Don Lemon–Vivek Ramaswamy Interview Shows the Perils of Identity Politics – The American
The obsession over group identity has been a conspicuous centerpiece in the Left’s political messaging and policy of recent years. Last Wednesday, in his final splash as a CNN anchor, Don Lemon had a heated exchange with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and his rhetoric underscored the proliferation of identity politics throughout American discourse.
If so many on the left continue to believe that group identity is the foremost concern in civil debate and in questions of policy, it will become next to impossible to engage in discussions about the path of our nation, and poor policy is likely to result.
In the midst of a passionate debate about the history of Black Americans’ civil rights and freedoms, Lemon asserted that “Black Americans still aren’t allowed to enjoy the freedoms … in this country.” Ramaswamy voiced his ardent disagreement with that statement, and Lemon responded, “When you are in black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me.”
It was disheartening to see a then-important member of the mainstream media attack the legitimacy of a different opinion solely based on race. The point of a spirited debate is to get at the truth. Group identity cannot determine what you are allowed to opine on or what stances are valid, as truth exists independent of any group identity.
If a Black American tried to claim that slavery did not exist or that Jim Crow was a just system, they would be objectively wrong. We would not accept their views as any more valid than someone of a different race putting forth the same falsehoods.
It is also important to emphasize that no race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other group is a monolith. Everyone is an individual, and beliefs and lifestyles vary within these group identities. There are liberals and conservatives of all different identities, and there are certainly Black Americans who would be happy to debate Don Lemon on the state of civil liberties in this country. We can only wonder if he would be more welcoming of their disagreement, but he should welcome disagreement regardless of the race of those he is debating.
An openness to having tough conversations about the past, present, and future of this country is necessary to set the country on a good path. But hyperfocus on group identity, coupled with contempt for disagreement, leads to divisive rhetoric and poor policy.
An overzealous embrace of identity politics inspired President Joe Biden’s deceptive characterization of Georgia’s voting laws, Vice President Kamala Harris’ call for discriminatory disaster and climate change relief, the adoption of racist basic income programs in California, and much more.
Don Lemon’s attempts to shut down Ramaswamy’s disagreement is a microcosm of what we are seeing in political discourse more generally. Americans have to be able to debate various topics and policies regardless of their group identity. If we — citizens, members of the media, professors, politicians, etc. — keep drifting away from this ideal, civil discourse will continue to be degraded, and we can expect additional poor policies as a result.
Benjamin Ayanian is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he studied philosophy, business law, and political science. He has also been published in the Star Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminAyanian.