People are still talking about historian Mark Lilla’s NYT op ed 2 weeks after it was publishedHistorians in the News
tags: election 2016, Democratic Party, Identity Politics
The defeat of Hillary Clinton has revived with new intensity the conflict between proponents of identity politics — focusing electoral attention on African-Americans, Hispanics, women and the L.G.B.T. community — and those who advocate what they describe as a more universal strategy.
This intraparty debate has become bitter, escalating to new levels after Mark Lilla, an intellectual historian at Columbia, published “The End of Identity Liberalism” on these pages two weeks ago. In recent years, Lilla wrote,
American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.
Lilla called for a “post-identity liberalism” that would
concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them.
The reaction was swift and fierce.
On Nov. 21, Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia, published “Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again” in the Los Angeles Review of Books. She does not hold back, going so far as to link Lilla to the fervent white supremacist David Duke:
In the new political climate we now inhabit, Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown. Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the U.S. Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.
Damon Young, the editor in chief of Very Smart Brothas and a columnist for GQ.com and Ebony Magazine, describes Lilla’s essay as “avant garde White obliviousness. He is the Pablo Picasso of performative sobriety. The Frank Lloyd Wright of Whitesplaining.” ...