“White, heterosexual Christian” isn’t an identity?

At the Oz, Paul Kelly has a piece headlined’ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/paul-kelly/donald-trumps-election-a-rejection-of-identity-politics/news-story/147b11c08b64702d3f9be1821416cb72. This is bizarre, given that Trump’s appeal was obviously directed at white, heterosexual Christians upset that the US is no longer being run entirely by and for people like them.

In a sense, it now is. Trump’s Cabinet, like the Republican party as a whole, is overwhelmingly reflective of the identity politics of a former majority unwilling to adjust to the reality that it is now a minority. The vagaries and the biases of the electoral system have given this minority a lot of power, but it is fragile and tenuous. It’s precisely this fragility that is giving Trump’s brand of identity politics its ferocity.

Of course, Kelly’s unstated premise is that “white, heterosexual Christian” isn’t an identity, it’s just the norm against which deviant identities are defined. This is on a level with the kind of low-grade bigot who uses the term “ethnics” to describe people of all ethnicities other than Anglo-Celtic.

24 thoughts on ““White, heterosexual Christian” isn’t an identity?

  1. “Trump’s appeal was obviously directed at white, heterosexual Christians upset that the US is no longer being run entirely by and for people like him”.

    It wasn’t, but it is now.

    Paul Kelly’s shtick of commentator who integrates grand serious themes was always a little dubious and sometimes comical, but now he has reached peaked farce. He has become the Anthony Mundine of commentary journalism. Most readers of the Oz no doubt lap though and that is what counts.

  2. “It wasn’t, but it is now.”

    Yes, that was my thought too. I might edit to include it.

  3. I’m reminded of students who write in assignments about “women and other minority groups”, without a trace of irony.

  4. And yet how can the Australian press be made to improve? They sit in their ivory tower, far above what little the public can throw at them, and abuse us for being out of touch and irresponsible.

    In unrelated news, I see the Australian has another EXCLUSIVE front page editorial telling the government to drop the RET without mentioning the words climate change today.

  5. Paywalled, sadly, but he’s certainly right that the election has everything to do with identity politics, but perhaps not the way he sees it.

    Cis-het whites decided that if all the other ‘identities’ get to publicly identify and organise, they might as well too. The left should have stuck to “I don’t see colour” as an aspiration toward shared identity, rather than branding it a racist “micro aggression”.

  6. Paul Kelly warns that if Turnbull won’t (fill the vacuum of conservative or reactionary populism) others will.

    Another QLD LNP has jumped ship to One Nation – is Qld the bellwether for vacuums?

  7. This seems to be a backlash by a majority who just don’t want to feel they are being controlled by or subject to minority groups. For the backlash to work they have to be identified as a group “Aussie battler, true blue, fair dinkum etc” then identify minority groups by symbols “sharia, burqas, halal” and reject those symbols.

    These feelings can be mobilised into a political force that cannot be ignored, cue Pauline.

    So for Paul Kelly to say that this is the end of identity politics is nonsense, it is identity politics squared, plus a bit more.

  8. ‘This is on a level with the kind of low-grade bigot who uses the term “ethnics” to describe people of all ethnicities other than Anglo-Celtic.’

    ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Channel Islander’, ‘Manx’, ‘British nec’, and ‘Irish’ are all included in the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups, and so is ‘Australian’ (and so are ‘New Zealander’, ‘American’, ‘Canadian’, and ‘South African’); but ‘Anglo-Celtic’ isn’t. How many people, do you suppose, choose in the census to record their ancestry as ‘Anglo-Celtic’? (The most popular answer to the census question is, of course, ‘Australian’.)

    Is there a point to this comment? Maybe you could spell it out – JQ

  9. About a year ago, the famous “Milo” coauthored an article arguing that alt-right doesn’t mean white nationalism. He basically lost that battle – but his side still won power.

    I see something similar here, with Paul Kelly and identity politics. For now, Trump identifies his domestic enemy as a globalist establishment who have usurped American nationalism. In response, certain of his critics are taking the line that he doesn’t represent Americans in general, but only some “white heterosexual Christian minority”.

    Allow me to predict what will happen, if that interpretation of Trump’s presidency sticks: Then the enemy will no longer be identified as shadowy globalists, but as a Jewish liberal elite who use their money and their media to support offshoring and mass immigration and regime-change wars, out of ethnocentric self-interest.

  10. @rog
    This seems to be a backlash by a majority who just don’t want to feel they are being controlled by or subject to minority groups
    Clown Trump got 3 million less votes than Hillary – if it went by majorities then quite a large one voted for her. Trump’s election was simply a vagary of the Electoral College system (he’s the sixth president in the last 200 years to have been elected with less than a plurality of the popular vote). I think current talk about “backlash by angry blue collar white men” is way overblown. They’ve always been around and are no larger a minority than in the past – if anything, smaller and less influential. And as others have pointed out, women are not a minority.

    The implication of any identity politics is that any majority has to be a coalition of minorities.
    That’s the reason seriously dissing other groups that are part or potentially part of your coalition is damaging to any progressive agenda. John’s insistence on reasonable politeness on his blog has therefore a practical purpose.

    So the rewrite is:
    “This seems to be a backlash by a minority who just don’t want to feel they are being controlled by or subject to other minority groups”.

  11. As I mention in the OP, white heterosexual Christians were a majority in the US (and Australia) for centuries but have recently ceased to be one in the US (also in Australia, I think, depending on how tightly “white” is defined) . Despite losing their majority status they have enough inbuilt advantages to win elections (not always) and to hold most positions of privilege. But these advantages are slipping away as they become a smaller minority.

    It’s this combination of facts that explains the ferocity of Trump’s identity politics.

  12. John Quiggin :
    As I mention in the OP, white heterosexual Christians were a majority in the US (and Australia) for centuries but have recently ceased to be one in the US (also in Australia, I think, depending on how tightly “white” is defined). …

    Depending also on how tightly ‘Christian’ is defined.

  13. Is there a point to this comment? Maybe you could spell it out – JQ

    I think it’s a mistake to refer to ‘Anglo-Celtic’ as an ethnicity. Isn’t it a strange thing for somebody named Quiggin to do? If you’re Celtic, how are you Anglo? But then, I don’t know your personal family history, so perhaps I should refer to a different example. Are you going to include the descendants of Michael Dwyer (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dwyer-michael-12896) within the scope of the term? I doubt he would have welcomed being described as Anglo in any combination.

  14. @J-D

    “If you’re Celtic, how are you Anglo? ”

    ROFL! Gee, don’t you think it might be because people, like me, have a mixture of Celtic and Anglo (or Anglo-Saxon) forebears? It it always more complicated than that of course. Most of us now are a great mix of variants (of genes and cultures). By a mix of documented family research (not my research) and family oral history of perhaps variable dependability I am a mix of English (Anglo-Saxon so called), Cornish, Irish, Scottish and just possibly Spanish. And that’s just what the family historians written and oral will admit. Who knows what other forebears I have? Well, we know one I guess, Mitochondrial Eve.

  15. @derrida derider The majority population in the US are white (77%) and if you want to look at votes, exit polls indicate that the majority of whites voted for Trump.

    Clinton won more votes in population dense states but failed to gain support in a majority of states. If it was a “vagary of the electoral system” you could well wonder why team Clinton were not on top of the numbers.

    Certainly, a number of white democrats failed to vote in key states which was a Clinton failure to engage with the majority group.

  16. @Ikonoclast

    Yes, some people have both English and Irish ancestors; some people have both English and Scottish ancestors; and so on. You are aware of a mixture of both Anglo and Celtic ancestors; do you therefore think of yourself as an Anglo-Celtic person? Was ‘Anglo-Celtic’ your answer to the census question about your ancestry?

    More importantly, even if there are people who have both Anglo and Celtic ancestry and who consciously identify wtih both of them, they can’t ever have been a majority of the Australian population, or even a large part of it. Awareness of the difference between English ancestry and Irish ancestry, and placing importance on it, has played a significant part in Australian history. People who identify with their Irish ancestry, in particular, would be entirely justified in resenting use of the term ‘Anglo-Celtic’ as effectively an attempt to deny their distinctive identity.

    (My own ancestry, as far back as I know about it, includes nothing British or Irish, ‘Anglo’ or ‘Celtic’, so I personally have no dog in this fight.)

  17. @J-D

    In terms of genetic mix yes I do think of myself as Anglo-Celtic or perhaps Anglo-Saxon-Celtic or perhaps even Anglo-Saxon-Celtic-Spanish. Not sure what term I should use for “Spanish” in this context.

    “…. studies point to Eastern Mediterranean genetic contribution to Iberia to have been driven primarily by historical rather than prehistorical population movements (i.e. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Levantine Arabs rather than earlier Neolithic farmers). Iberia stands out among other southern European populations as having the highest levels of ancestry originating both in North Africa as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa which is largely ascribed to the long Islamic presence in the Iberian peninsula and possibly African slavery.” – Wikipedia.

    Certainly my father would rapidly tan very dark under the Qld summer sun in literally one day (scarcely ever sunburning) such that one suspected Spanish or even Moorish genes. I have this characteristic to a lesser extent but am also “afflicted” (I don’t feel afflicted by this, too strong a word) by some vitiligo since about middle age.

    My son looks much more Celtic, a bit like an Irishman maybe with some red in the beard and very white skin. It’s clear that the Celtic genes came through strongly and are expressing in his phenotype. So, yes for genetic accuracy we need to list, if we can, the hybrid components of our genetic make-up. They do matter. It is almost certain my son will be more susceptible than I was as a young man to skin cancers. He should take great care and he does. So this stuff matters for such practical non-racist considerations. Not everything relates to somewhat arbitrary census classifications which have demonstrated racial bias and non-scientific categorisation.

  18. J-D please just drop this. Anglo-Celtic is a collective term for the set of more specific ethnicities you list as well as for people like myself with a mixture of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon antecedents. It’s a subset of (for example) Western European, which in turn is a subset of European etc. If your point is that advocates of Irish identity politics don’t like it, consider the point taken. I’ve deleted excess comments. Nothing more from you on this thread, please.

  19. Pauline tweeted this a little while ago “To all the fat lazy politicians & fat lazy journalists in the fat lazy media playing fat lazy, PC, identity politics- The answer is no.”

    She also tweeted “You know where President Trump & I stand on protecting our nations from Radical Islamic Extremism. Now others should follow our lead”

    Logically Trump/Hanson should be advocating for protection from all Radical Extremists, a group now including white men.

  20. That’s some sleight of hand there, rog, from my “angry blue collar white men” not being a majority to your “The majority population in the US are white (77%)” as a riposte.

    My main point though is not to discuss the legitimacy or otherwise of Trump’s election but to simply point out that his backers were not in fact “a majority sick of being pushed around by minorities” as you had claimed because they were never a majority.

  21. @derrida derider Theres a world of difference btwn “angry blue collar white men” and the majority population of the US.

    You have omitted women and so called white collar workers, graduates (lets just say everybody else).

    Clinton targeted minority groups and paid the price, apparently Bill was sounding the alarm but was overruled by the greater minds.

    Hanson is doing well, by appearing to deny identity politics she speaks directly to your average aussie who just don’t want to have to make allowances for anybody else.

    It sounds like I’m painting Aussies as selfish ignorant xenophobes and I would be happy to be proved wrong but the polls are scary.

  22. I agree if Hillary was targeting ONLY “minority groups” that did not include whites then that was stupid. Dunno if she did that, though – she seemed to especially be targeting women, who aint a minority. That her vote among white women was not as high as it should have been doesn’t mean she wasn’t trying for them.

    The fact is that (in stark contrast to Bill) she was unexciting – not terrible, just mediocre – on the hustings. In a voluntary voting system if you can’t get people passionate about you, rather than just considering you the lesser of two evils, then they won’t wait in line for hours to vote. And that’s what happened to the women.

    As for Hanson, look WHERE she is doing well. It’s where her sort have always done well; selfish ignorant xenophobes have always been especially plentiful in rural Qld and WA.

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