This is a localized version of “The Delusion of Diversity in Trump’s America,” originally published on November 20, 2016 in response to a Trump supporter in Rochester, New York.
Anna Valeria-Iseman is a self-proclaimed “compassion and opportunity-driven Republican.” This brand of conservatism has not been championed since the days of George W. Bush and is nowhere to be found within the universe of President-elect Trump. Yet for Ms. Valeria-Iseman, Trump’s victory still fuels excitement for an America prepared to move beyond identity politics toward a panacea based on a broader, national identity. As a liberal, Korean-American adoptee I struggle to find the same enthusiasm for this vision of America.
A departure from identity politics conveniently ignores any consequences of an international economy and a global society. Moreover, discarding identity politics denies the contemporary experience of so many Americans like me. I am a person of color, adopted by working-class whites, raised in rural America by conservative Christian parents, college educated from the ivory tower of liberal elitism, working today as a Millennial in the name of capitalism, and practicing my faith at a progressive, service-oriented church in the Catholic tradition.
Ms. Valeria-Iseman believes “…diversity, to a nation that desperately needs to heal, must be about giving a voice to various ideological backgrounds, not just various racial, social, and cultural backgrounds.” Diversity based on this ideological approach favors those already seated at the decision-making table. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs today are white men. In religion, the Vatican’s firm stance on male leadership limits equal representation. As for America’s border security, 82 percent of officers are male and more than 53 percent white. Hardly the so-called “silencing” Ms. Valeria-Iseman alleges.
Sadly, the abandonment of identity politics chooses a version of America so small and so afraid it will literally build walls. Identity politics isn’t easy. It’s messy and forces America to confront its hardest truths. Yet, when we embrace it, we discover an America big enough to build bridges toward a more inclusive and diverse tomorrow. As President Obama so often says, “That’s the America I know.” Sorry, Anna. You can keep your sanitized version of America and those silly hats, too.