Against Essentialism

Demographic categories — including race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, and region — profoundly shape Americans' daily experiences. But they don't define us. Still, many politicians and pundits speak and act as if categories predetermine the perspectives and behaviors of their members. Recently, Republicans have directed their appeals to evangelicals and counted on the support of the American South, Democrats have assumed African Americans will vote for them and wondered why they've lost support among the working class, and both parties have assumed anti-Zionism would be seen as antisemitic. Whether seeking to support and ally with others, or purporting to speak for one's own group, generalizing about such "communities" overlooks the diversity of the human experience, and can suppress the very voices one is trying to acknowledge.
Ronald Squire, Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge.

Against Race Essentialism

Black identity is a reality, not an idea.
"Race doesn’t produce racism, racism produces race. In witch hunts, the need to find scapegoats to explain society’s problems and to bind the in-group together necessitated the existence of witches; the same is true of race. The existence of race as a fixed and essential category arises out of a community’s desire to legitimise a pre-existing social hierarchy."
Joe Biden holding hands with Black members of Congress.

Black Class Matters

Class conflict undermines assumptions about political solidarity.
"The splintering social realities among Black people undermine any assumptions that political solidarity is innate. Nor does a politician’s racial identity give them an ability to solve long-standing economic crises in a skewed social order. Instead, solidarity is formed through mutual struggle; shared realities like racism and police brutality; and the common experiences of economic precarity, vulnerability to climate change, and bottomless student debt."
Whites at a Trump campaign rally.

Does the White Working Class Really Vote Against Its Own Interests?

Trump has revived an age-old debate about why some people choose race over class—and how far they will go to protect the system.
W.E.B. Du Bois "posited that working-class Southern whites were complicit, or at least passive instruments, in their own political and economic disenfranchisement. They forfeited real power and material well-being, he argued, in return for the “psychological” wages associated with being white."

The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country

"Hillbilly Elegy" has been used to explain the 2016 election, but its logic is rooted in a dangerous myth about race in Appalachia.
"According to Hillbilly Elegy, nonwhite people, anyone with progressive politics, those who care about the environment, LGBTQ individuals, young folks, and a host of others do not exist in Appalachia."
Stack of Latino history books with checkmark on top

There’s No Such Thing As ‘The Latino Vote’

Why can’t America see that?
"When we vote, we aren’t just casting ballots about health care or education policy. We are expressing political identities that have evolved over centuries—for and against expanding empires and nation-states; for and against more radical forms of egalitarianism—in ways that don’t always fit neatly into the rhetoric of the left-right divide."
Palestinian Arab women and children in Israel, 1949

American Jews Have Fought for Palestinian Rights Since Israel Was Born

My research shows that this tradition runs deep.
"Ever since an estimated 750,000 Palestinians lost their homes amidst Israel’s birth in 1948, there have been American Jews deeply unsettled by Israeli policies toward both the Palestinian refugees and Arabs living under Israeli rule. These critics of old consisted not only of a few stray rabbis like Morris Lazaron, but in fact extended well into the American Jewish establishment."
Middle finger that says "Millenial" and Fist that says "Gen Z"

It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Generations”

From boomers to zoomers, the concept gets social history all wrong.
"Today, the time span of a generational cohort is usually taken to be around fifteen years," and "people born within that period are supposed to carry a basket of characteristics that differentiate them from people born earlier or later. This supposition requires leaps of faith. For one thing, there is no empirical basis for claiming that differences within a generation are smaller than differences between generations."
Illustration parody of Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Gay Things Are

Gay marriage was a victory, we’re told—but a victory for what?
"Radical queers [...] pointed out that these issues were not about 'equality' but instead helped strengthen the endless privatization of everyday life and necessary resources that we call neoliberalism." But "because the gays and lesbians arguing for marriage were gays and lesbians, straight supporters were reluctant to either see the inherent conservatism of their goals or, if they saw them, to call them out for fear of seeming homophobic."
Trump speaking at Liberty University.

Is the Term 'Evangelical' Redeemable?

One historian, who also happens to be an evangelical Christian, says no.
"When you dig deeper with a certain fraction of the people who say they have 'no religion' in polls, you find that those people attend church regularly. (They are the 'nones' who say, 'I am not religious, I have a relationship with Jesus.') Likewise, time-strapped pollsters just let people tell them that they are evangelicals, without probing what that means. In the primaries, some evidence suggested that 'evangelicals' who did not attend church were more likely to support Trump!"
Man cheering at a political rally while wearing a Trump sticker on his cheesehead hat.

'Tribalism’ Doesn’t Explain Our Political Conflicts

We should look to history – not prehistory – to understand current political challenges.
"We are many things at once; nobody wants to be reduced to a census category, and everyone has multiple allegiances. Particular aspects of identities can be activated politically depending on our own circumstances and priorities and how our leaders talk to us."