Sacred identities

It is difficult to choose which page of Offended Generation tells the most ridiculous anecdote of the many carried out by the cultural Taliban to whom Caroline Fourest dedicates the book.

There is one that is surely not the most dramatic or the most dangerous as the expulsion of teachers, the censorship of works of art and the acts of physical violence that the author denounces, but it illustrates the degree of absurdity to which they can lead the so-called “identity politics” that patrol the thinking, the classrooms and the shows to eliminate not only those who express a dissident thought but also those who allow themselves to coincide from the wrong skin or culture.

The anecdote in question takes place at Oberlin College, an Ohio university, and ends in a rebellion of students starting from a Vietnamese sandwich called bánh mì.

A student of that origin discovers that the one offered to her in the dining room does not respond to the one she used to eat in her country and raises her protest, accusing the restaurant administrators of the very serious charge of cultural appropriation.

Alarmed, the restaurant manager removes the plate from the menu and apologizes. It is that adapting a bánh mì to the local culture and serving it differently from the original is considered a crime and everything ends in a scandal. But it turns out that bánh mì derives from “crumb bread”, introduced in Vietnam by the French in colonial times, although the Vietnamese add their own ingredients.

In other words, what is undoubtedly the product of culinary fusion cannot be re-fused, on pain that the person responsible is considered a damn colonialist.

There is another anecdote that is similar to the previous one, but it is even more incredible. It appears in a context in which white actors are forbidden to play black or Amerindian, for a straight woman to play a transsexual, and even for someone who does not come from the corresponding culture to have an Afro hairstyle.

Singer Kathy Perry publicly apologizes for having done so and promises to re-educate herself next time.

Actress Rosana Arquette goes further in terms of self-reporting and tweeting: “I’m sorry I was born white and privileged. Makes me sick. I feel so ashamed ”. But the delusion about identities reaches such a point that not only do you have to be a dwarf to be a dwarf, but to be the right kind of dwarf.

That’s what happened to Peter Dinklage, the actor who plays Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones.

Dinklage wanted to film the biography of his friend Hervé Villechaize, another dwarf actor who was the first to play non-humiliating roles in Hollywood.

But the identity protectors raised the cry, as Villechaize had Filipino features and Dinklage did not.

The film could only be made when Villechaize’s family declared that he was not Filipino but French and that his Filipino descent was a mistake on Wikipedia.

But the most unusual and also most emotional moment in the book is the one that describes a visit to Collins University, an Ohio institution that only admits female students.

While the teachers secretly tell Fourest that they brought her to talk about what they don’t dare to do so as not to lose their jobs, in the college dining room “the tables looked like those in a jail. The lesbians ate with each other.

Alone, the black students admitted to me that they did not dare to comment on the question of homosexuality.

There were white female students who refused to express an opinion on racism, except to flail themselves.

Lesbians, they told me in confidence, lived in terror at the idea of ​​terrorizing transgender women.

One of them had been excluded from her bedroom at the request of a trans student for having dared to say that 10 years of age seemed too early to perform the operation, and that at that age one did not know if she was gay or trans ”.

The general idea in Collins, as in other places conditioned by these policies, was that no one should bother the rest and that everyone has the right to a safe space, sheltered from opinions that may contradict him.

At least in these establishments where students pay $ 60,000 a year for tuition and, as Fourest says, they are always right as customers.


From the culture police to the thought police
Caroline fourest
Zorzal Books, 2021.

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