I read of a case about a school in Bristol that asked children to "rate" people they would live next door to on a scale of 1-14, one being the best and fourteen being the worst. The people that were included on the list was "a Black Person" and "a gay person." A mother named Naomi Davis was shocked when she saw her 11-year-old daughter with the worksheet that was given to her at the Bristol Free School and went to the school to complain. The school subsequently apologised to Naomi Davis and said that the exercise had been designed to do "something positive" but "hadn't achieved its objective." The school said that it would undertake a "review of the materials as a result of her (Naomi Davis) concerns."

Identity politics will only divide people further

In this particular case, I will reserve judgement if whether the school in question had good intentions or not.

The whole notion of the exercise from what I gather was to try to highlight prejudices in society, and I personally think that highlighting inequalities in society based on identity can be a good thing, but the use of identity politics as it is widely referred to, can hold a multitude of problems within itself.

Last week I wrote a piece on the terrible New York Times article which was titled "Can my children be friends with white people?" and I saw some parallels with this story from Bristol and the New York Times article, even though the intentions of the separate incidents in question were vastly different. It made me question whether there is anything to be gained from resorting to the notion of identity so commonly as is done today and what are the positives and negatives behind it.

I believe society to be a tolerant place

There are obviously conversations that need to be had regarding race, gender, sexuality and religion in society. Even though I firmly believe society to be a more tolerant place than it was in years gone by, there are still issues involving these aspects of a person's identity. The positives of resorting to identity politics can highlight some of the issues that people can face in their daily lives, for example, the experience of black people and gay people in regards to discrimination.

But I have a real problem with this use of identity politics, the major gripe I have is that the whole notion of categorising people based on some of the uncontrollable aspects of their identity is that it doesn't serve in breaking down the barriers of people in society according to their race or gender, it actually serves to reinforce them.

Let me give you this example; if I am constantly being referred to as a "white man" the categorisation of me will make it so I may only choose to associate with other white people because I have been placed in a box by society at large. The same applies to people of all other races and identity traits. Mr Yankah's terrible piece in the New York Times reinforces this theory within me because Mr Yankah's distrust of white people made him come out and say in so many words "I will not associate with people from that particular identity group."

This is Marxism

Identity politics also causes another huge problem, it erases the notions of the individual and reinforces the priorities of the collective.

Many of these identity groups based on race and gender that have sprung up in recent years from sections of the left-wing set out clear "goals" for their collective group. It has got to the point that within some of these groups orthodoxies now exist, and any independent thought is closed down because it goes against the stated objectives of the group. There is a word for this, it is called Marxism. If we look at what is happening on college campuses in America, the notion that our nations have been built on, the equality of opportunity, not outcome, the right to free speech and expression and individualism is under a great attack and identity politics is a major factor in this divide we are seeing now.

Karl Marx said that in order to bring about a revolution you had to galvanise the "proletariat" to turn against the systems in place in order to bring society down and bring about the implementation of an "egalitarian" society. Identity politics is the mirror image of this tactic which Marx spoke of in the Communist Manifesto all those years ago, but today the "proletariat" is not the working classes of the 19th Century, it is people who have come from historically marginalised communities. The use of identity politics does the polar opposite of what its proponents claim to want to achieve, it divides society into groups, and in turn, pits them against members of other groups in the aim of achieving their goals.

We all seem to be more divided than ever

I know associating a small story in the local Bristol press with such an all-encompassing worldview such as Marxism may appear that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, and if this was an isolated incident I probably would be guilty of that. But this use of identity politics is so prevalent in our societies today that it is just a small part of a much bigger picture. I am gravely concerned for the state of community cohesion at this present time in history, we all seem to be more divided than ever, if you look at what is going on in America at the moment we can see how divisive identity politics can be.

So, I think the biggest point I am going to make from this article is this, if we truly wish to see a society that is equal, and I don't mean a Marxist egalitarian society, I mean a society that provides everybody with equality of opportunity and where racial and identity divides begin to dissipate and we learn to just love each other as people, the constant reminder of our differences and the grouping of people relating to those differences will only make that more difficult to achieve.

A great man by the name of Martin Luther King said: "I want to live in a society where my four children are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character." If we continue to categorise people according to the traits of their identity such as race, gender and sexuality, I sadly fear that this fantastic man's dream will never be achieved.