Monday, March 24, 2008

some articles on self-definition and identity

Grand Theft Racial Identity: Who Gets to Define You?

Mixed Messenger

Good reads.

I remember doing identity excercises in student SEED, even as a facilitator, and always having to pause when asked what my race and/or ethnicity is. There's always a tension between self-definition and external definition. I know that i am perceived by the outside world as white, and that i benefit from white privilege as much as anyone. But as a mixed-race person, i grew up with different cultures and define myself as a mixed product of those cultures.

How to reconcile that? Or not?

A lot of people seem to believe that what really matters is how YOU identify yourself. But i think there's some danger in that, specifically as a "visually-white" person. For me, it's important to keep in mind that although i may self-identify as mixed, that identification doesn't really count for much beyond the boundaries of my own skull. When i walk down the street or apply for a job or whatever, i'm a white man.

And it can be tempting to try to distance onself from whiteness rather than come to terms with it, particularly when you're a progressive, or a hip hop artist, or a social justice advocate. And there's also danger in that. I think it's important to understand not just our histories and our heritages (which are important and do shape who we are), but ALSO how we fit into the structure of society right NOW, for better or worse. Identity, then, is all that, and is far more complex than a check-box on a form.

As a Norwegian/Japanese rapper with a Spanish name immersed in Black culture, things can get confusing. I appreciated these articles. Check out the comments too.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting that.
-Summer

Anonymous said...

"And it can be tempting to try to distance onself from whiteness rather than come to terms with it, particularly when you're a progressive, or a hip hop artist, or a social justice advocate. And there's also danger in that."
So true Kyle...
As a light skinned bi-racial black, Irish and Bohemian female, frequently whoever is looking at me has some expectations based on what I claim myself to be and what I look like. So in social justice movements it is easier to claim an oppressed identity cause I don't want to deal with the light skinned privilege but also for me it's seems people want to know who's side I'm on. If I choose my oppressed identitiy everyone breaths a little easier. That's where the personal defination comes in cause at the end of the day everyone wants something different from me. It's been best although difficult to be who I see myself to be.

Toni