The Cultural Columnist

An analytical perspective to the news and experiences of the everyday

Race and Identity

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There exist aspects of our identity that are made obvious to us throughout our lifetime, and it is almost always the very aspects that do not fall into the norm of whatever situation, institution or our very society. Especially, how we identify ourselves in racial and ethnic contexts.

For individuals who have been victim to racism, or at least confronted with a situation where the distinction was evident, they will identify themselves with that disparity. There is a sociological quote which states, “When you’re a minority, race is always an issue.” For those situations where one’s race has been made obvious to them, those individuals will sense an inclination to identify themselves with their race.

I, for example, am Hispanic. My upbringing took place, in part, in a very racially diverse neighborhood, and then in a dominantly-white neighborhood; therefore, my race has played a defining role for my identity.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, offers a theory in The Complexity of Identity, where she describes a conflict between the “inner world” and “outer world” of a minority figure. She explains that, for a minority, the two worlds are not “in harmony with one another” because their race, for example, captures the attention of the dominant group, the “outer” group.

Therefore, whites would not identify themselves as white because it is a dominant part of their identity that goes unexamined. Individuals who are part of the “norm” do not feel the need to acknowledge this very significant aspect of their identity. However, minorities do.

This absence of harmony between inner and outer groups that Tatum mentions, signifies judgment and discrimination among disparate groups. So, where is the beauty of acceptance? The factors that distinguish us give beauty to the overall picture of humankind; sameness and conformity do not contribute to that beauty. It would be best for all of us to adopt this mentality of acceptance and to embrace the differences. Perhaps, then, social justice can begin to take place.

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