Identity Politics Is a Sign of Progress

To the Editor:

I do not agree with Mark Lilla’s assertion in “How Colleges Are Strangling Liberalism” (The Chronicle Review, August 20) that liberals have not made progress since the 1960s due to the presence of identity politics. It is easy to say they haven’t, especially after the most recent presidential election, but the existence of identity politics actually proves that our country has progressed. More than ever before, students are able to define themselves and create personal meaning through their unique identities. The ability to construct one’s own identity was not fully accepted in the 1960s. Identity is now a prevalent topic on college campuses for a reason, and there is no proof that identity politics swayed the election.

The events of November 8, 2016 triggered a profound sense of solidarity among students on many college campuses that did not exist in the days and months leading up to the election. In fact, the election was a wake-up call for many students throughout the country, and it prompted numerous questions, discussions, and calls for action among the university population. Faculty and student affairs practitioners are now faced with the challenge of maintaining this unity by encouraging students involved in identity politics to support their peers with identities dissimilar to theirs. As educators, we need to remind our students that everyone is human, and the measure of humanity is the ability to recognize the humanity of others. We can prove Lilla wrong by preserving our distinctive identities while working together to place our country on a better path.

Stephanie German
Graduate Student
University of Southern California

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