No, it is not racist for white women to fancy Rishi Sunak

Identitarians are becoming more divisive and bizarre by the day.

Inaya Folarin Iman

Topics Politics UK

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years challenging woke identitarian narratives that treat identity – race, gender and sexuality in particular – as the primary organising principle of society. But recently, I have started to think – am I wasting my time? It has often felt like identitarians on both the right and the left are impervious to reason.

Now, I still have faith in reason and evidence to challenge the falsehoods and paranoia of these movements. But, after reading an article in the Independent today, which suggested that white female writers who fawn over chancellor Rishi Sunak are likely engaged in a racist act of fetishisation – or, as the author termed it, ‘sexual racism’ – it became clear that reason alone cannot reclaim the intellectual and cultural territory that has been lost to identitarian and postmodernist activists.

Yes, there is indeed a real history of racially fetishised sexual attraction. You can see it in the hypersexual stereotypes of black people or the desexualised stereotypes of Asian people. But, with regards to Rishi, the most plausible explanation for the recent slew of pieces, in which authors have expressed surprise at finding Sunak so attractive, is the general lack of attractive politicians in general. Rishi is young, successful, suave, well-spoken and conventionally attractive – not the usual traits one associates with politicians.

This use of racism as the go-to framework of analysis reveals more about the author of the Independent piece than society more broadly. If anything, it is identitarians who are far more uncomfortable with someone like Sunak, given he is Asian and Conservative – something they see as almost an act of betrayal.

Such attempts to find malevolent intent where there is none, and problematise normal social relations between different groups, is straight out of an age-old playbook: divide and conquer. This is why the more vociferous left identitarians end up having overlapping political goals with their right-identitarian counterparts. They share a determination to encourage others to view society through the prism of race and gender, and a belief that solidarity and dialogue across racial lines is an unattainable goal. They both deny the subjectivity and agency of members of certain groups.

You see this when identitarians on both sides of the political spectrum struggle to explain phenomena that challenge their framework. For left-wingers, the prospect of right-wing, successful or patriotic ethnic minorities, or trans people who acknowledge the existence of biological sex, simply doesn’t compute. And when faced with such supposed outliers, left identitarians succumb to using prejudicial tropes, such as ‘coon’, ‘bootlicker’ or ‘Uncle Tom’.

Now, you would presume that such identitarian narratives could easily be challenged using logic, reason and evidence. But many identitarians have a remarkable ability to hold two opposing opinions at once, while many do not believe there is such a thing as truth in the first place. For example, left identitarians say both that gender is a social construct and that trans people are born into the wrong body. They also insist that white people educate themselves about racism and listen to minority voices, while also insisting that it is not for ethnic minorities to explain racism.

We’ve spent most of the past decade debating issues of identity, and it has not made us any more cohesive and understanding as a society. It has only increased division. But then, that was always the goal of these movements – deconstruction and fragmentation. Even amid a global crisis, identitarians are insistent on analysing the world as if it were specifically structured to victimise them.

Enough is enough. We must challenge this divisive movement that is throwing out the gains of previous anti-racist and feminist struggles. Universalism, the sovereignty of the individual, free speech and thought, the pursuit of truth, solidarity, peaceful co-existence and individual liberty – that is the route to liberation.

Inaya Folarin Iman is a writer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Rosie Maxima

11th April 2020 at 7:58 pm

Good article. As a mixed race person I have been on the receiving end of the type of patronising preaching that the writer identifies of the left-idenitarians who “share a determination to encourage others to view society through the prism of race and gender, and a belief that solidarity and dialogue across racial lines is an unattainable goal. ” These types assume they can speak on your behalf and dictate the views you should or should not be holding based on your gender or race. I am perhaps young enough and vacuous enough to sometime go on a US gossip website called Celeb Bitchy, because it is actually pretty funny with a sardonic and acerbic angle on mocking celebs. But, it adores and praises Meghan Markle and all the readers clearly think she can do no wrong. It was crazy, because I made a comment once wherein I both criticised and complimented her. The response I got was vitriolic, they focused only on the criticism; I was “dog-whistling” and that my (in my mind mild) criticism of her showed underlying racism. When I revealed that I was actually mixed race, people either disbelieved me or I was told that I needed to be “better” to myself and that I needed to read up on “unconscious bias”. One person even said I was seeing things through a “white lens”. I was genuinely insulted and attempted to argue that these hypocrites were in fact showing their own bias in dismissing my own voice as a mixed race person and by insisting on making everything about race. Granted the US has a very different history of race and its Liberals are very well-versed in the way of racist behaviour, bias etc etc (these were the ‘progressives’ I was up against) but I was astounded by their blindness and their lack of objectivity. People like that fail to see the social and cultural nuances of different ethnicities/individuals and how the experience of one black or Asian person may not be the same as the other. But yes, agree with this writer in that white liberals seem to hate it when a non-white person demonstrates conservative viewpoints. Look at the engineered backlash Dave Chappelle got against his recent Netflix special. The reality is that many non-white people are socially conservative and are less inclined to jump on the identity politics bandwagon in particular. Actually, in the US, many African Americans feel angry that they still have to almost tolerate ongoing discrimination and lack of recognition in the wake of the trendy LGBTQ movement. Because with this movement you are dealing with a very vitriolic, shouty and brash group of people who are extremely good at asserting themselves and seem to love attention by the very nature of their obsession with their bodies and identities.

Mike Oliver

13th April 2020 at 4:13 pm

Considering you are “young and vacuous” you write very intelligently!
I’m always pleased to see someone who could easily accept the unearned payoffs of identity politics reject them in favour of a more balanced (and honest) view.
The people who promote victimhood are intellectually dishonest and on some level will have to live with the cognitive dissonance of claiming victimhood while actually being privileged.

Rosie Maxima

13th April 2020 at 5:57 pm

“intellectually dishonest” is very apt. I’m youngish (!) but have had enough life experiences of my own and like to think I do have an innate sense of who I am in terms of race, class, background, to be able to see through the often self-serving agenda of the “wokes”, (or “fake wokes”, a useful phrase I learnt for summing up the hypocrisy of priveleged name-callers who in fact demonstrate masked hatred and selective discrimination).

Gee Jaybee

11th April 2020 at 4:40 pm

The dilemma of the white woman summed up.
Racist if you fancy him and racist of you don’t.

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