Identity politics: communal values or diverse stereotypes?


Alanda Nguyen

Drawing by Alanda Nguyen

Dylan Eguiluz, Staff Writer

Identity is a key component that plays a role in each student’s individual experience and, in some cases, their education. With the emergence of identity politics — views based on the interests of social groups (race, sexual orientation, religion, et cetera) with which people identify — many students are seeking to represent their communal values and beliefs.
In the last couple of years, American society has seen a rise in multiple social movements seeking to represent an array of identities in America. African American, LGBT, Hispanic and religious identity are some examples of social groups which students consider themselves a part of.
“Being an immigrant puts a big toll on us because we [Latinos and Hispanics] immigrated here to find a better life,” senior Emilio Gonzales said. “We’re often looked down upon.”
Identity politics, however, is not always a popular strategy. One of its major criticisms is that its tactics serve to sow division and intolerance.
“In some instances [identity politics is] good, some bad, it depends where you’re coming from,” senior Elizabeth Gonzales said. “It can raise awareness of issues the Latino community goes through on a daily basis.”
In a survey by Ipsos MORI, market research company, 67 percent of Americans believe their country is more divided now than it was 10 years ago. Today’s divisiveness is often associated with the fragmentation of the American identity into smaller collectives based on race and ethnicity. Some students believe that sharing experiences of marginalized groups by promoting cultural and ethnic studies courses will help decrease the country’s division.
“I feel like [ethnic and cultural studies are] important because there is a lot of African culture that doesn’t get studied in history class or school at all,” senior A’Jah Arnold said. “There [are] a lot of other people that are important for African people that [schools] just don’t talk about— not just African American but Caucasian, Hispanic, et cetera.”
During adolescence, students begin to align themselves with various social groups and begin to define themselves by their interests and heritage. These alignments form into their identities and often stay with the student throughout their life.
The connection between a student’s identity and their culture is crucial in instilling pride and forming a community of students sharing similar experiences. Clubs at Bear Creek such as BC Latinos, BSU and JCKC are some of the many outlets available for students seeking representation.
“When you’re in high school, you become who you are,” senior Juanita Watkins said. “You can choose to dislike [your identity] or you can choose to embrace it, and that decision can define your personality.”
However, identity politics puts into question whether the school system should make efforts to factor various social groups into education in some fashion — whether it’s through affirmative action, diversity policies or ethnic studies courses. Not all students are on board with identity being a factor to consider in education.
“People’s identity should not be a factor that the education system considers,” senior Aryah Coilton said. “When it comes to schooling, a student’s educational merit should be the only thing that matters, not various other identity labels that have little to do with education.”