Leave the Dead to Their Graves: Identity Politics Curses the Living

Be wary of language. It helps identify and communicate features of our shared reality. But it also constructs and reifies unreal things and associations. 

Seeking status and power, people make claims based on manufactured realities. Under the guise of “justice” they assign guilt and responsibility for personal advantage and privilege. They claim special judgment and wisdom based on argot and identity. They disappear the individual into aggregates and assumed associations based on socially constructed identifiers. 

Magic works to the extent that one suspends his disbelief. Inter-generational guilt and demand-making on individuals based on race or other socially-constructed identities are forms of magical thinking. Such notions and practices are primitive and superstitious. They’re atavistic. They’re backwards. They’re rooted in retribution. As such they are not ways forward.

Justice demands addressing the wrongdoings of the living for the sake of the living. Leave the dead to their graves. The deeds of the departed, however explanatory, are not punishable. No child should be called upon to account for the deeds of her ancestors. Enough with these hateful biblical attitudes.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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