“You don’t have a lot of Japanese friends.”
I thought about this statement, posed to me by my wife. It was true. I am of Japanese ancestry. I grew up in Hawaii, a cultural and racial melting pot. My friends were white, Asian, and mixed race. My Japanese friends were just one part of my inner circle. I have never consciously chosen my friends because of race. When I matriculated to college, my closest friends were white and Korean, not Japanese. When I entered medical school, it was the same situation, my closest friends were Chinese and white. Residency and fellowships were the same, my two closest friends were white. There were two other Japanese-Americans in my residency program but we were not close. Presently, my closest friends are white, Chinese, Korean, and one Japanese.
I am very proud of my Japanese ancestry, however, it never defined me or my relationships. I do not participate in many of the activities that are expected of Japanese-Americans. In fact, I have taken offense when others thought I didn’t act Japanese. What did that mean except that I did not fulfill THEIR expectations of how a Japanese person should act? It was my introduction to identity politics.
Identity Politics: political activity or movements based on or catering to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or social interests that characterize a group identity.
On the surface, this appears to be a noble attempt to recognize the disenfranchised, enabling marginalized groups to gain a common voice and stimulate political and social action to recognize inequalities and injustice. However, like many ideas with good intentions, it has been usurped by organizations who are intent on exploiting these groups for their own nefarious and self-serving purposes. Both political parties in the United States have utilized identity politics in an attempt to sway voters to their sides. The result is more division and strife, not unity and harmony as was initially intended.
I find the entire concept of identity politics to be denigrating and disingenuous at the least and divisive and dangerous at the worst. At the core, politics in a democracy should be focused upon equal access to rights for all and the only way that can happen is to respect and recognize the individual as unique, not indiscriminately lumped into a group based upon artificial and arbitrary categories. One needs to break down the barriers that lead to equal access, not erect new ones that pigeon holes individuals into predetermined labels.
For years, I struggled with this type of identity politics. It came in the form of microaggression, others telling me how I should act or the types of organizations and interests that I was expected to support. It was not until I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior did I begin to understand my true identity. It is not defined by race, culture, or language. It is defined by my relationship with my God.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)
The only identity I claim is with the family of God through faith and belief in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.