2015-06-17

Identity Politics


  • "Identifying as a woman" is sufficient to make a biological male female.
  • "Identifying as black" is sufficient to make a white woman African-American.

These are two propositions of contemporary American culture, not of Mr. Stationary Waves. To those propositions, I will add Merriam-Webster's definition of "identity," as follows:
who someone is : the name of a person
the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others
Here is a thorough philosophical treatment of identity via Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The Rachel Dolezal case must surely have been a practical joke played against the media by a Mad Philosopher. Identity is a problem that challenges even the brightest of philosophers. Or rather, what challenges philosophers is the task of setting out a non-circular definition of identity. If, for example, the identity of Rachel Dolezal consists of all the things that make her something other than everything else in the universe, then we have defined Rachel Dolezal's identity, but only in reference to itself. It's like saying, "A = not not-A." It's true, but unhelpful.

And since this limitation is inherent to abstract reasoning (because it all hinges on the concept that some things are not some other things), then Rachel Dolezal must surely have been sent here to test our tolerance for abstract concepts that challenge the patently obvious.

What I mean is this: You definitely know that you are you. But what if I told you that I am actually you? Of course you would object, and of course you would be right, but on what grounds? If you can't define identity, and I make the politically correct claim that "I identify as you," then you have no defense left. You are forced to accept that I am you, because I identify as you. And who are you to tell me what I identify as? Shame on you.

Rachel Dolezal is not black. Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman. We know this. There is no question about these things. They are facts. If I told you that both of these people are playing make-believe, I would be right, even if that "triggers" you.

That doesn't mean these people don't deserve to be treated fairly - and possibly compassionately, especially if Dolezal is found to be ill - but it does mean that facts are not "identity-dependent." Your internal sense of self does not get to magically erase everyone else's physical reality.

And you can't disagree with me, because I identify as you, and in my capacity of being you, I have already voiced my agreement. Disagreeing with yourself will only make you look stupid.