Does Your Identity Help Make Your Point?

Readers wrote about harnessing the power of their identities when offering an opinion, but without relying on it to do the work for them.

Comments: 86

  1. The premise of this opinion piece is firmly rooted in the misunderstanding of human beings. The truth about identity is that it's purely imagination, and consequently, it's never secure. Whims and inherited thoughts are what make up most identities, as well as any decision made in our lives; that is if we believe we have the authority to decide. Vicissitudes like a car accident or a sickness could change any identity for the rest of a human life. There's a lottery of possibilities when it comes to this. So we need to stop chasing the ghosts of our dead ancestors and their dead ideas and decide for ourselves with our individuality and the dignity this country may allow us. Empty and meaningless pride is all we harbor when we chase our "identity" instead of using our emotional intelligence and our reason.

  2. If perspective and context continue to be drained from every mode and method of human communication, then what could possibly remain?

  3. Objective truth.

  4. @Stephen Delas Objective truth does not exist.

  5. The extent to which the individual identifies themselves with a group for the purposes of authorizing a themselves, they are taking a reactive, rather than a proactive stance on the issue. Simultaneously, they are relinquishing the authority of their own individual conscience and relying on the group to think for them. The paradox of the secret ballot in democracy is that the vote is based on one's own conversation with one's own conscience and the hope is that the best and most honest conversations will prevail. Nowadays, that's not how democracy is done. Now it's one herd against the other and social media has made the conscience redundant.

  6. To use identity rather than idea to navigate discussion is a moral and political dead end. For those of us that stand up at meetings and orate about how they felt or who they are rather than how they thought and what (if anything) they had done or stood for, please understand that you are sitting right next to Mr. Trump driving the wedge between American society.

  7. If there were no racism, sexism, or any other -ism the idea of identity would have limited traction except for a delightful discussion of cultural differences. As long as people like Pres. and First Lady Obama are exposed to angst and hostility because of their race, we are obliged to work with problems of identity. Identity is not only who we think we are; it is who others think we are. As long as problems of identity lead to harmful, or even fatal, consequences, identity politics are a necessary part of American discourse.

  8. The idea that identity means skin color, sexuality and gender is really what's wrong. If you say "as a small business owner, i think that taxes...", or, "as a lower-middle class college student, I believe that student loans should be..", etc. then it's fine. The problem arises when you use that identity in order to create a hierarchy of privilege, where the opinion of those at the top have less (or no) value compared to the opinion of those at the bottom.

  9. Since everything else is subjective, wealth and income are the only appropriate scorecard in capitalism. As such, it is entirely appropriate that those lower on the scale defer to those who are higher. Nothing functions without a hierarchy. Not families/the home, not the workplace, not the Church, not society.

  10. @From Where I Sit I'm saying that specifically skin color, gender and sexuality create a false hierarchy of values, and when you value opinions (and sometimes even facts!) using that false hierarchy, the result is garbage. In such hierarchy, I could dismiss your critical comment, saying that you are speaking from a position of privilege, and should think about that before contradicting me. I would not be addressing the content of your comment, and there is no way you can ever discuss with me.

  11. I am a gender biased carbon based life form. I see beauty and repugnance through my own eyes. I live in a local environment, communicate in parochial language consistent with my age cohort, education, and socio-economic current and past life. My class, caste and my aspirational assumptions are woven into the fabric called community that I participate in. In my world, 2+2=4, just like the protagonist in 1984 thought in the early part of Orwell's book.

  12. I have supervised over a thousand different employees as a first or second line supervisor in my career as a public administrator in operations. Everybody is something. Embrace it, don’t reject it.

  13. I did not response to Prof. Kwame Anthony Appiah because it is contextual. For example, when Mr Ronald S Lauder wrote his op-ed piece, "Israel, This Is Not Who We Are," he was introduced to his readers as the President of World Jewish Congress. So, there is very little dispute of his heart and allegiance. Then he put forth his view of secularism. Whether you agree with him or so, his credentials speak for him. Of course, most people are not well known. So it is likely a shortcut of providing the readers the writer's backgrounds. How the writer takes it from there is a totally different thing. For example, some people may want to stake their claims with their experience while others in spite of their experience. Their backgrounds may only be relevant when their arguments carry weight. Reasons and context. The heart and the head.

  14. I have little problem with people expressing themselves with qualifiers. I have a big problem with politicians running on such statements.

  15. There are SO many problems with the assertion of identities. Sam Harris has done a great video on this, and here's a longer one which contains part of his discussion of the matter: One of the biggest logical fallacies regarding the assertion of "identities" -- is the idea it means much at all to assert a group identity which is very superficial and within which there is such enormous diversity. For instance, race, gender, sexual orientation. It means literally nothing to say "as a black man" or "as a white person", or "as a lesbian", because these groups of people -- black, white, lesbian -- each have enormous diversity, and while there may be some common experiences across the whole group, people take unique and very individual approaches to their experiences. For instance, one black person may say "I had this experience, and this was an experience of racism. " Another black person might have the very same experience and say "I had this experience, and it was an experience of misunderstanding." Or "it was an experience of rudeness. But, I thought to myself -- I've been rude too, at times." This uniqueness of being human is what is most disturbingly left out of identity politics. The effort to create identities around groups or shallow categories is offensive, and as Bari Weiss recently said, it offends imagination. Jordan Peterson said it well -- intersectionality ultimately reduces to the individualism of the west.

  16. @Oakbranch Individualism in the west is a pantheon of subjective personifications and this is precisely what JP refuses to enter into. Instead of opening to the multiplicity, JP's POV reduces to a small version of the monad within his subjectivity. The counter perspectives can be found in Calvino, Jung, Hillman, Bakhtin, De Certeau, Angela Davis, Ricard Rorty, and William James (and many more.) Petersen is not far from Marianne Williamson IMO, he believes in a magical and potent objective Truth buried somewhere in an inner "authenticity." All of this is a projection of the Protestant Elect, white consciousness and eventually fascism. Can we not see this in the White House now?

  17. There is a wide variety of ad hominem fallacies. Whether they establish a cognitive bias or not, is the question. A well groomed police person charges a disheveled teenager with disorderly conduct. The defendant's parents tell the judge that their child is a wiz in math but has poor language skills, which are being exploited by the police officer who only wants the overtime. They also have an "expert witness" a Ph .D in Sociology who intends to submit studies, which show that 3% of all cops have Anti-Social Personality Disorder. I have no expertise at all, but I'm a nice guy!

  18. It does depend on the "point". If the "point" being made is to argue for Justice, then one may draw from John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice". Rawls brings an example where the participants in a society are given the most basic information regarding the society and are supposed to continue only based on their morals, “without any specific knowledge about their own selves or laws”. Rawls concludes that anything that the participants would have come up with or agreed on in such a society, based only on their morality, should be reasonable principles. He is careful to concede that this doesn’t mean that people are all the same. In fact, each person has vastly different goals and objectives in life. However, under this moral blanket principle, each person is awarded the same opportunities to develop their skills to follow their dreams or objectives. John Rawls' work has both been praised and criticized. Nonetheless, it has given me some (not all) guiding principles in thinking through when making a “point”.

  19. Folks, we are headed to extremely bad times. When opinions are judged by pedigree instead of logic, with what are we left? The man sitting next to me can use the N-word freely but if whitey uses it he’s a racist dog. There are intelligent people who are saying that black people cannot be racists because they are not part of the power structure. From what dictionary did that definition emerge? Basic human rights are described as “privilege”. Asian NY Times editorial board members are excused for their racism because - hey, they’re Asian. Let me give you a peek into the crystal ball. White liberals like me are going to get fed up with having to constantly explain and excuse themselves and history. You don’t like me even though I’ve spent my life fighting for the liberal agenda and equality? Then you know what? Maybe I don’t care so much about you anymore...Maybe I’ll leave you to fight your own battles with the real enemy.

  20. Actually, the identity of a person advocating a political argument is entirely irrelevant to the truth value of their position. A cocker spaniel could be voicing the argument and it would hold the same value.

  21. I disagree. The relevance of the opinion of a doctor, a patient, a public health expert, and someone with no skin in the game are all different. The public health expert ought to have a better wide-angle, statistical view, but the doctor and patient may each be privy to local knowledge or realms of personal experience that are overlooked in the statistics. These three also bring different biases, and in listening to each other, they may be able to reduce that bias. The fourth person, with no expertise or skin in the game *may* have something valuable to contribute, (perhaps they are an engineer or artist and see something in an out-of-the-box way that the others don't), but it would be foolish for them to offer mere opinion without first listening to the perspectives of the other three. Furthermore it would be impolite of them to take up large swaths of the conversation when the other three clearly have more direct expertise. If I want to learn to catch a mouse, the probability of getting useful knowledge is going to be higher if I listen to a cat or a mouse than a cocker spaniel. Although the spaniel may be a better bet than a pigeon. This is so even if they have all taken "catching mice 101" in college. If they all have PhDs in mouse catching, however, while I'd definitely still listen to the cat or mouse first, the dog's and pigeon's opinions are going to be far better than nothing.

  22. @Hope Yes, obviously a cardiologist's opinion about valve stenosis is generally going to be more "valuable" than a layman's opinion, but the truth value of the opinion or statement must stand on its own; the fact that the statement is made by a cardiologist does not change the truth value of the statement. And obviously, that is why "experts" at trials are always qualified based on their credentials. But as to general political opinions, the identity of the speaker is irrelevant. Two plus two is four in Manhattan just as two plus two is four in Arkansas, whether uttered by Bill DeBlasio or Mike Huckabee. I cannot fairly cite my own credentials as to education, IQ, experience, etc. and just assume that my view trumps (please forgive the term) yours. I am stuck with the truth value of my words- my identity is really irrelevant.

  23. Whatever happened to identifying oneself as simply a person. These identities we so often label ourselves as -- queer, republican, liberal, able-bodied, rich, poor, you name it -- create an immediate conflict for us with a great majority of the population. If you identify as an LGBT suddenly every republican has turned into an "enemy," identify as republican, and now you're a Trump supporter, the "enemy" of every liberal. We as a population need to return to simply identifying as people, Americans, who share in common the constitution, a commitment to freedom, and above all a commitment to civility, a civility that includes not writing yourself off to people because you need to assert your own identity. Your identity is who you are as an individual, what guides your day-to-day, keep it your own, don't make it guide someone else's day-to-day. We are people above all, and we deserve, we need to create everyone as such.

  24. So the Times has chosen to defend its embrace of identity politics as The Great Truth it elevates above all? What a surprise. Stalin saved Russia you know. He deserves a defense too.

  25. Does claiming an identity work if you do not identify yourself by name? An amazing number of posts are effectively anonymous.

  26. I really feel sorry for those who believe that their membership in "oppressed" identity groups explains entirely why they haven't achieved everything they want. Equally, I feel sorry for those who feel guilty because their membership in "privileged" identity groups explains entirely why they are doing well, even if some small or great part of what they have achieved is due to hard work and diligence that they can call their own. Look for the best qualities in everyone and try to improve those qualities in yourself that don't measure up to what you think you are capable of. We're driving ourselves nuts with this identity stuff.

  27. Ageism is the one ism that is accepted without question in America. Identify as "old" (hard to avoid past one's seventies) or the odious "senior citizen" and notice how there are either no responses - or insulting ones. "You really get it for an old person." "Wow, you know about music, t.v. series, movies, art, literature?" "You walk two miles a day - goooood job." Please try to avoid replying to this with condescension.

  28. I've known Latina Lesbians who come from the upper echelons of Rich, Opulent, Gated, South American Society - (Panama and Columbia) . Attended elite schools in NYC and Miami. Flew around the world on Daddy's dime. I've known very poor, white males, from the ghettos of Boston, who sold newspapers for a living to support children. Which one of these people has more privilege? That is why prefacing an argument like this article and states is meaningless. It is why shouting down a white male's perspective (as I witnessed during Occupy movement meetings)simply by their identity is dumb. You can't judge a book by it's cover. All opinions matter.

  29. @Ignatius J. Reilly It's a mixed bag. Straight people usually don't worry that expressing affection publicly could lead to violence.

  30. I'm an old white man from Boston who married my sweetheart now going on 54 years, served in the Navy, worked in construction for 35 years, have three sons, and we're all doing well. Except for one grave problem. TRUMP! Hope that helps with my identity.

  31. You want to talk ‘identity’ politics? How about this- Every few months a politician in a red state puts forth a new law that would strip me of my most basic, most fundamental right- the right to control my own body. These laws to women and women alone. So don’t you dare lecture me about identity politics. *As a woman *, I’ve dealt with them my whole life.

  32. Depends extirely on the context which it is used. If someone uses it in a way that is relevent to their experience that it's legit. For instance if someone is talking about illegal immigration and someone says "As a Hispanic who came here legally..." or someone is talking about affirmative action and they say "As a third generation Asian- American..." then it is. It is toxic and manipulative when it is used to gain leverage. I constantly see in the feminist community outrage and a barage of attacks towards any white woman who is perceived of slighting a women of color. "She disrespected women of color" "She weaponizes whiteness to hurt women of color!" The irony is it has reduced so many white feminists to the level of groveling and submissiveness towards people of color that they were once expected to show to their husbands. I do not listen to anyone who acts outraged "How dare you speak back to me I am (fill in the blank) and you are (fill in the blank)!" If that's not bigotry nothing is. Linda Sarsour once answered a legitimate question poised to her by reminding the questioner that she was a women of color and he was a white man. The audience burst out in applause. Ironically enough there is a video of Sarsour claiming that before donning the hijab she was just "an ordinary white girl". Insanity.

  33. No. Nobody knows who I am.

  34. I could never see myself prefacing anything with the words ''as a white man''. Why should anyone else have that priority or POV whereas I should not? Is this only exclusive to certain types of individuals?

  35. @thomas Individuals with a sense of self have no need to identify with a tribe or political party or ethnic designation or religion. Contemporary America is split into many warring pressure groups. Their uniform is their "identity."

  36. The "punching up" vs. "punching down" dichotomy is so dumb and overused. A black female lawyer is not lower on the social hierarchy than a white male garbageman. Such an idea is preposterous.

  37. @Reasonable Person It depends on the circumstances. Google the term "intersectionality." White people have an easier time getting home loans, or loans with more favorable rates, even when compared to people of color with similar financial characteristics. The garbageman might have "youthful indiscretions" that the lawyer never engaged in because the risks are higher. Recent studies have shown that educated black women have worse infant/mother mortality rates than white women who never graduated from high school.

  38. In communists countries identity politics was used to silence intellectuals. The reasoning went like this: working class were the oppressed in the previous system so they know better how we should build the future. If an intellectual had an opinion, it was always considered suspicious. The opinion of a proletarian who could barely read (and very easily manipulated by the communist party) was always given more credit than that of an intellectual. We all know what that lead to: the annihilation of freedom of speech and dictatorship.

  39. Identification as a member of a group based on gender, sexual proclivity, and race is extremely important; otherwise, all members of every possible identifiable group couldn’t claim to be victims of evil white men - and would be forced to accept personal responsibility for their stations in life.

  40. I’m white, so I’ve been told my opinion doesn’t matter. A recent editorial board hire agrees. So I will refrain from speaking, as a white man has no valid opinion on anything.

  41. @Fred everybody is missing the point. As a white man, you have not experienced the discrimination that a black man has etc. So it's reasonable to state your expertise on the subject at hand- and your opinion is as valid as anyone else's. I think identifying is to say in brief- my personal involves having seen and experienced the type of unpleasantries or privileges- because many people have no idea that such things occur. It's not a big black and white deal, no pun intended.

  42. @Fred It is not that your own personal opinion doesn't matter. It is that the "white male" opinion in this country is all most people have ever been allowed to hear. Most of us have heard it and are pretty familiar with it and what we would like to have the opportunity to hear is what some others who are not not white males have to say on the topic. Especially Fred if your perspective on the world has only been shaped by your whiteness and maleness.

  43. Recently, I was part of a great books discussion group and making a point when I was countered by a woman who said, “You are saying that because you are a white male,” suggesting my thinking was incorrect and biased because of my gender. Her assumption may have been I would feel guilty about being male and concede my wrongthink. She was using an ad hominem argument literally. Her method of argument might have worked to fluster me but it didn’t. I became a little angry but throttled it back by remembering what I had learned in high school and college about debate and suggested she address my illogic, faulty evidence, poor word choice and miscomprehension of the book. She didn’t take me up, but made me glad for my education.

  44. What about the "As a human being..." identity?

  45. It definitely helps to make your point if there is some component of your identity that gives you direct knowledge.

  46. People who feel hurt, feel oppressed, sometimes want to punish people who may represent to them their oppressors. Even though they are only symbols. Identity politics isn't that healthy, but hopefully it's a phase. Our country, like others, needs to change definitions. The one-drop rule artificially separates. Many Trump voters believe their destined to become minorities, as indeed they are according to Census definitions. But it's absurd, because it's based on one-drop. I lived and worked in West Africa for many years. When asking about US politicians like Colin Powell and Obama, I was always told these were white men. Where I was there was a one-drop assumption too, only reversed, one-drop of non-African made you white. When identity politics veers towards purity issues, it's on the wrong track. So lets use this as an opportunity to practice empathy, step in the other's shoes, and realize that we're all related.

  47. The idea of situating yourself "as an X" should be repugnant to everyone with an ounce of sense. The idea implies that all "Xs" share the same views, but no one can speak for all the views on the subject held by "Xs " because "Xs" are too diverse. Moreover, the idea allows turn-about, whereby one criticizes all "Xs" because of the views of a few Xs." In short, "as an X" is really a form of false representation or an appeal to stereotyping. Either way, the idea gains no gravitas by being articulated by an X. One can speak with the authority of experience, not with the authority of existence as such.

  48. I have a radical and dangerous idea: how about we humans think of ourselves as individuals with individual rights? Is it too scary to contemplate? "Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members."

  49. @Ed L. Maybe I will tell the cops that the next time I get pulled over for fitting the description when the only part of the description I fit is race.

  50. "For myself, I think it might be a good idea if one of us could take minutes at the meeting today on water contamination", leaving this listener perplexed as to to the necessity of using the term 'for myself'. Neither my colleague nor I are English graduates; she comes from a French-speaking country in Western Africa, and I went to school in France, but we enjoy working together on an English document, without coming to blows over a misplaced comma. Past the age of sixty, I grew red in the face when she mentioned that she was applying for an assignment in the South Sudan. After listening to my spluttering, she finally took a stronger stand and replied 'I am African'. That's not the point, I wanted to shout, but decided that a true friend will respect the loved one's wishes. By the bye, we would have a field day working together on the 'Copy Edit This' quiz, by Philip B. Corbett in the New York Times. We are word children after all, and would enjoy the above. George Orwell wrote 'The Clergyman's Daughter', where the main character wakes up without an identity. It is one of my favorite novel of his, and covers many different topics of what was happening in poverty-stricken England in the 30's. In the meantime when I make a valid point, it goes unheeded, the recipient usually returns it three months later, and takes all the credit for being so sharp. Silence.

  51. My comment is that the original article was a way of making us aware that this is just one of the many ways of communicating how you want to be perceived. A way of wielding your insecurities. So for the sharp listener, it is a sign of whether you want to be in that person's company moving forward. Some folks don't have to say a word or two in this case" as a" to present who and how they want to be perceived.. Clothing is a prime example of making some kind of statement. Just my opinion..

  52. To be of a high quality, a statement should be valid regardless of who says it. To rely on identity to give weight is to cheat and that is to build on sand. For instance, if a black woman wants to punch up at white patriarchy she would make a more powerful statement by crafting an anonymous criticism of white patriarchy that can stand on its own two legs. As a martian observer new to your planet...

  53. I prefaced me comment about prefacing me comment and the responses were illuminating. I find that no matter what point of view you have, that there are going to be people that will want to dominate it, regardless of how grounded it may be. We are living in an antagonistic society made furthermore by our tribes, our politics and ultimately our low self worth, that the only way some people think they can be heard, is to drown out another. Then there is the CAPS (screaming) thing ...

  54. As a true New Yorker, that’s my favorite ridiculousity.

  55. This must be the most peculiar defense of identity politics ever voiced: " Slavery, segregation, white flight and disinvestment from communities of color are all forms of identity politics." PRECISELY!!! And THAT, dear Alfred, is the problem with identity politics. It is evil and rotten to its very core!!!

  56. Personal experiences lend context and weight to opinions. Declarations of "identity" are signs of weakness. If you've had specific experiences that illustrate or reinforce your point, those experiences have a unique value and power; tell them in your own words. But just cloaking yourself in the mantle of a particular identity shows you don't trust your own argument.

  57. Usually if I say I am speaking "as a" (woman, white woman, older white woman, etc.) it's not to identify myself as an expert or assume primacy, but because I realize that my experience may be limited and thus limit my argument.

  58. I responded to the op-ed as well. However, rather than merely repeating it, I’d leverage recent lessons about clerical abuse findings in Pennsylvania to support the contention that identity certainly eases the sale of an argument. If you were to wish to understand the basic motivations behind abuse of innocents in the Church, whose response would have the greater weight? A nun’s or a priest’s?

  59. Awareness of one's identity is valuable only in the sense that, hopefully, it informs oneself of the limitations of one's own view even about what seems to be one's own turf.

  60. Some commenters are taking the original point way too far. Yes, good points should stand on their own, rhetorically speaking. But not all conversation should be drained of lived experience, personal stakes, first-hand knowledge, and context. Do we really want to be completely deaf and blind to what people have a say about policies and actions that directly affect them? We do have to be careful about representation, but I expect if we looked around at a policy discussion about X group's rights and no one from X group was there, we'd sense something was very wrong.

  61. If we are making statements about our subjective experience of life then context is everything. If we are making claims about "the truth" then objective, verifiable evidence is everything.

  62. I use this construct fairly often, but I'm almost always citing two aspects of my identity. For example: as a member of the LGBT community who was raised Muslim; as someone who's both Muslim and white; as someone who belongs to Daughters of the American Revolution and also was raised Muslim. (There's a theme there, can you spot it?) I never do this to win arguments, shield myself from criticism, or nab the moral high ground. I do it because people unwittingly talk about particular "identities," or demographics, as though each one exists in a vacuum. When I happen upon a discussion about whether Muslims hate gay people, I feel like it's important to quickly establish that my anecdotes cull from a lifetime of experience, and my knowledge of the religion is comprehensive. That doesn't mean everyone needs to shut up and give me the final word, but it's important context. And, yeah, I admit, playing the identity card is occasionally just plain fun. Like when I get to answer "What are Muslims even doing in this country, anyway? Why do they come here and refuse to assimilate?" with, "My ancestors sailed to the Jamestown Colony at the dawn of the 1600s. By the time their descendents helped create a new country, they'd gotten pretty attached, and I'm not about to break a 400 year old tradition. What are you doing here?"

  63. I am an immigrant and I modified my name (not legally) for business reasons because people just butchered it and I got tired of explaining or correcting them. Can you imagine doing that over the phone or in meetings? it is tedious. Americans, it seems, do not travel overseas much and various studies show a significant amount of us don't have passports! What I do find disturbing is a good number of people I encounter do not care about anyone outside their immediate environment. I never say where I am from or try to use it as a reason for anything I do or say. People can draw their own conclusion. I am not defensive, angry or appreciative when they do identify my national origin to explain something in their minds. Why bother? If you can't accept me for what I am that's OK, it really does not bother me. I do sometimes have fun with it with ignorant folk who try to guess where I am from. I say I am Indian and have come back to claim my lands and they are on it...this, almost always is a conversation stopper. Or I am from Paraguay, its in South America. Most people don't know Paraguay is a country. I know it is cruel but after 37 plus years I feel entitled...

  64. Much of my social media commenting comes from my perspective and expertise in sousaphone trolling, or bicycle safety education, just to name two factions of my subject matter expertise. I sure don't profess to represent all low brass players, or all bicyclists.

  65. It is a mistake to paint with broad brushes when what is called for is a single hair. I have no doubt there is a broad experience of being African American or female or young in this nation -- commonalities that matter. But anti-ERA crusader Phyllis Schafly was a female, more white women voted for Trump than for Clinton, and we have both an impoverished black America and a solid black middle class. As I noted in a letter in the print Sunday paper, privilege is a more complicated thing than many allow. So is its opposite -- being a victim or survivor.

  66. The people who believe one's identity is inconsequential are probably the same people who tell you they do not see color/race. I don't know about anyone else but that type of stated lack of self awareness is an early indicator that I am interacting with someone who is willfully ignorant.

  67. Echoes of Stephen Colbert’s ‘I’m colorblind. I don’t see color.’

  68. This article reminds me of Steven Colbert’s ‘I’m colorblind,’ schtick where- channeling Bill O’Reilly- he pretends that he doesn’t know his guest speakers are black. ‘Oh, you’re black?!? I had no idea. I’m colorblind.’ People look at my gender and immediately make snap judgements (usually not positive) about my preferences, experiences and , most maddenly, my abilities every day. One need only glance at the reams of scientific studies showing unconscious biases of hiring managers towards white males (against women/POC), to know this is true. Yet, when *I* bring up my gender (in discussions about gender, no less), I’m playing identity politics.

  69. What? When prefacing a statement "As a...." the person may well be qualifying their observation: "As a plumber for 46 years I can assure you.." Or... "As a white woman who has lived in Uganda for half her life...." This prefix is used to denote experience as well as qualification for what one is saying. Identity politics are as divisive as they are inclusive. A paradox to be careful of.

  70. I always laugh when people say “as a ___ I...” and then express a vile or ridiculous opinion. I can usually follow it with “so am I and I disagree because ___.” They are always discombobulated to find that other people might speak with the same “authority“ and disagree with an opinion they expected to be unchallenged.

  71. "Identity politics" is coming from any position that is not white male cis....that's just being normal!!!!

  72. The USA requires that each of us shall declare every 10 years that we belong to a "race", the names for which were created by racists to be used in creating the American racial order. New York Times columnists and most comment writers faithfully employ this nomenclature. Until the government ends this practice the USA may be seen as a nation of falsely identified citizens.

  73. Mine was the first of the original reader comments cited in this follow-up piece. I object to the way it was selectively edited to undermine my main point. So let me make it clear: I define my identity by my beliefs and values, not by the accident of who my ancestors were or what race or ethnicity I share with them. The entire way "identity" has been used in the current debate reduces people to the color of their skin or shape of their eyes, or their accent. That plays into the hands of the oppressors, who sort people based precisely on those characteristics, not based on what is in our minds and hearts. Martin Luther King's ideal was to be judged on the content of our character. When we sort ourselves into ethnic tribes, we play into the hands of the majority culture, who have been doing that to us already. Doing so is self-defeating and stupid. Thank you for allowing me to clarify.

  74. @charles Well put.

  75. @charles "America has given the Negro a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.' " "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." -MLK, Jr.

  76. @charles - I would appreciate it if you could put the llink to your original comment here or send to my Gmail (see blog URL at end). I have written many times here in comment land statements like yours and have been criticizing the Times for its failure to examine the USCB system for assigning us to "races". My most recent comment is right below yours. I add URL to that comment here: I also note here that a comment by Blackmamba at Martin in one of the columns must have been directed at someone other than Martin. Comments are closed there so I cannot point that out. If either Martin or Blackmamba sees this I would appreciate clarification. Blackmamba and I have stated in simple English 100s of times here in comment land, "There is only one race, the human." Times Editors and columnists refusesto touch this subject, for them it appears that Americans must be seen as belonging to "races". When I first meet a new person, what I want to learn over time is: What is on your mind and what is in your mind? Citizen US SE

  77. I think in some cases this simply makes explicit lived experience (and therefore knowledge) about a subject that is relevant to the subject being discussed. It is not an absolute claim of authority, but it is a claim for authority relative to those with no experience whatsoever, or to those with only theoretical knowledge. I suspect that the usefulness of the "as a..." construct is when a person has expertise in a subject, but that expertise is being overlooked. Is saying "as a South Asian..." in a conversation about race categorically different to saying "I was a bike mechanic in college" in a conversation about the utility of fixed-gear bicycles? In both cases we should concede that the speaker has some familiarity with the subject that others don't have, but that this familiarity is of a different sort of expertise from someone with deep statistical knowledge of race relations or bicycle use. I see a second realm to the usage as well. In what might otherwise be a rational argument about statistical reality, "as a..." serves as a protective mechanism to denote that the consequences for the speaker are not merely theoretical. Consider two policy geeks arguing at a bar about the relative risk of car accidents at schools vs mass shootings. A third person in the group chimes in with "as the parent of a schoolgoing child..." This is valuable social information that the statistical conversation might best be deffered, or that the parent's perspective be given priority.

  78. If you’re a woman, you’re caught between “For a black woman—um, I mean, African American—um, I mean, woman of color—you’re very/you’re not very . . .” and “When did you decide you were black, Pinky?” If you’re a man, you’re caught between “But you think that about *all* white people, don’t you?” and “So, handkerchief head from the suburbs has found his roots? Do you know your history?!” It’s all crazy. Let people be who they are.

  79. In these comments individuals attempt to express their identity in singular terms. Each aggrandizing an own 'intersection' of DNA and life experience. Each a noble savage who remains "corrupted" by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity's innate dignity (goodness). It is precisely because humans are more'savage' than 'noble' that we instituted the collective society. Hanna Arendt understood that well when she credited the collective politicizing of man as THE greatest social achievement for mankind. There is value in diversity. To somehow discredit invidious comparisons and ignore collective achievement, collective values, collective preferences, in forming communities would have each the self-loving model for a 'selfie'.

  80. I felt so relieved upon reading this article: I wasn't the only one who found the habit infuriating. Still, I am afraid the reason I find it so annoying is because I am French, and resent having to define my children as biracial, myself as white, my husband as Asian. It feels like we should not have anything in common when, of course, we share so much. And it's so absurd to think that someone from Iran would tick the same box as someone from Japan: shared identities that share nothing. Maybe then the problem lies not as much in the categorizing as in our using the wrong categories, inherited from our racist, mysoginist, homophobic past.

  81. One's race and sex do not give a writer expertise. Their profession and expertise do, when that experience is relevant.

  82. Like so many NYT questions (remember "Room for Debate"?) this one is idiotic. A statement that begins like: "As an X, I believe that ..." can involve any of a myriad of differing reasons for invoking some professional identity. It is absurd to think that they can all be dealt with by a single blanket rule.

  83. Footnote to my comment that perhaps deserves to appear as a comment. When will the USCB create a database where each of us is registered by haplotype and subgroup and perhaps by photometrically measured skin color, inner aspect of left arm? Might be needed if we continue to practice various forms of affirmative action. That observation about skin color comes from 19 years of experience at the Swedish Red Cross where I have met and come to know a vast number of sub-Saharan Africans, the largest group being Somalis. More than once I have asked a female Somali high school student whom I was talking with about one or another African man who has just entered the Träna svenska room (men I know well). "Is he Somali?" The student laughs, shows me her wrist and says, "No, he is African, here is how you identify a Somali (skin color of wrist)". That has even happened in Winooski VT when I asked the same question to my Somali Bantu friend Abdi, when a man walked by his store. The only time a Somali discovers she belongs to a "race" is if she moves to the USA. Citizen US SE (I show this because every once in a while a reply writer tells me that I am not qualified to write about the US because I am a xx Swede.)

  84. I'm a philosopher. "Really?" Yes. I don't interact AS a philosopher. I interact relative to our conversation. YOU may see my VIEW AS this-or-that, as I do you. THAT is our ultimate condition: AS. Not "as a..," just AS. Consider giving up the word 'is' (but presume it's function): The day as long. The time as ours. Life as good. Art as for its own sake. Gary as philosophical ( That as my ultimate condition.

  85. Shame on the times for only publishing comments that reinforce the original point made by Appiah, with an additional dose of resentment. How about recognizing that such statements are often intended to draw attention to the very thing that whites claim to care about - diverse perspectives.

  86. Like many others, I dislike the pressure to identify myself but also understand and accept the (albeit) limited value of "context" which an identify sometimes provides. Depends on the forum as to whether or not identity contributes to the intended exchange...