Identity Crisis

The 20s are all about determining your own identities. The thing about identities is some are decided for us, while others we get to choose for ourselves. Either way, society has an ideal created for every identity we old. How that identity should manifest itself and the acceptable (read "socially "acceptable) ways it should be exemplified. But society and those "ideals" (aka thinly veiled stereotype-based prejudices) are nothing more than human constructs. When you're in a disadvantaged or minority group, it's a struggle to find yourself and being both in the world and out of it at the same time. It's an identity crisis.

There's this mode that people in a minority status may frequently find themselves in, it's called an identity crisis. You either are trying to be a stereotype or break away from it and people attribute that to denying your identity, or trying to be something you're not. It's crazy because unlike being in the majority, you do not get to decide how your identity should be expressed (it doesn't make any sense). Case in point, English - no, American English (here I'm implying American as white because again that's what's people mean when they say American). As a black person, speaking like my white peers, that is with minimal slang, enunciating words, using a wide vocabulary etc. is all attributed to whiteness. The other day on the bus, these white girls turned around to tell me "you don't sound black." How do you sound a race? What would you like me to sound like (probably Drake crooning over his ex)? *Let me just mention that this whole racism thing is not a binary story (like it seems to be played out to be). It's not that I don't know who I am, it's that I'm constantly trying to adjust, fit, and fix myself to how I'm "supposed" to be. Wait, take a second and reread that. Doesn't that make your stomach turn, that word fix implies there's something wrong. There's nothing with any identities, you or I hold, it's that value may not always be assigned to them. There's not a singular way to be an identity. You can expect all you want, and wonder why someone is who they are, but you cannot tell them who they are is wrong. You can't tell them they're not doing it. You don't have the right to determine how someone is expressing themselves is inappropriate for what you perceive them to be. There's no "right" way to be black, a man, straight, or affluent. Everyone does it differently. No two people can do it the same, there's too many factors that compound to make us who we are. Let people be ... people. Let them exist. Let them breath. Let them go through their day without criticism, or judgment from you on their life. That's key, it's not your life being affected, it's theirs. Why are we socialized to be critical, no more than critical, no rude, no hateful towards those who do things differently (that is their existence is not the same as ours). Doesn't that make your skin crawl? Doesn't that make your heart pound? Doesn't that make your stomach do flips?

Check Yourself Rules:
1) Decide who you are - it's important to name what identities you hold (e.g. me - male, heterosexual, African-American, lower upperclass, temporarily able-bodied, Pentecostal-Christian, some college) and what those mean, especially within the context of people with other identities. What happens when you only have dominant (that is "power-holding" identities)? Privilege is never having to justify your identity (i.e. when did you know you were gay? - replace gay with straight  and it sounds ridiculous right ...)
2) Keep your opinions/judgments to yourself  - You are entitled to your opinion, but not when it comes to people's lives. No one likes to be told what to do or how to act. You choose for yourself what's right for you and you alone. If you like hiking, doesn't mean everyone has to like hiking or will even like hiking. Why is necessary to tell someone it's weird (that is weird for you) that they don't like hiking (that is to have a common interest or identity as you). We're all different, but there's a key distinction to be made between accepting difference, merely tolerating it and celebrating it.
3) Question where you get your ideas from - almost every idea we have about "how the world and people should be" comes from our environment or external influence (family members, peers, and the media). Notice should be not actually how this reality is. A lot of these "ideas" are nothing more than prejudices masquerading as stereotypes pretending  not to be -isms (racism, sexism, classism etc.). People (just like objects in car mirrors) are more REAL than they may appear to be - as in, they're more than stereotypes. There's not a singular way to be any identity.
4) Put yourself in someone else's shoes - This is one can be hard especially if your -ism is deeply rooted to the point where's there's a humanity disconnect. If you're not able to truly empathize with someone based on their experiences, then of course you won't find any significance in what they convey to you. Believe what they say - you can't make this stuff up. Try to just listen and understand why any of this (that is  oppression and social justice) matters.
5) Confront oppression in all its forms  - the hardest thing for people to do is accept that they've played a part, whether consciously or unintentionally in oppressing other people. You have to own that you've benefited from institutional systems of oppressions and determining cultural norms before you're able to become an ally (someone who supports those who have minority status). Stand up, speak up and address situations as they happen, with other people but more importantly with yourself. It means a lot to actually treat people like ... people.

The 20s are all about getting your mind right. We've been socialized to not only notice difference (which is perfectly fine) but then ignore, write off, and avoid any meaningful conversations that  come with offending people. No people are not "too easily offended" nor are people "looking to get offended." Part of being a full fledged member of society is being able to accept that you've hurt someone's feeling and offended them, not try to place the blame on them. Own your shame, let it wash over you, and then learn from it. We're all going through our own identity crisis.

My blog post question for the day is ... when is a time that you have been oppressed? Oh, there's too many stories to share - check back at my hard hitting ones here: Skin Deep - Color of Friendship - True Colors - In Living Color - Colored - Color Blind - Black Hoodie - Race Relations


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