Almost any aspect of one’s life can be considered a marker of identity: Beyond race and gender, people cite factors like ability, age, sexual orientation, citizenship or immigration status, and religion as definitional elements of who they are. Americans today often speak of the communities that form around those identities with an astounding dearth of knowledge about the history that has shaped and informed those experiences. Sometimes, ignorance about these issues can lead to outright combativeness. As people grapple with how to live their identities in a public way, they may encounter the vitriol of those who don’t want to accept their place in society. Should the state protect the views of those who allegedly wish to invalidate the identities of others?

Reflection Questions

  1. Has identity politics, both on the left and the right, gone too far, impeding calm and civil discussion of important issues facing society?
  2. Is “cultural appropriation,” in domains like Halloween costumes or dining hall cuisine, an appropriate ground for protest?
  3. Do students have an obligation to listen respectfully to presentations that make them feel unsafe or that their very humanity is being challenged?


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