1. a: The distinguishing character or personality of an individual
b: The relation established by psychological identification
2. The condition of being the same with something described or asserted
Who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others.
Your identity is who you are.
What are you? Your race, ethnicity? Gender/Sex? Where do you live? Religious preference, if any? What do you do for a living? Level of education? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? These are some of the questions we are asked when completing forms, or that come up in chit chat when we first meet people. Our identities are tied up with all this and so much more.
Who Am I and Who Are YOU?
When I think of my identity, the list of descriptors is long: Chicana (which of course also identifies me by gender), feminista, madre, writer, activista, Tejana, Californian, malcriada, spouse, sister, tia, multilingual, hard-worker, lawyer, lifelong learner, helper, friend, storyteller, hiker, adventurer, world citizen . . . and I can list many more characteristics that are part of my identity. The above, to my mind are positives, I didn't list the negative traits, like criticona, that are also part of my identity, but they are there as well.
And who are YOU? Take a few minutes and jot down the characteristics that are the key to your identity. What might these tell you about the influences that shaped you? How has your identity changed over the years? I have several friends who were raised in one faith, who now embrace a different religion, how does that happen? Others whose gender is different from that assigned at birth. I am glad to be living at a time and place where we can express our true identities, where we have more freedom to find our place in the world. Sadly, we also live in a world of intolerance where those threatened by differences and by change can and do act violently toward others. Trans women experience high levels of violence, and of course, we have read about the large number of missing and murdered Native American women.
We hear the word “identity politics” uttered with disdain as if there is something wrong with people, who have been historically excluded from opportunities, to band together to press for changes that would allow us the chance to be our best selves and to fulfill our potential and our dreams.
These are some of the things that are front and center on my mind. I read about these topics in books, scholarly journals, popular press, social media. I discuss them with friends and colleagues. I often read and hear things that give me pause, “hmmm, I want to understand more about this.” These are the themes in my one-woman show, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? and in presentations I make to lawyers about being more aware of our biases and thoughts about how to reduce them. And it is what I blog about.
Prejudice and Bias
I bet you’ve heard people say I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body, I treat everyone equally, I don’t see race, I don’t judge people by their backgrounds. Right . . . Donald Trump has repeatedly said, “I am the least racist person you have ever met.”
Well, we all have biases and if you want to learn more about how we get them and what we can do about not acting on these implicit or “unconscious” biases, I highly recommend Jennifer Eberhardt’s book, Biased. Dr. Eberhardt, a professor at Stanford is a MacArthur Genius Award recipient. The book is an enjoyable and very accessible read with valuable information about stereotyping and how it works and the devastating consequences it is having on our lives and in our communities. Check out her talk to the National Academy of Sciences, by clicking here.
Podcast Conversation at Attorney Heart
I recently spoke with Fernando Flores on his podcast Attorney Heart. Our wide-ranging conversation touches upon issues of identity, community, and how we can make the world a better place. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.
I’m heading off to Europe for six weeks. I never had a semester abroad in college, so I’m giving one to myself. I'll be studying French in Paris, and I look forward to sharing some of my adventures with you over the next few weeks. I'm already bracing myself for the “you don’t look like an American” comment, which annoys me, no matter where I hear it.
Thanks so much for reading my blog, and if this is the first time you receive it, welcome.