Race and gender issues are the two most significant areas where Leftist ideology and social policy channel disillusionment with specific leftist policies into self-conscious resistance to the Left. Perhaps this is not surprising; there are extensive parallels between the two areas. In both cases,
- … people can categorize one another at a glance on the basis of a brief inspection of superficial traits, and can make inferences about non-observed individual traits on the basis of group averages.
- … there are real differences between average group traits caused by genetics (in races, recent shared ancestry; in men and women, chromosomal differences).
- … social outcomes for the group are affected by underlying biology, and so variance in different groups’ social problems may have biological explanations.
- In particular: in both cases, outliers may find it inconvenient to be confused with modal group-members (see #1), and may try to find ways (political or otherwise) to encourage/force strangers not to treat them like a modal member.
- … the pure form of Leftist ideology denies biological differences between groups, while the more moderate forms deny that biological differences should ever matter.
- … the Left comes up with creative fictions to explain social problems caused by group traits; inevitably these fables slide from absolving the group of responsibility for its own problems, to blaming other groups.
- … when reforms based on these fables fail to solve the problems, new fables with an even broader scope are concocted to explain how the scapegoat-groups sabotaged the original solution.
- … the categories coordinate one’s participation in a major social sphere: people self-segregate to form ethnically homogenous (and thus culturally harmonious) communities, and they pair off to form families wherein a husband and wife can each play a specialized role suited to their talents and tastes.
- … bizarre and constantly changing theories about how to solve “social problems” stemming from group differences (see #7) start to interfere with human flourishing within the relevant social sphere (community-formation is impeded in one case, and family-formation in the other).
- … the Left attempts to gain one group as a special constituency and increasingly adopts a platform of identity politics, pushing openly negative-sum policies that help the in-group only at the expense of the out-group (and in many cases do not help the group as a whole at all, but only its leaders and/or its most politically radical elements).
- In particular: the distribution of jobs, offices, honors and academic admissions is no longer viewed either as a private matter or as a matter of individual merit, but as political spoils for groups to fight over.
- In both cases, political debate and virtue-signaling increasingly come to revolve around insults (like “racist” and “sexist”) whose purpose is to create scapegoats for a group’s problems (see #7), and in particular to demean those who confuse outlier members and modal members (#4), who admit that group differences have biological roots (#2); ultimately, these labels come to refer to anyone who notices group traits at all (#1).
“Progress” in these two areas is a major contributor to the overall feedback loop which fuels leftward acceleration. These are probably also, out of all the Left’s issues, the ones which have ultimately caused the most suffering: partly because family formation and community formation are so central to human life, partly because so many different policies are gathered together under these two rubrics.
Indeed, progressives actively work to recategorize their pet issues under “race issues” or “gender issues” precisely because racism and sexism are so central to the Left’s rhetorical strategy. But people hate being slandered, so the very effectiveness of this rhetorical strategy forces the Left’s politically-incorrect targets notice its use and detest its users!
What’s more, race and gender are two topics where both personal experience and basic high-school biology demonstrate the absurdity of the ideology of political correctness. Everyone knows that the Left is lying.
[This material is drawn from my earlier essay Recipe for Reaction, where it appeared within a broader explanation of the new energy on the Right in the last three years. However, it was somewhat counterproductive to bury a concise analysis of the structure of identity politics in a long essay on a different topic.]