on the basis of one's identification with underprivileged identity groups.

  5. @Patrick

    John Brown was a humble humane empathetic progressive white liberal.

    Clarence Thomas is an arrogant cruel cynical hypocritical white supremacist conservative.

  6. @Patrick

    The second paragraph reads "Typically, it's an assertion of authority ..."

  7. @Patrick As someone who doesn't really read very closely, the author addresses your point head on.

    "Typically, it’s an assertion of authority: As a member of this or that social group, I have experiences that lend my remarks special weight. The experiences, being representative of that group, might even qualify me to represent that group. Occasionally, the formula is an avowal of humility. It can be both at once.

    It's a shame 84 other non-readers missed the point too.

  8. Thank you for this! As an individual with only one brain and no extra-sensory abilities, I am not qualified to speak for anyone other than myself. This article made me reflect on the times when I erroneously think that I can.

  9. @Charles K.

    It is part of our basic human nature and nurture to categorize and organize among other people around common shared features beginning with family, friends and foes.

    When you speak for your family and friends and against your foes you are more than an island.

  10. This is just the other side of the same coin. Sometimes one can and should other times not so much. In other words things like life are complicated and to simplify them is to avoid them, something I enjoy myself,

  11. Thank you, Professor Appiah! We are so much more than the boxes we have created to try and understand ourselves and each other. There can also be a significant difference between the way others see me (based on my appearance, background etc) and the way I see and understand myself. Sometimes others put us in boxes based on a desire to understand for noble or ignoble purposes. Sometimes I attach to a particular identity to try and gain understanding, affiliation, or achievement. Who you think I am and who I think I am are often not the same. And, in any case, these identities are in constant flux - often depending upon situation and relationship. So much of what forms us often can't be seen. We are ultimately a mystery - never reducible to any one identity. We miss so much of the complexity of what it means to be human when we see primarily through the lens of identities.

  12. @Sue

    Agreed - how to uncloud our lens?

  13. Kudos on a great exploration. I feel the resorting to "as a" is a grasp for power - power to persuade by claiming affinity, identity, validity ("lived experience"), and sometimes defensive power, acknowledging privilege to lend humility, and thus gain sympathy, for an apologia.

    And the grasp for supportive power is reflective of how easily we humans feel disempowered, insufficient, invalid, to just present ourselves as ourselves, vulnerable and strong and humble and wise all wrapped up in one, and rarely feeling all that comfortable in it. The human dilemma... angst and venture and wonder...

  14. Americans learned the wrong lessons about equality. Every American citizen has the right to equal protection under our laws. No where in our constitution does it say that "all opinions are created equal and deserve equal treatment"

    The American people's belief that they are "entitled" to have their opinion receive "equal" support is the biggest mistake we made as a country.

    Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions; but not their own facts. It is theory, logic, facts and evidence that determines the value of any opinion, not who holds it or how strongly that opinion is held.

  15. @Ronny

    "All men are created equal.........."


  16. @Ronny

    You can blame the media for that one! In an effort to appear “fair and balanced” (cough Fox News I’m looking at you) they reported complete falsehoods just to keep their older and unsophisticated viewers glued to the screen. (And I say older and unsophisticated, because younger more sophisticated viewers found outlets online that had more diversity in reporting than any of the television networks)

  17. @Ronny Correct. Every person has value, and the right to an opinion. The two are very different things. The marketplace of ideas will decide if those opinions have value.

  18. I think that, as a speech act, ‘as a white man’ is somewhat different from, say, ‘as a Latina lesbian’. The former is more often, these days, an apology, an acknowledgement of privilege and a plea (deserved or not) nonetheless to be heard (white men don’t, as a general rule, say ‘as a white man…’). The latter asserts membership in a group, or, as you put it clearly: ‘as a member of this or that social group, I have experiences that lend my remarks special weight.’

    The assertion of special weight is understandable but becomes problematic not only when the person speaking is asserting the right to be a spokesperson, but also when identity is used to suggest that the assertion is necessarily true and any challenge to is therefore illegitimate. (The unspoken assumption of the enthymeme is: ‘as an X, what I say is necessarily reliable and true’.) This rhetorical posture has become quite familiar these days, for example in discussions of cultural relativism.

  19. Mr. Appiah,
    I admire your recognizing that the end game of identity politics is a war of all against all. What proponents of intersectionality fail to realize is that when they've finished splicing everybody down, they arrive at the individual: the bedrock upon which liberalism was founded.

  20. Its disheartening that it took this many words to explain the ad hominem fallacy.

    What's even worse, is the possible vitriol that the author will get despite the many pleas within the piece to assure those who will be surely vexed that she understands them.

    The ad hominem fallacy is especially pernicious, both in the standard personal attack and in the ever present ad hominem circumstantial attacks. It plays on our tendency to judge and dismiss at a cursory glance those we don't like or respect, rather than to only examine the arguments or statements they make dispassionately.

    The author also gets the ball rolling in explaining some of the technical issues with intersectionality, but not some of its most biting criticisms.

    Why, for example, is phenotype more important than general attractiveness? Is tall more important than sex, and is it the same for different sexes? Is the color of the eyes significant? We don't know, after adding about 6 categories to the analysis it becomes almost impossible to group people together meaningfully.

    Its not as if a multivariate analysis will give you the exact determination of the variation here. Its all very difficult to quantify.

  21. This is a long overdue and wonderfully cogent piece. Reliance on "identity" has become a crutch. I have never been comfortable with identity politics, and I sit at the intersection of three minority groups--yes I could have said "as a member of..." Yes, rejecting identity politics has become a way for the majority culture to dismiss or trivialize minority groups' concerns, yet overuse of "identity" brings the risk that we simply self-ghettoize, if not self-deport.

    Besides, what is identity? I "identify" as many things before it would even occur to me to cite my ancestry, or ethnic origins, which have little to do with what kind of person I am. Members of the dominant culture have at times oppressed me because of my ancestry, or, more accurately, because of the assumptions they make based on what they see on the surface. That is exactly why discrimination based on prejudice is so wrong and offensive. To cite the iconic Dr. King, it has nothing to do with the "content of our character"!

    Thank you for making a badly needed contribution to the debate over "identity".

  22. @charles

    You are a member of one of three species of very closeky related African primate apes aka bonobo, chimpanzee and human. Your identity began in Africa 300, 000 years ago.

  23. @charles

    There is only one multicolored multiethnic multifaith multi national origin biological DNA genetic evolutionary fit human race species that began in Africa 300, 000 years ago. That is scientific reality. It is not a crutch. Color aka race has everything to do with the production of Vitamin D and protecting genes from damaging mutations.

    Black people came to America from Africa as enslaved white European property. Black people were and still are separate and unequal to white Americans.

    Slavery and involuntary servitude are still legal in America. America has 25 % of the world's prisoners with only 5 % of humanity. And while 13% of Americans are black, 40 % of the 2.3 million Americans in prison are black like Ben Carson because blacks are persecuted for acting like white people do without any criminal justice consequences.

    Stevie Wonder cannot see Barack Obama's permanent brown hue, but the rest of America can and judged him in accordance with American history. Being color blind does not mean ignoring the reality of color in humans. It requires eliminating the white supremacist bigotry and prejudice that accompanies color aka race.

  24. @charles ~ and thank you (all!) for all these ruminations [dictionary doesn't like my spelling] on Kwame Anthony Appiah's thoughts. Amen!

  25. The problem with identity thinking is that is typically a precursor to claiming victim status. It would be refreshing to hear, "I am a ..... (fill in the blanks identity group) and I am so lucky and proud ..."

  26. The idea - often expressed - that we need, say, ' more Hispanics on the Supreme Court', or 'more women in the Senate', or 'more Asians in the police', etc, etc .... has always seemed to me problematic for much the same reasons as Prof. Appiah expresses. Should it matter?

  27. @Unconvinced
    Yes, it does matter. Little girls should not have to grow up in a society where there are no women in positions of power for them to look up to. Little Black children likewise should be able to identify with people in positions of power. Etc. etc. etc. As long as there are positions of power in this country (Supreme Court, the police, the Senate), they should reflect the diversity of America. It's not a science, but there is something wrong with the Senate when it is less than 20% female. There was something profoundly wrong with the Supreme Court when there was not a single woman on it.

  28. This is both entertaining and appropriate for the moment. The “as a” identity construct is a declaration of unexamined privilege in almost all cases. “I privilege my statement” as a whatever. Thank you!

  29. Oh boy, the keepers of the feminist narrative flame at the NYT are not going to like this when they have worked so hard to drum in the claim that all women are necessarily oppressed victims of the "patriarchy," read all men. Nonetheless it's refreshing to see an opinion piece like this that doesn't buy into that incessant construct.

  30. @Chris M It is possible to point out injustices without claiming to speak for every member of that group. I mean, discrimination against black people was and is real (it still is, but just to make the point clear - slavery and "separate but equal" were actually oppression of a group based on a perceived shared identity). Women have also had their share of injustices to deal with. "Women" in that sense is a political group, not an identity group. Just like "people with dependents" is a political group, "tax payers" is a political group," etc. These labels sometimes make sense, and sometimes they are overused. This is a nuanced piece. I am a feminist, and I agree with it. That doesn't mean that I now think "ah, good, all is right with the world."

  31. @Chris M

    Strictly in terms of physical harm, women are indeed the "oppressed" group, above Jews, blacks, and gay people.

    Not that one wants a contest of that sort.

    More women are maimed or killed by their boyfriends and husbands than blacks are maimed or killed by whites or Jews by gentiles or homosexuals by heterosexuals.

    As long as women lack the upper-body strength of men and can be raped, or killed even by a single blow to the head ("I hit her, and she fell"), they're in a vulnerable position.

    Your comment seems unnecessarily snarky.

  32. As a paying subscriber to the NY Times I approve of this brilliant article and I recommend everyone to read it.

  33. A humorous and welcome defense of rational discourse, the bedrock of democracy and civil society. Timely and needed. Thank you!

  34. @JB123

    I doubt that the families of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice found any humor in this academic black -faced minstrel charade.

  35. I enjoyed this piece, and it took guts to write it in today’s hyper-compartmentalized world. I’m looking forward to reading the comments.

  36. Superb writing and a timely message. Having the courage and sense of security in our own unique identities to speak for ourselves can help us break through our tendencies for groupthink and tribalist mentality. Rather than diminishing community and attachment, your message allows us to become comfortable and comforted by the idea that our own uniqueness and complexity in thought and deed is a source of strength and not weakness within our local community and society.

  37. As an existentially neutered android sitting in an empty theater watching my life flash before my eyes, I think I might be offended by the implications, though I am admittedly quite uncertain.

    What is ‘identity’ if not the “hidden entity”?

  38. A brilliant article; sadly, I think Professor Appiah will be ignored by the Democratic Party (of which I am a member), because today's Democratic Party is essentially a collection of single-identity groups, all claiming victimhood.
    The most telling weakness of the professor's argument though is that it is too complex. It is easy (and lazy) to identify as a "one thing" he mentioned, as if that is the only personal characteristic that matters. If we recognise the full complexity and many parts of a person's identity, we have to actually listen to what the person is saying, and that is asking too much of too many people.

  39. @Danny

    We read Mr. Appiah differently, if you think he meant to minimize the need for victimized groups to have an identity and voice.

    Prior to 2008, American gays were incarcerated for making love in private. There's a wisdom in our common incarnation, and it's not lazy to speak of how "we" continue to be ostracized and beaten up in the USA, executed (in Saudi Arabia) or tortured to death (in Chechnya).

    Whites object when blacks lump us together. Whites will say but I am different from the rest, have deep empathy, because, say, I grew up poor, was bullied, and discriminated against because of a deformity. A black fashion model might might retort that she's the suburban daughter of a philanthropic dentist and you don't have a clue about wearing black skin. She's right, of course, and she has wisdom in telling you so.

    The strength of Appiah's idea is in its complexity.

    Identity groups need to to express themselves usefully.

    There's great value in communicating without identifying ourselves, even to ourselves.

    I think he is suggesting that we be equally fluent in speaking of the experiences we have in common with groups, and, to think and speak beyond them too.

    And to ask that we are thoughtful and intentional instead of habitual in the voice we use.

  40. @Danny

    The Democratic Party is a party of envious victims.

    The Republican Party is comprised of scolding Libertarians.

    The country is without genuine leadership.

  41. @Danny The entire American party system uses victimhood. The Republicans attract one kind of victim mentality: white people who blame all the rest for taking away their country. The ones most free of identity politics seem to be independents, but both parties work their own victims.

  42. I too which people would drop self association that comes with “as a”. I wish the political parties and our politicians would do the same. Case and point. The Trump proposal to combine path to Citizenship for 3 million aliens (democrat nirvana) while closing several immigration loopholes (Republican nirvana). It was a sensible compromise. The identification got in the way of pragmatic thinking.

  43. As a straight white working class married Appalachian baby boomer with a PhD in engineering: this is one of the best op eds I've read in years.

  44. Right on! “As a” straight white midwestern boomer ‘Michigan Man’ with an MBA from a well known Eastern b-school, I fully agree - a great Op-Ed.
    It’s about time. Go Bucks!

  45. In my opinion, people should really have fewer opinions.

    As a person with only one life’s experiences (out of billions!), there are many, many things that I have no bursiness talking about.

    I’m a lot happier when I say in conversation: “I don’t have an opinion about that, but I’d like to hear about your experience.”

    The art (and joy) of listening!

  46. Not fewer opinions, necessarily, but fewer expressed or unexamined ones!

  47. @Ben

    I'd like to be a believer in "judge not, lest ye be judged," but sometimes we must not let broad-mindedness result in our brains dribbling out from the sides.

    I do judge people based on their behavior. The content of their characters cannot be seen except through their behavior.

    If they seem oblivious to those around them, if they are coarse and profane, if they are easily angered and use their fists or knives or guns to relieve their anger, if they cheat or abuse others and laugh about it, then that is behavior worth judging.

    That's my opinion.

  48. I am a minority. There is only one of me.

  49. Well argued --- and incredibly fun read on a serious topic.

  50. This article demonstrates the reasons for the divisions in our society. Instead of just listening to someone's opinion for what it's worth, the author encourages the readers to judge the worth of the opinion based upon the persons identification of his identity or by his appearance, something that the civil rights legislation of the 60 s was intended to stop along with attempting to achieve social equality for African Americans. Identity politics in this form of practice will continue to divide society.
    Suggestion to the author, just listen to the opinion and leave out the classification of it by your "criteria".

  51. Could you please cite an excerpt from the article that supports your criticism?

  52. @William Stuber That is the exact opposite of what the author is saying. You might want to read it again without an agenda.

  53. The difficulty lies not so much in the usage of "as a" to inflict verbal harm or establish bona fides for individuals, but in the dominant culture's insistence on not allowing people of distinct communities to be individuals. How often has an identified white person committed a mass murder here in the States and been seen as a single someone suffering from mental illness? But any violent incident by a person of color, primarily a Black man, immediately indicts ALL Black people. It becomes difficult to posit individually when you're singled out to defend the race. When and if all people in the States can see Black people for the widely varied humans they are and not as a single person (ask any Black person who is in a social setting where they are alone among white people how often someone asks if they haven't met before) will the "as a" modifier no longer serve.

  54. @jlo
    "...ask any Black person...alone among white people how often someone asks if they haven't met before..." insists that members of the Black community not allow people of a distinct community--white people here--to be individuals. To be clear--not all white people think all Black people look the same.

  55. Here’s an example of identity politics at work. I sincerely believe this is in your head. Anyone who “immediately indicted all black people” about anything, would be deservedly crucified on social media, and wind up groveling in apologies trying to save their reputation and career.

  56. I agree with mr. Appiah, whom I consider and admire as a marvelous cultural critic. However, although no one can speak for just one group, to dismiss the honest voice of someone who is trying (and I underscore honest) do not move forward any conversation regarding race, sexism or discrimination. The Civil Rights movement was a complex alliance of multiple identities, each with their own solutions and discourse on how to be a black man or woman, latino or latina, and, eventually, all the in between. As mr. Appiah discusses, it was all about sensible policies and who listened. Nevertheless, if not rooted on group identity, changes on civil liberties would not have happened. More than to dismiss “as a”, anyone that claims an identity must be aware of the problematic nuances this may bring, but never to stop raising his/her/their voice when needed because he’s/she’s/they’re afraid to not be authorized to speak.

  57. Professor Appiah’s essay captures, in a cogent analysis, what I too frequently express only as a roll of my eyes or a sigh. Speak for yourself (only), I often think.

    And yet, when I, a white middle-aged woman, travel with my young, black, son-in-law, the roles of social identities in our lives are excruciatingly evident. He is, by necessity, constantly aware of how strangers see him, and that is rarely as an individual. For all of the reasonable criticisms of identity politics, let’s not ignore that its fundamental foundation is the experience of discrimination in the world.

  58. @JP - You say "he is, by necessity, constantly aware of how strangers see him, and that is rarely as an individual." I don't doubt that racism exists, yet how EXACTLY do you know how every stranger sees your son in law, such that you can claim as a fact that they rarely see him as an individual? Even assuming you were to cross examine every stranger he meets, which you clearly can't, I submit that you could not possibly confirm this. Maybe some people are not thinking what you are sure you know they are thinking.

  59. @JP
    No one is aware of how strangers see them. “They looked at me like....... “ Unless someone actually discriminates against another or engages verbally there is no way to know what is in their mind. The rest is your own imagination. It comes entirely from within.

  60. @JP
    The only thing less helpful in discourse than the "as a identity x" is the "as a family member (usually mother of MIL) of an identity x".
    Stop. It's offensive to substantiate your opinion/perspective with the race of your family member.
    That you could not "see" what the world may be like from a different persons perspective prior to be related (distantly) to a person of a different race- is where you need to place your attention and analysis.

  61. Will the people who need to hear this message actually listen? I am not a fan of identity politics and believe we can make better headway for justice if we think of ourselves as humans first instead of races, sexual orientations, and genders. Yes, I have experienced gender discrimination, but the offensive thing about that is not necessarily how I’m treated “as a women,” but how I’m treated “as an invalid human being” because I’m a woman. That’s not my psychosis — it’s the discriminator’s. Identity politics grows from discrimination, so if we started treating each other like human beings that deserved dignity, regardless of our society’s constructed taxonomy, we might not cling to our “as a ____” so much. I know.... easier said than done.

  62. Is your “assumption” excluding yourself and of those with similar views points, aka those who did not vote for Hillary or an alternative candidate besides Donald Trump?

  63. @Marcia Eppich-Harris

    Identity politics is a way for the identity hound to find purpose in his own contexts.

    It is a crying shame that this sort of person is so un-enamored with his on lot that he has to seek solace in a self-manufactured bubble, the boundaries of which he is rarely, if ever, going to cross.

  64. @Marcia Eppich-Harris For similar reasons, many people have begun referring to "enslaved people" rather than"slaves" - to highlight the fact that slavery is something enforced on a person, not a person's identity.

  65. Speaking for myself, Dr. Kwame Appiah, can't wait to read your book, "The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity"!

  66. Speaking as a human being, I have to admit we're a pretty rotten species.

    Dan Kravitz

  67. OK, I just had a long discussion over at the “Rational Republicans” Facebook page in which I made the deliberately provocative point that “identity politics” is not a real issue.

    I’ve asked people now for 2 years - if you exclude college campuses, tell me ONE situation, just one, in real non-virtual life (that is, nothing you’ve read anywhere in the news media or social media) where “identity politics” was an issue.

    I should add - excluding humanities graduate students or professors...

    Nobody has been able to come up with one example.

    I imagine if anybody responds to this comment, they will ignore the exceptions I listed above, citing dozens, or hundreds or thousands of examples (the recent controversy about the new hire at the Times who made anti-white statements).

    Out here in the real world, people are working 2 or 3 jobs and still barely able to pay their mortgage and put food on the table.

    Out here in the real world people are dying because they can’t afford the medications that would save their lives.

    Out here in the real world college graduates are essentially debt slaves.

    Out here in the real world, children are being killed because of similarly concocted nonsense such as “gun control is the first step toward complete totalitarianism”

    Fortunately, the Democrats are getting wise to this. Perhaps they’ve started listening to George Lakoff and are refusing to buy into the cognitive frames of the Right.

    November, vote as if your life depends on it.

    It does.

  68. @don salmon Identity politics come up often in my community of meditators here in NYC. Not sure if that supports or challenges your assumptions - but my world is real to me. :)

  69. Anyone who employs the term “identity politics” whether intended or not, is a participant in the racist “dog-whistle” politics that the right has forced upon us.

  70. Hallelujah, was that refreshing. But a white man-- kidding. Strong work, Mr. Appiah.

  71. Thank you for this essay. Can't tell you how much I get annoyed with people asking me about my name, where I grew up, where my parents and grandparents grew up, etc. Like, I'm just a person, an individual.
    When I was studying about over 25 years ago in a Tudor and Stuart history class no less, I was expected to take questions about life in America. I was kid who lived a sheltered suburban life, who lived in the same house growing up, without much travel experience be expected to speak for the country. Was one of my cringe worthy experiences in life.

  72. As an xyz I seek to preface my remarks with a statement of my own self-image. It may be imprecise, it may be the same condition as many others with whom I disagree, it might even confuse since you may associate it differently than I, however, it is how I think of myself and I feel that my remarks, my position, my philosophy either is founded in that identity or else confounds the stereotype I think you might hold about it, or me.

    As a lapsed Catholic, I confess two significant influences on my intellectual development and signal a framework from which my thinking originated. It might be different from others who see themselves in the same terms but I know my foundation is different from that of an observant Jew or an atheist. We three will all agree on many issues but you would be a poor observer if you could not tell us apart as we discussed them, because, yes, experience does inform opinion even if it is hard to convey that experience succinctly ... I just sometimes think it informative to let you know how I see myself.

  73. People do like to lead with what they've achieved or survived or suffer from.

    For some reason, those who've received much privilege through genetic lottery or ancestral luck, claim the spotlight most comfortably with the confidence that (through grace), they know better, maybe even best.

    Some are born with wounds, some have wounds thrust upon them, and thus find out by traversing the system they're in, gain most social traction by leading with their wound identities.

    Yes, we each must speak for ourselves, not prefaced with an, "as a", but the need/desire to be recognized for our struggles or hardships or differences in a world that is ignoring us otherwise, is survival strategy.

  74. To borrow from FDR: The only thing we have to stop identifying with is identity. The American Dream of doing better through work, competition, community involvement and standing up for yourself and your beliefs is the path to freedom and self betterment. Identity politics as it has flourished coming from Academia is mostly a Marxist class construct that is not useful for propelling our society forward. In fact, just the opposite. To the author of this open I say: Amen brother.

  75. @AW

    It's getting very tiring to correct people who worship at the altar of Jordan Peterson, but here we go: identity politics is pretty much the opposite of Marxist class analysis. I suggest reading Walter Benn Michaels' The Trouble with Diversity for starters. Also, it can be really enlightening to go to the sources rather than for the social media version of an intellectual.

  76. @AW You missed the point. Perhaps reread the essay?

  77. Speaking as someone who teaches a Listening Course, the art of communicating is speaking in a way that the person you are addressing is open to listening to you.
    We are only qualified to speak for ourselves.
    Fabulous essay! Thanks you.

  78. As a Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes supporter, I say thank you for this piece. One of the problems with the constant invocation of our ethnicity and gender is that as we’re focusing on it, the oligarchs are laughing, and happily fleecing us. I was surprised that the Times published this, because, despite all its great reporting on the dangers posed by our Apprentice Mussolini, its vision of America is that everyone gets a chance to run a hedge fund.

  79. In my experience, the more I burden my individual perspectives with generalities of so-called identity (e.g., "white, Irish, Christian, husband, father," blah, blah, blah) the cloudier my perspectives become. Yes, of course, as social beings, humans identify with our various groups of belonging. But we also are singular instances of matter and consciousness, standing alone in time and space with a specific "thisness" that has never existed before and will never again reappear. Some of us are trying to see and understand the vast sparkling diamond of reality clearly through a tiny facet of the whole we are given. For me, the generalities mostly fog up my lens. I hope to deepen a curiosity about others' idiosyncratic views to expand my understanding. It's dismaying when they succumb to their own generalities. We all lose.

  80. @James Sullivan

    True enough. On our gravestones there's very little about identity except:


    What matters is how we treat one another and our loved ones. The world would be a better place if Leviticus 19:18 were universally applied. (Leviticus? Or Numbers? Anyway.)

  81. Idenitity is created by multiple forces, some of which can be rejected or moderated by the individual, some of which cannot. It's a construct heavily influenced by societal expectations, reflected in the madness of the media. And the media is often a fun-house mirror of distortion.
    Trying to be true to one's idividuality--to think for oneself-- is a tough job these days. But more important than ever given the brainwashing effect of the constant media.

  82. As a 70 year old person, I have learned it is almost always an advantage to have multiple perspectives on board...and that most of us, individually, can see things through interchangeable lenses if we make the effort. False dichotomies, I have been taught, are dangerous things.

  83. Finally! Thank you for this rational approach.

    Sadly in 3 weeks every college freshman will begin their 101 Humanities course where they will, implicitly and explicitly be told that their race determines the value of their perspective.

    Let's hope someday we can return to objective reasoning.

  84. @Arturo That will not be happening in my 6 classes. And objective critical reasoning is probably the most important concept I teach.

  85. @Arturo That is simply not true.

  86. Brilliant! Now we are profiling Humanities 101 courses. Yep, all courses fit one profile, obviously, you would bet the farm on it. On the other hand, my university has no such course. More’s the pity.

  87. Yesterday I was asked, in all sincerity, yet by someone who I suspect had already decided upon an answer, "I'm not getting on your case, but is there anything practical about philosophy." The work of Kwame Anthony Appiah answers this question, and demonstrates why the US needs more good philosophers.

  88. @John Mullen - John, as one who whose eyes were opened to the life of if the mind in a philosophy class forty years ago, I recommend to anyone who asks such questions that they read the greatest 30 pages of philosophy I've ever read: Plato's Apology. There, Plato/Socrates gives us our freedom (if we will have it) in at least two ways: first, the freedom that comes from knowing (and admitting) that we are, and will go to our graves, deeply, widely, profoundly ignorant (such that we are truly free to learn without fear of looking ignorant), and second, the freedom that comes from knowing that "a philosophical life is a preparation for death." The relief and the freedom that comes from knowing and not forgetting these truths is one of the greatest practical advantages of philosophy.

  89. The overall point of this opinion piece is excellent and refreshing. Not stating any disagreement with it when I note that there are many possible hypothetical examples of someone presuming to represent an entire group in addition to "white guy" Joe.

  90. An essay marked by an intellectual rigor and mastery of language that many of the rest of us can only envy. I agree with other commenters that it conveys a much needed message in this day of social and political fragmentation.

    The phenomenon Professor Appiah analyzes arises, in part, from the effects of evolution. In his book, "Thinking Fast and Slow," Daniel Kahneman argues that our tendency to judge new acquaintances quickly (a partial cause of the single-identity caricature) stems from the need of our distant ancestors to quickly determine if a stranger posed a threat. Additionally, the energy required to discover the complex identities of people we encounter assures that most of us will make the effort in only a relatively small number of cases.

    A person's various identities, moreover, may not always matter that much if I don't know him personally. Who Donald Trump is seems less important than what he does. I know he pursues policies I consider detrimental to the welfare of this country and its people. Whether he acts out of sheer ignorance or from a malignant attitude toward women, African Americans and members of the lgbt community, strikes me as a secondary consideration. In either case, he remains unfit for the office he holds.

  91. Speaking only as myself--whatever I am--I do applaud Mr. Appiah's excellent analysis.

    I always thought that the entire concept of identity--even apart from political discussion--is problematic and reductive. I suspect all of us have many, many identities and these are constantly influencing our behavioral responses in varying degrees depending on the situation at any given phenomenological moment. (This is is keeping with the ideas I've studied in psychology that it is highly misleading to speak of people as having a series of stable personality traits that guide them generally over a wide range of situations; it's more accurate to say they have many characteristics that they bring to play to greater or lesser degree in any given situation. In other words, behavior is more situational than "trait guided".)

    It's hard to say "I am" with any sort of pithiness. We contain multitudes, and even identical twins start having different experiences the moment they're born.

    What it means, in the end, is that we have to relate to each other as complex individuals who see themselves in varied ways from moment to moment.

    And yes, this means we may have to fight against the cognitive tendency to categorize for the sake of simplicity, because dealing with complexity can feel overwhelming. But I think our mental capacities are expansive; our brains can take it. We don't have to reduce everyone to a series of signifying labels for the sake of convenience.

  92. Professor Appiah misses the point. Identity references by members of submerged groups are means of adding power and credibility to their statements by linking them to moral or structural critiques. Those persons are not going to forego those levers in the current milieu. Identity/privilege checking by whites is necessary to avoid their statements' being dismissed under the authority of those same critiques. And sometimes other whites are going to invoke identity in reaction to the assertions of power -- sometimes legitimately, otherwise not.

    He is effectively asking for unilateral disarmament in the culture wars. Not likely.

  93. I remember when I studied the postmodernist (Foucault, Derrida, et al.) I used to think about the problem that if identities were a social construct to maintain the system of dominance (some authors explicitly said "exploitation" in a much more open Marxist development of the idea ), what would replace these identities in order to destroy the dominance? It turns out that dominance works in both ways, and the legalistic view of society in the United States tends to overlook this empirical fact.
    If a persons identity is determined by society instead by himself, isn't this a form of oppression? Aren't we stripping from an individual his right to be, to pursuit his happiness, when we confine him in the jails of a forced identity?

  94. I can't believe that it takes an opinion piece in the Times to explain this philosophy to liberals. It's what conservatives have been trying to tell them for generations. As a good Republican once said in the 60s (and I paraphrase): “I see the day when a person will be judged, not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."

  95. Oh John how foolish! First you speak as a Republican, violating the article’s point. Then you suggest ml King voted for Barry Goldwater. Time to get off the pipe!

  96. As a bipedal carbon based life form, I would like to talk about entropy, and the role it plays in overturning classical physics.
    (too specific an identifier?)

  97. In social get together with friends, I have started urging that we stop using labels (left, right, red, blue, liberal, conservative, etc) in our discussions.

    When talking about public issues that we think can have an important impact on our lives, I believe using facts and logic and being willing to learn from others is necessary for a society and nation to operate successfully and for the benefit of its members.

    It is difficult, because people seem so wedded to their “team” memberships.

  98. I have recently reread MLK's I have a dream speech. The most telling quote I retained was
    “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 by the content of their character"

    We have probably gone too far in pursuing identity politics and need to refind our commonality as human beings and present ourselves stressing "the content of character" rather than our identity "as a." That being said we cannot forget to right the wrongs in our history for certain segments of our population - blacks, women, etc. Finding this balance between addressing the historical inequities of inequity, racism and sexism still active today yet act in accordance with the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals will help us overcome the growing tribalism and divisiveness that is tearing our nation apart and making worse those very wrongs we are hoping to resolve.

  99. OK. I like that, but why not expound on actually speaking (and THINKING!) for oneself. The converse of "as a" is not "I am". We need to value independent thought if we want to break free from a future that is dominated by what is essentially marketing, whether is be social or political.

  100. Inevitably, this line of thinking will not be used to support an empathetic, humanistic and pluralistic culture, but rather, will lead to a contrarian subjective relativism where no one can or has the right to understand one another. This was the great fear in the 90's of where post-modernism would take us.

  101. I believe the proper use of "as a" is to say "In my experience as a." This qualifies you as your own speaker and not the speaker for the group identified but we cannot simply ignore the concept of shared experiences. For example, as a human I know we all experience the human condition, which is to say imperfection, emotion, and awareness. I also know that we can all form our own opinion about the human condition. I think this distinction is more for the listener than the speaker though. We need to do a better job as a society in understanding that one's view, which may come from their experiences/identity, is very likely different from another with same experience or identity.

  102. When the question of race arises on a form I print: Human. I know that's the species but think it would be more productive if the identities could join forces in order to combat all injustices people suffer in the US.

    A coalition based on the Iroquois Confederacy in which each group would be represented and would determine policies to promote would be much more effective. Egos and judgements left at the door the goal being to unite in order for all to live a more productive, just and peaceful existence.

    Of course that is what elected officials are supposed to do but that is passe.

    There are 535 members of Congress, 1 President and 8 Supreme Court Justices. Mind boggling to think only 544 people have the power to determine the fate of 320,000,000 and have failed miserably when it comes to quality of life most people experience. I

    It seems the word now mainstream, tribal, is another way to divide and conquer.

  103. When I read an opinion piece, I assume the writer's views are at least partially shaped by their life experiences. If a writer wants to opine on discrimination against women and minorities, I want to know if that writer is either. I agree that one person cannot speak for a whole group but they also cannot speak for a group that they are not a part of.

  104. @Pat
    Why do you need the author to identify with a particular group? Why do you assume author's are speaking for groups? In a comment above, a male described himself as a progressive feminist. He's obviously not a female, so are you saying he can't advocate for feminists positions; and if he does so, does that mean he's "speaking for a group" of which he is not a part? If you were a feminist (and female because according to you, he needs to be a part of that group) would you accept his advocacy, or would you box him in?

    Speaking as me, I think identity politics is the most dangerous thing going on right now. It's dumbing down the conversation and dismissing what could be really good ideas. It's silly. Where do the identities stop? How specific does it need to be? Speaking of feminism, what boxes does someone need to check for you to take their opinions seriously? What about gay people? Black gay people? Mexican gay man with a disability? When does it end?

  105. I think this essay overstates its case. When I speak "as a," I am not claiming to represent anyone else, but rather briefly indicating a background and context for my statement.

    To use one of Mr. Appiah's examples, a gay man who states his opposition to same-sex marriage is making a very different statement than a straight man who says the same thing. Identity isn't the only part of that statement, nor is it conclusive by itself, but it is an important part of that statement, and it's worth the 4 words it adds.

    Mr. Appiah's essay itself means something different coming from a gay black man who is a professor of philosophy than it would if it came from, say, Sean Hannity. We should not assign more importance to identity than it deserves, but we should not assign less, either.

  106. @Robert Stadler
    We all understand why one would think that the identity of the speaker would matter. But the author's point is that gay people can differ on gay marriage, and I dare say that Mr Appiah and Mr Hannity might actually agree on this issue, so therefore one should only consider the strength of the argument itself.

  107. Excellent point. This has become habitual. I don't know exactly when it started, but this expression sure is here now. It reminds me of the preface, "It's like". You can remove this from the beginning of almost any sentence today, other than an actual comparison of two or more "things".

  108. Before we are "anything" of a social construct we are first human beings; we are a part of nature; most of us begin with a cry for survival.

  109. Great, thought-provoking article. Why do we have to hide behind our groups? Isn't our opinion as a thoughtful individual good enough?

  110. Amen to that. I am so far beyond caring about someone's sexual orientation, age, race, etc. Especially when all factions like to drag out someone whose identity challenges the assumptions.

    Sometimes I can hardly hear the person's perspectives on issues due to the blinding effect of the announcement of their identity.

    Thanks for this great opinion piece.

  111. This essay explores the radical notion that a Liberal democracy is founded on the individual. If you break yourself up into enough groups you will arrive at the individual- the most precise identity. Our founding fathers understood that, yet the lessons of the past are soon forgotten.

  112. @Zack N

    "Our founding fathers understood that, yet the lessons of the past are soon forgotten. "

    Our Founding Fathers understood that a republic can thrive only when its voters are educated. That is why the franchise extended originally only to landed whites.

    As the republic developed, and as cities and villages created public schools (and children got to them, willy-nilly, and learned), whites who did not own land, women, and blacks were able to get educations, and the franchise was extended -- belatedly, true, but extended it was.

    Now that too many Americans of all colors and classes scorn education, more Americans believe in ghosts than in the law of gravity, and entertainment trumps learning the natural sciences, perhaps we should reconsider the franchise and find a way for only rational, decently educated people to elect same.

  113. Speaking for myself, I think the author buried the lede. The last graf should be incorporated into the first few because I fear that some people won't finish this excellent essay and find the take away. It's simple and concise: embrace your "intersections", speak for yourself, stick up for your beliefs, and then walk the walk. If people don't listen to you and respect what you have to say, that's their problem.

  114. @JAS - a critical observation.

    Speaking as a white, middle-aged male, my only critique of the piece was that Mr. Appiah's entire treatise flows from his presumption: "Typically, it's an assertion of authority.."

    However, prefaces of the kind he wants to criticize can equally be used in precisely the opposite fashion - to actually LIMIT the perspective to precisely that of the writer or speaker. Yes, it can be, and is, used to signal authority. But as I demonstrated above, this phrasing can be used to provide boundaries to the perspective I am sharing - achieving the same thing as he suggests in his final paragraph.

    Perhaps the final formulation better communicates the intent of the writer or speaker, but it's not the only formulation that works. :)

  115. Yes.

    He's asking us not to be habitually stupid, or stupidly habitual.

    And then to be ourselves.

  116. @JAS Speaking for myself, I agree. I jumped to the end after a handful of grafs. Just guessing, you must have a journalism background. Me too.

  117. The hyper identification makes me often cringe and chuckle.

    I observe it like some sort of game we're all supposed to play. Every person a cloistered entity of one - unless they have a similar pal they can hang with.

    I'm a white male and somehow, without warning or intention, I've become an older white male.
    That identify got hung on me just for "staying alive."
    (maybe I shouldn't have listened to that BeeGees song so much)

    So, I sally down the street or float into a market or a movie or a restaurant (nobody has parties anymore, or at least I'm not getting invited) and my identify meets your identity.

    Older white man meets:
    Young person (how'd you all get so young!)
    Gay or Lesbian person
    Person of Color
    Transgender person
    Person without a home (I ask if I can speak)
    Other older person

    Person who looks jovial
    Person who looks lost
    Person who's not yet five (my favorite person)

    Persons all.
    And I love other persons.
    Because they are me and I am them and I'm bound to love them by all I've been taught and how I want to feel.

    And, here's my ticket to connecting with almost every person if they look up from there phone or their personal moment:

    A warm smile, a friendy wave (I love waving), a simple "Hey!" or a full stop to say hello and chat.

    My favorite way to identify and cross that easy bridge from me to you.
    Friendly smile… "Hey, how ya doin'"

    Works almost every time and I'm always willing to try.

    "Love one another."
    I can identify.

  118. @Paul King

    Loved this, Paul. You clearly know how to brighten a day wherever you go. Your poem would make great lyrics! Thanks!

  119. @Paul King...

    I suspect it has more to do with remume building and puffery than it does with anything meaningful.

    A smile and a cordial greeting go a long way to breaking down any of the imaginary barriers between us.

    After all, we have far more in common than we have in differences.

    And it's fun to engage with others and learn their stories...They are so rich with experience and meaning.

  120. @Paul King The mere idea of ever treating anyone differently based upon a group membership is awful and always wrong. How can I convince my liberal friends to do this. It’s called the Golden Rule.

  121. Yes. Also this emphasis on identity can drown out other issues. For instance, we see a lot of (deserved) attention given to sexual or racial harassment in the workplace, but not much attention to supervisors who are equal-opportunity jerks.

  122. "Go Ahead Speak for yourself?" is nonsense. Some opinions are valorized while others are marginalized. Some identities are valued and their expression is encouraged (e.g. feminism and the gay agenda). Other identities (e.g. disabled status or persons of color) are dismissed as not being intellectually fashionable by the academy. Whenever I had mentioned my experience as a disabled person, precisely zero non-disabled people have any interest in hearing this reality that affects some 17% of Americans. It doesn't matter that persons with disabilities are the poorest in the United States; unless this status can be weaponized against the preferred target, no one has an interest in it. Conversely, this country has had to endure endless rounds of narcissistic navel-gazing by "sexual minorities" and women since Trump got elected.

  123. @Uncommon Wisdom "precisely zero non-disabled people have any interest in hearing this reality that affects some 17% of Americans."

    On what do you base this assertion? "precisely zero." Really?
    And what is up with the scare quotes around sexual minorities?

  124. Hear hear. We are not at the point where identity doesn’t matter at all,but we should be at a point where it does not define or determine the totality of your being.

  125. Ah . . . no.

    While the general point of this essay has some merit, Professor Appiah neglects an important use of "as a . . ." I use it frequently, introducing my point of view with "as a white man," or "as an older white man."

    I don't do this because I think I'm the "head white man." I do it to distinguish myself from, not identify with, the "white man" group.

    I am a raging progressive, a feminist, an anti-racist and a supporter of all things "politically correct."

    I believe it is helpful to distinguish myself from the stereotype of the "older white man" group so that readers or listeners don't presume to lump me with another "identity" group.

    It serves precisely the opposite purpose of what Professor Appiah warns against.

  126. @Barking Doggerel
    It's the content of your argument that would persuade people, if that's your goal. Mentioning your idenity does nothing to help your argument if you're talking to someone who is open minded and willing to have their mind changed by facts to support your position.

  127. @Barking Doggerel
    If you're frequently introducing your point of view with "as a white man," or, "as an older white man," aren't you literally identifying yourself with the "white man" group?

    If you want to distinguish yourself from that group, wouldn't it be better to say, "as a raging progressive, a feminist, an anti-racist and a supporter of all things politically correct," etc.?

    Also, this very thing might bite you. You, a man, are identifying as a feminist. While I think that's reasonable, those who hold firmly to identity might not think you have the authority, as a man, to speak for feminists, which is kind of the point.

  128. @Barking Doggerel
    Same difference. By identifying yourself as a white man speaking for non-whites and women, you are shoring up your argument based on who you are. Your opinion should stand on its own merits.

  129. A Sikh man was attacked in California recently and many solely concerned with identity politics inferred in the confrontation may have been shocked to find out that he was a Republican.

    It was a disheartening episode but speaks to your point.

  130. This essay misses a key point. When a commenter responds to a highly polemical piece by prefacing his comments with, for example, "as a white man", it adds context to his comments. Suppose a black author advances the argument that whites are insensitive to the plight of blacks. We get two comments: 1. "As a black man, I couldn't agree more." 2. "As a white man, I couldn't agree more." The racial identification adds useful context to the comment. This is not always the case. For example, this comment would not be enhanced if I had stated my race.

  131. The array of identities from which to choose continues to multiply. The down side to this is that people will naturally gravitate to the most numerous, therefore most powerful, group. This leaves the minority groups even more disempowered. I don't see an end to this short of a conflict between nation-states as majorities other than white get fed up and start dishing out what they have received. Hello, China, India and Africa?

  132. This is great. It illuminates the complexity of identity and questions what has become all too common in cultural and political discussions. There's one piece here that's missing. Identity can certainly inform an individual's ideas but it cannot be used to validate them. We need to learn to evaluate what follows "As a ______" on it's own merits. The validity of the statement that follows can never be proved by the identity of the speaker alone.

  133. Here here. These constant appeals to racial and sexual identity are problematic on so many levels. First, we're all individuals, and reducing our complex views and experiences to a race mocks freedom of expression and logic itself. Second, where are all the white men supposed to go? Do you really want a society in which everyone identifies themselves primarily with their "tribe"--including white men? Let me assure you, that will not end well.

  134. ...."Speaking for myself" may do more justice when addressing your words to a given audience than "as a...(yellow, blue, red, green, even black and white)"; how about "as a human fellow being'? Or "as a press representative paid to support (or not) what I'm saying?" Just saying! And a reminder: if we could think, really introspect, before we utter too much nonsense, our credibility might soar as if a kindred spirit were our guide.

  135. Speaking as a New York Times reader, this a terrific essay. Pieces like this are why I subscribe.

  136. Everyone has a story. Give every stranger a chance, and find out. They're interesting.

  137. Identity politics in the U.S., that an individual really has no voice unless speaking as a member of this or that racial or ethnic or religious or what have you group?

    The U.S. is obviously seeing a collapse of the view that a person can stand on his or her own, have an identity not mostly locked into this or that group type identity. Collectivism of various types is on the rise. People are collapsing into groups and they are being led by people whose intellectual reasoning is largely of the psychological warfare/military type: Divide and conquer your enemy, do not let the actual individuals who make up your enemy cohere into a powerful group identity, view themselves as predominantly a racial or ethnic or religious or what have you identity, but shatter them into ineffective in thought and action individuals, have them choke on their individual selves.

    Along with attempting to divide and conquer your most profound enemy we have the mentality of uniting as best as possible with groups who might, or better, have an actual grievance with your enemy, thus identity politics in the U.S. is the nation in actual state of war, because all it takes for war to be declared is to manifest the type of thinking which leads eventually to outbreak of physical hostilities.

    I'm thinking now how difficult it was for thinkers such as Goethe, Cervantes, et. al. to appear--European phenomenons in Nietzsche's words beyond nationality and other group identity. Where are such people now?

  138. Very nicely written, and fair: a rarity nowadays.

  139. The idea of “identity” is inherently absurd. Every human being is so chaotically and undefinably complex, not to mention always in flux, that no mature human being should ever delude him or her “self” with the ridiculous fantasy that they or anyone else HAS an “identity.” There is of course the human identity we all share, the one great Dead White European Men writers were all fixated on, just like great writers everywhere. We are all identically mortal, however variously we die. And all absolutely equally helpless against time and chance. Facts that narcissistic, one-upping group “identity” assertions can be useful in helping our vanity momentarily forget.

  140. I wish democratic party politicians would read this, and drop their long-held obsession with identity groups, and maybe focus on issues of concern to all citizens who are middle class - what a large demographic! But that may be too much to hope for - after all, politicians are all part of the elite whether they're blue or red.

  141. @george eliot

    Come on George...leaving out the Repubs is like leaving the bread and jelly out of the PB&J. Its the GOP been playing the identity game for decades now...and Trump rode it into the WH. Its behind so much of his policies now, and what arouses his base...

    The GOP forced the Left towards identity politics, because the Right was vilifying and not representing so many marginalized communities.

  142. If politicians and media would stop playing identity politics, the people would stop role playing identity politics. The left is being played by political and economic machines that influence our thoughts.

  143. @Jacob

    The Left is being played? Are you excluding the Right? Cause if you are...you are playing right into and fulfilling the view of those not on the right of those on the Right. All in lock-step with der Fuhrer....

  144. Thank you for this rousing and needed article. I would take just one part of your argument farther and make one contrasting point.

    You write: "Because members of a given identity group have experiences that depend on a host of other social factors, they’re not the same." Yes, but even if two people had the same (or highly similar) social factors influencing their experiences, they might still differ widely in their outlooks, attitudes, and ideas. There is more to a thought or view than experience, and more to experience than social factors. All the more reason to "ease up on 'as a.'"

    As for the contrasting point, while it's rash for anyone to speak for a demographic group, we still try and hope to reach people beyond ourselves, to speak not only for ourselves, but also for others--or, if not to speak for them, to speak to and with them in a way that goes beyond the perfunctory. The catch is that we really don't know who our audience and conversants will be. They may not be the ones we expect. So, perhaps another phrase might be, "Speak without delimiting your audience; listen without delimiting the speaker."

  145. By stopping Joe "right there" you short-circuit the entire point of the "as a" clause. I would venture to say that very few people consider their identity a rigid, unchanging thing, even from one moment to the next. It's all about context: Joe might say: "As a white man, I don't think I can fully grasp the Black experience in America", or: "As an NPR lover, I worry about the reduction in funding for public broadcasting", or "As a PBR drinker, after six beers, it all tastes the same to me", etc., etc.

  146. @mijosc

    - after 6 PBRs? Plus, you saying that PBR even has a flavor...is very presumptive...

  147. Thanks for this. What a breath of fresh air.

    It's hard enough for people to determine how race/gender/class/sexual orientation/ethnicity/etc might factor into how they are treated by others, much less how they themselves behave, without also trying to pretend that any of those factors entitle them to speak for everyone who shares that part of their self description.

  148. At my kids' schools, there are now "multicultural days", where kids are supposed to dress up and represent their heritage. For some kids—who are actually first generation immigrants—I can see how this is important. I legitimately would like my kids to be exposed to other cultures, and learn about them. However, I forbid my kids from going to school dressed up as "Irish" or "German" children. They just go as Americans, because that's what they are. Our ancestors have been here since the 1840s. They know nothing about the German, Irish, Dutch, etc. cultures that their distant relatives left because of fear, poverty, and persecution, and are as far removed from these countries as possible without living on Mars. I feel the same way about the current obsession with genealogical research; it only ends badly for humanity.

    This country is being destroyed, on both sides, by this absurd fascination with "identity." People instead should focus on their common humanity, with a tolerance for any difference, but not a need to highlight these differences as defining characteristics. When this happens, we start talking about only certain people being able to talk "authentically," and enter this absurd debate about "cultural appropriation." We need to be exchanging ideas, not badges. We are better than this.

  149. @purpledog
    I disagree with your condemnation of cultural heritage being celebrated in schools...I have never thought of of America as a uniform culture....why would we add salt, thyme, a bit of lemon juice, capers, butter to a picante sauce if we didn't have a delightful sense of what each brings to the end result?

    Your second paragraph more accurately describes the issue...it is how we handle our "otherness". Some embrace the adventure when confronted with the "other", but some are frightened by it as a threat to THEIR identity.

    Finally I would say that acceptance, tolerance and appreciation go a long way to enjoying whatever differences among us exist, rather that allowing the uniqueness to become a basis for hate, division and subversion. The majority party and its leader are currently using all three to divide us. Let us remember that united (not necessarily all of the same cloth) we win and divided we fall.

  150. @purpledog

    What identity do you have? Human?

    What national orgin are you? What ethnicity are you? What color are you? What faith are you?

    The problem is not our diversity. The evil is the bigotry associated with our diversity. Instead of a virtue to be acknowledged and celebrated it has become a threat to a majority of the white Judeo-Christian European Americans.

    The origin and status of Africans in America is the ultimate exposure of America's callous corrupt cruel cynical hypocrisy about a land of the free and home of the brave where all are divinely naturally created equal with certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  151. @purpledog

    Amen. My ex-fiance's son chose to ditch school on "Diversity Day." He is brilliant, huge scholastic overachiever, tolerant and kind. I would love for him to be a son of my own.

    As a liberal all my adult life, I am fed up with all this celebration of diversity (unless you are a white male with Christopher Columbus lurking in your genes.) Enforced celebration of differences.

    Growing up in post-WWII Long Island, refugees as neighbors and friends, it was about E Pluribus Unum. Please, Make America Unified Again.

  152. Qualifiers are often used convey authority to someone who is, approximately, clueless. "As your manager..." or "As someone who spent years in medical school..." is a way to remind someone that they need to accept what they are about to be told.

    Using qualifiers to signal one's background in writing for a wide audience can appear to be condescending, often because it is.

  153. It depends upon how that lead in is being used. If I can't see you it helps to know what your frame of reference is. If I can see you but you are speaking from an experience that can explain your position, or you are, for example, transgender, that too helps me. In other words, if I don't know the first thing about you, the lead in is a big help. I'm writing this, by the way, as a human being.

  154. Professor Appiah is very sharp indeed. The "as a" introductory phrase serves to claim authority.

    But for many of us there seems not to be any other way of claiming authority to speak (outside one's own living room) except asserting that one speaks for a lot of other people, even when this is an exaggeration. The problem is: who will listen?

    Appiah, as a philosopher, is merely giving a nuanced account of the problem. He isn't saying he knows how to create equitable authority-to-speak.

  155. "As a" can appropriately be used to establish standing prior to making a proclamation. Compare "as a parent of a child in this school" to "as a parent" to "as a concerned citizen/ally". In the first case the speaker establishes standing. In the second case, the speaker assumes standing. In the third case the speaker asserts privilege. The use of "as a" should only be used when a person has actual standing.

  156. This so needed to be said, thank you, Dr. Appiah. I always roll my eyes when someone prefaces some point or other they want to make - particularly in some kind of debate about politics or history - by invoking some aspect of their identity; as if that lends their point some special authority or can insulate them from further challenges from those who might disagree. It stops honest dialogue dead in its tracks, because what can you say? If you tell them that experience and identity does not constitute authority, and remind they do not represent any larger group. then that will lead in a new direction of argument away from the original discussion. Of course, there are some situations where experience and/or identity can give special insight and is valuable to share. But not the way "as a" is often used nowadays. Including, most "problematically," in some streams of academic writing.

  157. Within my hearing range, at least, the phrase "as a white man" has most often been used *not* as an attempt to speak with authority for a large group of homogenous people, but rather with an acute awareness of both individual subjectivity and the splintered nature of that group. Above all, it's been meant to shed light on the limitations of that particular perspective.

    Let me give you an example: "As a white man, I haven't always been keyed in to the pervasiveness of institutional racism." The speaker wants to emphasize his lack of knowledge, *not* his authority. What I'm *not* hearing is a strident insistence that all white men are oblivious to the perfidy of racism. What I am hearing is an acknowledgment of his own lack of knowledge and a desire to understand other perspectives.

    That said, I found Mr. Appiah's piece to be highly entertaining. He's right to call our attention to anything and everything said on a macro scale and the sneaky implications of catch phrases that can dull our critical facilities.

    Listener beware, indeed.

  158. @rjk I hear it as "all white men are oblivious to the perfidy of racism." I hadn't noticed it prior to reading this article, but when faced with similar questions, I generally answer along the lines of "I can only speak for myself, but I haven't always been keyed in to the pervasiveness of institutional racism."

    I understand that it could be intended or read either way, but I'm focusing on the listener. I try not to make assumptions when listening; assuming the speaker's words, language, and structure are appropriately clear. To me, "as a white man," making no assumptions as to the speakers intent beyond his actual words, means he's speaking for white men. Had he said, "as a man" it wouldn't make sense either way.

    The easiest and most honest way to phrase it would be simply, "I haven't always been keyed in to the pervasiveness of institutional racism." There is no need to apply a group identity. It's refreshing.

  159. @Trebor

    Thanks for your reply. This is a good conversation to have. I can appreciate your point, but in tidying up the language of my example, I wondered if you haven't rather significantly altered its meaning.

    "I haven't always been keyed in to the pervasiveness of institutional racism." Yes, that limits the statement to the individual speaker, which is great, if that's what the person wants to say.

    But let's say that in his years of living here in America, the speaker has witnessed something of a pattern that he very much wants to call his listener's attention to: namely, that other members of this large amorphous group that he belongs to have sometimes had this same problem, to varying degrees - all the way from Ku Klux Klansmen to liberal professors at Ivy League schools.

    That seems to me to be a self-critical and reasonable assertion, or at least one worth pondering - not one that needs censoring. It's an idea perhaps lost in your translation.

  160. As a New York Times Reader, I feel I should point out that this lead-in can provide an explanation as to why one joins a discussion. That usage is useful. As a person who never speaks for any of my many demographics (straight, middle aged dad of British origins with a BA in English who works for a living) I decline to be spoken for by anyone I did not vote for.

  161. @Rupert
    And, sometimes, not even for those I did vote for.

  162. It is indeed absurd to consider that any one individual could speak for a group as a whole. This argument is well crafted in Appiah’s essay.

    And yet...it seems rather disingenuous that in the very last paragraph he admits that the “as a” statement does serve a purpose and therefore will not be disappearing any time soon.

    What purpose? Interestingly enough, he uses it part-way through—the “as a” experience marker. His experience as a gay man allows his voice to be lifted up among the sea of pontificators.

    Were I to speak about a military lifestyle matter, my experience “as a” veteran, a military spouse, and “military brat” surely enhances the listeners viewpoint.

    It seems to me that the problem isn’t using “as a”, but rather when it is used to shut down opposing viewpoints or denigrate those outside the identity group.

  163. "Identity" is a loaded word and concept. I could be put in several "boxes", but prefer to function as a human being, in the moment. If more went that way, it might be much more difficult to polarize in a world where the "poles" were fuzzy and flexible.

  164. Intersectionality is the least concise way to understand people and their represented differences. It was an intellectual laziness that needed to categorize individuals, so as to understand them as a group, therefore making it easier to make broad sweeping generalizations about said group. Individuals are infinitely more complex, beyond experience, there is also genetics, and how they commingle with each other, and play out in a myriad of ways. The best way to understand each other is not to label, define, and categorize. It is to listen and observe. Yes, it's slow, and does not offer the ego loving superiority of making a generalized understanding. It does however offer a deeper understanding, respect, and love of your fellow humans. You might also find yourself with a deeper sense of contentment, in actuality "knowing" someone. Don't short-change yourself, you'll be better for it.

  165. I feel, (as a white man), that being in the millennial cohort I often need to preface any kind of sociological opinion with that aforementioned phrase. It's not my attempt to speak for all white men. It's my compulsion to apologize for being a white man who has an opinion.

    Certainly I agree with the main message of this article, but I don't use the phrase as a qualifier. I use it as a precaution. Failure to acknowledge my whiteness is perceived by some as exactly that.

  166. @ML ... yes, life is hard.

  167. @ML

    I think that is part of the point of the article. You shouldn't have to preface everything you say with, "as a white man." The fact that you feel you need to is a result of identity politics being shoved down your throat. Ideas are what should matter, not identities. If someone has a terrible idea, call it out as such, the identity of the speaker of those ideas is irrelevant (in most cases).

    After reading through many of these comments I wish the author would have focused more on the listener. Personally, I've never used "as a" this or that to establish authority. I use it to provide context. But in providing that context, I might lose half of my audience. That's the point, "oh, he's white. He has no authority to speak on this subject despite that good idea he just shared." Or, "oh, he's a black man, he has no authority to speak on women's issues, despite the fact that I agree with every opinion he shared."

  168. People affiliate with groups. It’s a preference that humans exhibit which leads them to perceive people as belonging or not to their group. It is common for people to strongly identify with people in their group that they really don’t like and to reject outsiders who they would like if they knew them. This strange way of seeing others provided a lot of advantages in terms of perpetuating the species.

    In our modern and cosmopolitan way of life a funny thing happens, we affiliate with many groups, which means that our preferences can result in great confusing conflicts and contradictions. We can shift from identifying with one group or another as we shift our own perspectives. But not many of us can see ourselves in the wider context as we relate to many groups, we tend to see things from one point of view at a time. The rest is out of sight out of mind.

    Race does not exist as we have been taught to think of it and it matters far more than it should because we see it as our groups see it. Gender and sexual identity are not determined by genes alone and they extend over ranges for most people but most groups what them to be binary and so affiliating with a group determines ones views about it. Identity is a consequence of belonging and as we affiliate with different groups so does our identity differ.

  169. I'm certainly sensitive to Dr. Appiah's argument and find it useful, just as he indicates the non-monolithic nature of any one subject position represented in the "as a" construction, we need to also recognize that the "as a" itself is monolithic in its meaning or intent.

    As a middle-class white cisgender male, for example, I often use the "as a" not to establish authority, but precisely for the purposes of acknowledging and highlighting the limitations of and social forces at work on my perspective.

    "As a white male, I wouldn't pretend to be able to fully grasp..." or "As a straight white male, I have never been put in a position where I had to defend..." are two examples of moments the "as a" construction cedes authority or aims to (begin to) account for places of privilege in my experience, both with the intend of deeping an empathy of understanding.

    Surely, I would concede that this can also--like so many other rhetorical devices--can be twisted so as to feign that acknowledgment in an attempt to reclaim a podium from which to speak, but babies and bathwater come to mind here.

    As someone who seeks to speak in thoughtful and careful ways and to avoid commandeering someone's right to speak for themselves, where I really see the value in Dr. Appiah's injunction is not in stopping or limiting the use of "as a," but rather in bringing awareness to the nuance of what we convey when we use it.

  170. Certainly, the perspective of being marginalized is valuable, but developing a unified narrative of what we are working toward and wish to achieve as Americans and defining goals that draw us together, are more so. We are very divided on fundamental concepts that other modern countries settled long ago to their marked advantage.

  171. @Jane Gundlach Many modern countries, European countries in particular, solved their resource and population problems by colonizing North America.

  172. I often wonder why people feel such a need to label themselves; at times it seems aggressive. It's great to know yourself and accept who you are, but it's also important to remember that there are dire topics affecting our future as a species that we should be discussing together regardless of what herd we think we have to announce belonging to.

  173. This article strikes me as speaker absorbed. The reason to say “as a” is not necessarily about the speaker asserting their membership in a group identity, but it is often a useful tool to clearly draw the listeners attention to the way in which they will interpret the message through the lens of whatever baggage the listener assigns to that group. As a man, many would call this mansplaining. As a woman, my message cannot be dismissed so easily.

    Sure, trying to speak for the group, instead of as a member of a group, is problematic. But we never speak for ourselves as the listener is always hearing us from the context they presume attaches to our identity (whatever they have decided it to be).

  174. @New Jersey Knows
    "As a man, many would call this mansplaining. As a woman, my message cannot be dismissed so easily."

    No one's message should be dismissed or accepted based on who they are. Judge the message on its own merits.

  175. It's reasonable and fair to share who you are. Because intersecting identities do determine, in part, a person's perspective, life experience and privilege (or lack thereof).

    If there's an article on looking for work, the experience of being an overweight 50 year old white woman is different than a 30 year old white man who is fit. Even if they're both skilled IT workers looking for similar work. That's not fair, but it's true.

    We are judged too often on our race, gender presentation, age, appearance, height, weight, etc. It influences our perspective in life.

  176. These days, I often identify myself as a Medicare age liberal Democrat retired woman engineer who was denied employment because of her gender before the days of affirmative action. Perhaps I don’t mention every single one of those identity groups at the same time, in my case: white, female, professional, senior citizen, baby boomer, liberal, and Democrat. But, I have been given no choice but to be up front about who I am by a society in which identity politics has overwhelmed us. And, yes, conservatives, we’re both guilty of it.

    You know what? I never had to do that thirty or forty years ago. In fact, I made an effort to de-emphasize that I was woman doing a so-called man’s job. I just wanted us all to work together as engineers, without my being any different than the rest of the drones sitting at their desks pumping out calculations.

    Now, the number of societal ills I’m being blamed for because of my “identity” is just staggering. The baby boomers have destroyed society. White people are all oppressors. Women don’t have the aptitude to be scientists and are using affirmative action to take men’s jobs away. Want me to continue?

    I never imply that I am speaking for all women in any of those categories. I’m merely telling people where I’m coming from, what experiences I, personally, bring to the discussion. Me. Just me. I am not a “self-appointed representative” of anything.

    So, I’m now to be judged for explaining who I am. I'll add that to the list.

  177. @CF I commented after you and before reading yours which is much better. You could have left off that last paragraph, though. You made your case beautifully.

  178. @CF

    But pattern recognition helps to categorize and classify in order to organize our thoughts.

  179. @CF...

    You are speaking for far more women than you wish to admit.

    But in my part of the engineering forest, women were, not only equal participants in the work, they rose even to the levels of top management.

    The period of my higher level experience was in the 1970's and early 1980's, a time when you claim discrimination as affecting your career.

    I have no idea what branch of engineering you were in, but in the signal processing field, women were both equal partners and leading lights.

  180. Identify is sometimes credibility depending on the subject being addressed. My purpose in commenting here is mostly to point out that the term "intersectionality" is sometimes used to marginalize some marginalized people from other marginalized people, generally along racial lines, regardless of wealth or social class. Multivariate intersectionality exists in everything.

  181. I think Appiah misses a point. I've never taken a person beginning a conversation with their identity has a claim to represent a group. No group is a monolith. The reason to bring up identity is because it's tied to your experience in a society that was built upon racist institutions and beliefs. It is to show the disparities that exist in our society through an anecdote, just one example in a larger conversation.

    There will be shortcomings bc there are differences in any group. I'm apart of the Latinx community. There is a vast number of differences from culture, background, sex, etc. However, there are also similarities and shared experiences and struggles because we live in a society that doesn't respect differences and is based on white supremacy. Other cultures aren't embrace and immigrants are forced to shun there backgrounds if they are not white. Identity can be a powerful force to empower vulnerable groups with our collective power and the contribution of our individual stories in the larger narrative.

    I know many have complaints about what they call identity politics, but this country was built on identity. Slavery, segregation, white flight, disinvestment from communities of color, etc are all forms of identity politics. The anxiety over demographic changes in America is identity politics. However, most people refuse to see this because white identity has always been seen as the standard. A blank slate that is the absence of identity when in fact it is not.

  182. @Alfred - You miss the point, and I'd point you to ancient literature to clarify things for yourself.

    This country was founded within identities not on them. But still those identities are filigree on the human animal, whose nature is consistent across the board for all of it's groups. The need to label and blame is understandable but too lazy to meet the requirements of scholarship.

    African tribes practiced slavery, Europeans and Arabs and Jews just industrialized the business. American Natives were every bit as cruel toward each other as we were toward them. Comanche terrified Apaches. Oriental & Asian lineages set as high a bar for inhumanity against each other long before White men visited them.

    The universals that "built this country" are human universals not identity universals.

  183. Yesssss!

  184. @Alfred...

    The context of your remarks and the base from which you approach a political analyses are both important parts of understanding and parsing that which you have to say.

    I applaud your willingness to put yourself on the line to explain your thinking. It would be nice if more commenting here on the Times would adopt the approach that you take.

    And, while I may disagree with that which you offer in terms of politics and goals, I am the better for your remarks, and welcome the opportunity to respond as I wish, be it favorably or unfavorably.

    Civil debate is where consensus is born, not in establishing differences as inviolable borders -- red lines, if you will -- never to be crossed.

  185. I have an unfortunate tendency to preface my posts here with "as a brown woman". It's a way of presenting my credentials, like "trust me, I'm a doctor." I think I'll henceforth be a Southern Red-eyed Squeaker - which is a type of cicada.

  186. I think much of the time people say "as a __" it's not so much to assert authority but to give important context -- most often because the conversation is online, and there's no other way to tell if you're a dog... or whatever.

    Also, it's shorter than splitting things apart: "I'm a ___, and a ___. Here's what I think about that..."

  187. @kgeographer
    The point is that the context of identity is irrelevant, since various people with that same identity will have differing opinions. Therefore, the opinion itself should be considered on its merits, not based on who is offering it.

  188. Speaking for myself in red Orange County, CA, I've noticed
    that Republican politicians love pollution as evidenced by
    their tearing down of sensible, thoughtful, well researched
    environmental protection regulations.

  189. What a strange piece. You interrupt a person after four words having no idea what he was going to say. Maybe he was going to say: as a white man I cannot be 100% sure how it feels to be a black man. Maybe he was going to say: as a white man I prefer black & white photography. Maybe he was going to say: as a white man I am not allowed to sing aloud rap lyrics. Maybe, maybe. Maybe as people we need to hear what other people are saying?

  190. Thank you!!!! Speaking for myself, I love Prof. Appiah's piece. Both your writing and the points you make are the best possible argument for not cancelling my NYT subscription after Bret Stephens' most recent op ed and the NYT's decision to hire and defend Ms. Leong. It's honest, looks at a touchy subject in a way that's respectful, meaningful and urges all of us to find our own voice. Bravo!

  191. As the footnote states, Anthony Appiah is speaking as a professor of philosophy at New York University and the author of a forthcoming book on the subject. He could easily have begun this essay with an "as a" stating that himself. Like so many professors of philosophy, he seems to think this makes him a philosopher, and like so many philosophers, his circular logic leads nowhere. The "a" in "as a" denotes that the speaker is speaking for only one person, him or herself. Whatever follows "as a" simply gives some information about the speaker (I do admit that "white male" is probably redundant). Only a philosophy professor could take that to mean that the speaker had appointed him or herself spokesperson for the entire group. Yeah, I would have flunked Dr. Appiah's course. See: RevolutionOfReason.com

  192. @RLB
    No, the "as a..." does not simply give some information. No one ever offers a political opinion prefaced with, "as someone with a size 11 shoe". Mentioning their racial/gender, etc identity is intended to confer some special weight to that person's opinion.

  193. Hand in glove with the "as a" assertion are the deniers: "if you haven't walked in my shoes..." (been black, been raped, been a woman, been a man, been whatever) "then you just don't get it" -- most exclusionary words of this century, dismissing any attempt at empathy and understanding as impossibly inauthentic.

    Lately I've been loving (get ready, don't get huffy) ... So You Think You Can Dance, where contestants are pushed to cross over out of their comfort zones, out of their primary style of training, into multiple other styles that they are asked to learn and master and project as they grow, both as dancers and as individuals. Did the midwest blond ballerina give a credible hip-hop? Did the black B-boy street dancer give a credible latin salsa? Did the trans dancer who started the season in drag give a credible male partnering in a romantic pas de deux? (yes!!!). And did they really "get into it" or did they seem stilted, superficial, and inauthentic? "Work harder, you're almost there" is one of the most hopeful critiques I've ever heard as these young people are asked to show that they aren't merely the product of their limitations, weaknesses, and experiential deficits.

    So much we could learn from that!

  194. This op-ed recalls "In My Father's House," Appiah's first book. Like this op-ed, it remains a classic of inspired philosophical self-reflection.written before his fame as a scholar

  195. In “speaking as…” there is a difference between speaking “as for a group”, and speaking “as from the perspective of a member of a group.” The article mostly addresses speaking “for” and is insightful and helpful in this regard. I agree with the author’s contentions in regards to speaking “for.” However, I believe that self-identification can be useful when speaking “from” for conveying to the listener a little more about what the speaker believes shapes the stated opinions. In addition, sometimes we speak “from” a position that is accepted by society to carry authority. If I hear, “Speaking as a carpenter your shelves might collapse” – I know to pay special attention. Indeed, some socially regulated identifications carry specific legal and ethical obligations. A Canadian nurse was recently sanctioned for prefacing comments on social media, with “Speaking as a nurse…” The incident is discussed in a recent copy of the American Journal of Nursing (vol. 117,n.9).

  196. Great piece. The problem of the “White working class voter” (a third of whom voted for Hillary) being shortened to just “working class voter” ( TWO thirds whom voted for Hillary) is just one not-so-subtle way that lazy editing leads readers to make very different conclusions as two who the working class in this country really are. Hint: not just white people or Trump voters.

  197. I've never cared for the practice of commenters using identifiers to bolster their arguments, either as a preface or worse, as a suffix ("BTW, I'm black....etc, etc.")

    9 times out of ten, when such identifier is used, you can bet the commenter is about to say something that goes against the grain of what such a person who identifies with that group would usually be expected to say.

    First of all, we have no way of confirming you are either black, white, gay, or such and such. Here you are simply a name or screen name and maybe an icon, none of which sincerely identify who you are or what you're about. You could literally be anyone from anyplace. Or you may not even be human at all. As such, you should not be claiming to any sort of identity or authority for that matter (I'm a doctor, or I'm a veteran). If you truly are that person, then you should start off by providing the logical and sound arguments that a person with that experience would know. The power of arguments come from their persuasiveness and logic, not solely from the "authority" from which they issue (which is itself considered a form of fallacy.)

    Second, even if we could confirm that you belong to said group, like the author said, your views are still your own, and may not reflect what the group wants as a whole. You may well be the odd duck out. If so, then you owe an explanation to not only your intended audience but your self-identified group as well WHY you think your opinion is justified.

  198. AJ Garcia--Not sure it's proper to dismiss the unique difficulties faced by each of these "groups." It may be impossible to correct those ills, if we fail to identify each of them, regardless of our common humanity.

  199. Love it! Let’s all be storytellers rather than sociologists. The America I know and love lives in multiplicity and dies in a few tired categories.

  200. As an old white man, I grow very tired of seeing and hearing others stare at me in an accusing way and then speak of the Trump government as my fault -- "Old white man, you and your kind did this!" No, in fact, I did not. Trump and his ilk are very far from my beliefs and what I have voted to support. Much more of this, however, and I may be driven to change my registration and follow it with a generous campaign contribution. One can tolerate just so much false accusation! Declare youself my enemy, and I may soon become one.

  201. An excellent example of when "Speaking as" is used to indicate one's personal exemption from a stereotyped group rather than inclusion and implied representation. @Penseur

  202. @Penseur Patience.

  203. @Penseur I understand your frustration, but that is not a particularly rational response. Why would you align yourself with someone whom you regard as very far from your beliefs just to spite a few people who are accusing you of being a Trump supporter (or who you think are accusing you--how do you know the thoughts of someone just looking at you?)? I hope that you will instead just assert your beliefs and not be deterred by idiots.

    At least don't punish the rest of us due to the actions of others--which is exactly what you're complaining about happening to you!

  204. Representative action and the misrepresentation of self-effacing identity politics - you must point to the question of privilege. Some cannot begin a declaration of “for myself...” when, “who will listen” largely depends on equal access. Representative action is essential and an attack using “identity politics” as a sword should be used carefully. If you have the mic, make sure you know what pertains to you and what pertains to the group you want to represent. If you do not have any mic, let us hope there are groups that understand the issues that affect you of course, but also affect the demographic you belong to...

  205. I have a problem with the "me first" point of view. It's not just about me, or you. Nothing is just about me, or you. We have to be aware of what's going on with the rest of the population, and try to walk a mile in other peoples' shoes. Take off the blinders, and have a gander in your rear, and side, view mirrors. NOT doing that is why we are so extremely divided.

  206. Great piece ..concept needs to be repeated to oneself every time we get it into our heads that "we" are special.

  207. I prefer, "speaking as a human being..."