You might not have thought much about your identity or identities before. You might have just thought about yourself as a person. However, when you arrive at college, you are likely to be taught that what you thought you knew about yourself was wrong.
It’s a mistake to just think about yourself as a human being. You are an “intersection” of various identities. You have a racial identity, a gender identity, a sexual orientation identity, and a religious identity, and it’s up to you to keep these all straight at all times. It’s up to you to keep track of everyone else’s identities as well, rather than simply dealing with people as though they were human beings.
Or so you may be told. Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) want you to change your experience of yourself, so that rather than just being you, you get to interpret your experience in light of these various identities.
Now, the SJWs are going to want to sell you on identity awareness, and they are going to say that it will allow you to communicate better with people who have different identities. However, they will most likely not be able to show you any studies, conducted by unbiased researchers, which show that identity awareness enhances communication.
In addition, they will likely NOT tell you the potential downsides of identity awareness.
For example, let’s say you are talking to a man. If you are being conscious of these identities, then you will have a preconceived idea of that other person, based on his gender. In effect, you will have put him into a box, or category. You will think you know something about him, but it will actually be a stereotype of him, as a man. You will be making assumptions about his experience and values, which may or may not be true.
However, it gets more complicated, because he also has a race. Let’s say he’s black. So you also have to keep track of the black “box” that you are putting him in, and all the assumptions that you’ve been taught you’re supposed to make about black people.
And that’s not all. Is he identifying as his biological gender? If so, he’s “cis”, otherwise he’s “trans”. That’s another box. Is he a member of a religion, or does he have a non-religious perspective? That’s another box. And I’m sure there are more and more boxes that a good SJW can come up with. It’s up to you to keep track of all these boxes and make sure you are treating him as the sum of his identities, rather than just a person.
But wait, there’s more. On top of that, you have all these identities as well. So it’s also necessary to be conscious of all these boxes that you are in, as you attempt to relate to someone who is in all his boxes.
And this is intended to facilitate communication. Can you see the problems with this?
- You are making identity-based assumptions about the other person, which may be wrong. Remember the saying about making an “ass” out of u and me?
- You have a lot to keep track of, which may make it more difficult to feel natural and at-ease.
- These identities tend to fix your own behavior into limited, pre-defined roles, rather than allowing the maximum flexibility.
And now I’ll tell you a story. I have spent some time in Japan, and much of this time, I was the only American white person in the room. After I had been in Japan for about 3 days, I noticed a shift in my perceptions. All of a sudden, I realized that no one looked Japanese to me anymore. This may sound strange, but it’s true.
If I looked closely at people, of course I could still see Japanese features. But just at a casual glance, they did not look Japanese. They just looked like people. The awareness of race had dropped away.
And I found that I was noticing more of the interesting, important distinctions between people. This one here smiles a lot, and nods, and looks very engaged. That one there is more still, looks more serious, but when he looks at me, there’s a deep sense of presence. And that one over there sometimes has a bit of a smirk and looks like he’s thinking about something funny.
By being less conscious of race, I naturally became more conscious of other features and behaviors, which actually were more significant than their race. So my experience was that having less consciousness of race caused better communication. And I felt more natural, as well.
I could still have some awareness and respect for Japanese culture, but in a more flexible, in-the-moment way, responding to people as people, rather than with rigidity.
As for your experience with identities, the important thing here is to think for yourself. If you were getting along just fine up until now, just being you, there is no reason to throw that out just because the SJWs have their theory of how they look at people.
The SJWs may say, “Well, the reality is that you really do have x skin color, so if you don’t identify as x skin color then you are denying reality.” However, this is false. We can acknowledge our attributes without identifying with them.
Instead of saying “I identify as x”, we can say “I have x attribute”. For example, instead of “I identify as white”, we can say “I have white skin.” Instead of “I identify as male”, we can say “I have a male body”. Instead of “I identify as atheist”, we can say “I don’t believe in god.” Instead of “I identify as Christian”, we can say “I believe in Christianity”, etc.
Our sense of identity is subjective, and no one can tell us how we should or shouldn’t identify ourselves. It is perfectly fine to say “I identify as a human being, and I have various attributes,” if this is what is comfortable to you. It’s OK not to be distracted by our attributes while communicating with others.
Avoiding the SJ identity trap becomes even more important when the SJWs bring in the concept of “privilege”. Click the link below on the right that says “Power and Privilege” to make sure you are not ensnared in this one!