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February 28 2018

Did Identity Politics Originate in Government Rules--And Can the Trump Administration Do Something about This?

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Identity politics—the artificial segmentation of Americans into antagonistic groups organized along often imagined ethnic, racial and sexual categories—is tearing America apart. President Trump can do something about it.

--Edwin Meese and Mike Conzalez in today's Wall Street Journal

 

According to former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and Heritage Fellow Mike Conzalez, the reason that President Trump could do something to overcome identity politics is that "government played a key role in creating these identities." Thus government might be able to undo some of the damage.

It started innocently enough in 1966, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began collecting employment data on African Americans and a few other groups to ferret out racial discrimination. Tragically, this laudable goal ended up promoting victimhood, say Meese and Gonzalez.

“Being listed on the EEO-1 was a crucial prerequisite for benefiting from a difference-conscious justice,” [University of California, San Diego political scientist John Skrentny] concludes [in his book The Minority Rights Revolution]. “Without much thought given to what they were doing, [policy makers] created and legitimized for civil society a new discourse of race, group difference and rights. This discourse mirrored racist talk.”

In 1977, the Office of Management and Budget took a step forward on the road to identity politics by standardizing what it meant to be  “white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian and Alaska native” nationwide. The Census Bureau, dubbed "the ethno-racial pentagon,"  then divided the country by race, with great detail. Think of all those boxes with different ethnic options.

The 2020 Census is projected to go further along the lines of identity with a new “write-in area” for the country from which the families of respondents, black and white, as well as Hispanics, come; nevertheless this increased specificity "will still divide [respondents] under the pan-ethnic umbrellas."

Meese and Gonzalez propose ending government sanctioned fixation on race and ethnicity:  

The Commerce Department must submit 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of next month. Mr. Trump should issue an executive order directing the OMB to rescind the 1977 directive (and a 1997 revision) and the Census Bureau to abandon pan-ethnic categories in favor of a question about national origin—either fill-in-the-blank or a box for every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The order should further instruct all federal agencies to root out the collection of this faux data—which occurs internally throughout the executive branch and is forced on states and government contractors through federal policies and regulations. Mr. Trump could instruct agencies to report back on their progress after, say, six months.

“It is necessary and desirable to recognize and encourage the ongoing assimilation of the many strands that make up the American people into a common culture,” Mr. Glazer wrote. “One encourages what one recognizes and dissuades what one does not.” Mr. Trump has an opportunity to encourage unity and dissuade the division of Americans by race and ethnicity.

We can all be proud of our origins, but identity politics promotes assimilation, sows discord, and most of these minute and divisive distinctions are statistically meaningless anyway.

Why not identify as Americans?

 

 

 

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IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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