Steven Poole: “The angry white men who congregated in Charlottesville were widely described as ‘Nazis,’ a usage for which there are arguments both for and against. On the one hand, these people love swastikas, chant things like ‘blood and soil,’ and hate Jews and black people, which definitely seems pretty Nazi. On the other hand, to call them ‘Nazis’ is a convenient ‘othering’ that refuses to acknowledge their identity as Americans, standing in the US’s own proud tradition of violent racism. […] The unfortunate truth is that nazism does not exhaust the scope of possible human evil.”

Nicole Krauss: “In a sense, the self is more or less an invention from beginning to end. What is more unreal, what is more a creation than the self? Why do we have such a heavy investment in knowing what is true and what isn’t true about people’s lives?”

Over the past decade a new, and very revealing, locution has drifted from our universities into the media mainstream: Speaking as an X … This is not an anodyne phrase. It tells the listener that I am speaking from a privileged position on this matter. It sets up a wall against questions, which by definition come from a non-X perspective. And it turns the encounter into a power relation: The winner of the argument will be whoever has invoked the morally superior identity and expressed the most outrage at being questioned.

So classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense if you believe that identity determines everything. It means that there is no impartial space for dialogue. White men have one “epistemology,” black women have another. So what remains to be said?

– Mark Lilla, “How Colleges are Strangling Liberalism”


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