A new book, “Mistaken Identity: Race and class in the Age of Trump“, undertakes a rigorous analysis of race politics and the history of race in the United States to grapple with the shifting relationship between personal identity and political action. The author of the book got into the spotlight, for his passionate call on the new practice of politics beyond colourblind chauvinism and “the ideology of race.”
Asad Haider, the author of “Mistaken Identity“, is a PhD student of History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz and a member of UAW-2865, the Student-Workers Union at the University of California. Along with, he is the founding Editor of Viewpoint Magazine and an investigative journal of contemporary politics.
Asad Haider through his book renews the critique of identity politics for the contemporary Left. Drawing on the work of British cultural studies, black feminism, and theories of the subject. Haider writes in an open and persuasive prose to show how identity is always partial and ambivalent, deflecting from the larger racial ideologies while reproducing its terms.
He argues, Identity has become abstracted from our material relationships with the state and society, which make it consequential to our lives. So when identity serves as the basis for one’s political beliefs, it manifests in the division and moralizing attitudes, instead of facilitating solidarity.
“The framework of identity reduces politics to who you are as an individual and gaining recognition as an individual, rather than your membership in a collectivity and the collective struggle against an oppressive social structure,” Haider writes. “As a result, identity politics paradoxically ends up reinforcing the very norms it set out to criticize.”
Asad Haider’s experience in his life has open doors to “Mistaken Identity”. He lives between two worlds, belonging to neither. His parents hail from Pakistan. When he visits Karachi, his relatives point out his US accent whereas the US criticizes his roots. Haider expressed his experience and said, “Regarding campus activism, my experience was as a person of color who was radicalized largely by learning about the Black Power movement and Marxism through the Black Power movement.
So I never imagined that people would see an incompatibility between them, especially because Marxism was the powerful force that it was in the 20th century, as it was taken up and adapted in the non-Western world. That’s something that’s forgotten or suppressed today. So as a person of color getting involved in social movements, I was getting really dismayed that often, race became the source of division and fragmentation and defeat, instead of being part of a general emancipator program. It was that frustration that led me to thinking about and writing about what went into this book”.
The story that opens Haider’s book is a good example: solidarity across identities is how a Pakistani-American boy could find inspiration in a long-dead Black Panther. Indeed, what Haider found so inspiring was about Newton, who was precisely his vision of a solidarity strong enough to span the world. As an African American in a profoundly racist country, Newton couldn’t escape his identity. Neither could Haider, in a country suffering with Islamophobic hatred.
Asad Haider in his book has contributed a lot. His ideology is the movement against fundamental structures of inequality, domination, and exploitation in American society. It breaks the wall of identity and race that divides the men of same blood.