Enough Is Enough

#BlackLivesMatter

#SayTheirNames

#Can’tBreath

Family friend and strong hearted Micheal Ruiz (New Jersey, U.S.). Picture and sculpture credit: Yvonne R. Duck

May 25th. The murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, husband and father in Minneapolis, was the catalyst that was needed for the emergence of worldwide protests.

These hashtags are often accompanied by lists of names of black women and men who have been killed in recent years, including #SancraBland, Pilando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Micheal Brown, Eric Garner  and many others.

In relation to our global recognition for racial differences, where the oppressed are standing up, with massive support, I wanted to share a paper that I wrote last semester in my Social Psychology class…..:

Public Perception of Race Influences Our Self-Identity” (November, 2019)

 As a little girl growing up, I never put much thought into my identity or self. However, through interactions in forms of symbolic communications, people pointed out my difference in race, as I am not only white or only Hispanic but a mix. My identity was formed socially through the understanding of my ethnicity, as ethnicity is a crucial component of an individuals identity. Through public perception, which is cultivated by each individual, influenced the way people exist and how they view themselves in a socially-constructed world.

In this paper, I conducted data on how two people of different mixed-race backgrounds, an interviewee and myself, have two very diverse identity-related experiences. Through the interview, I look at ways that we are subjected to social influence in the construction and use of our identities. I gather data from both my own self-examination of my social role as a mixed-race person, half white and half Afro-Latina, and from my mixed-race interviewee, half white and half African American. In this process, I analyzed and methodically deconstructed our sociological differences through our social elements that simultaneously influence our respective interpretations of self. I use empirical evidence conducted from our stories to support three main ideas: Norwegian white culture creates a different understanding of people of color than the American white culture does; being brought up with both parents who represent your mixed-race background is different from being brought up with only one parent; and lastly, various mixed-race backgrounds affect ones interpretation of racial identity. My conclusions and findings did in fact reinforce some of my earlier beliefs of the process of racial formation of different-mixed race, but they also challenged other beliefs.

I selected a mixed-race female interviewee of a similar age, who I interviewed about where, from whom, and how she acquired a sociologically significant aspect of her identity that differed from mine but is in the same category of mixed-race identity. My informant, who I will refer to as Molly in this paper, and I met for the very first time during our Social Psychology 150 class. It was during one of the professor’s in-class discussions that we were introduced and realized that even though we did not look alike, we had several identity features in common. She was suitable for this assignment because we are both mixed-race students; however, not similar nationalities or skin complexions. Molly acquired an understanding of one side of her personal identity, as she was raised by only her white mother, with a mix of mostly Irish but also German and French. Consequently, she was only introduced to and grew up with the white side of her family, and went to an almost all-white school. Her father was never around, being in and out of prison and sadly passing away when she was only six years old. Her mother knew Molly would miss the black culture, never the less Molly, on her own terms, tries an African American course where she acquired knowledge about the real struggles of an African American. She referred to herself as Blirish, because of her dark skin complexion from her African American father. It has been difficult for her to attain this term positively because there is a big stigma on black people from the Irish. On the flip side, she still has a huge Irish pride that emerges every time she celebrates the different Irish national holidays.

In contrast, I was brought up by both my parents, with a very strong relationship to both, which has been reinforced by being introduced to their different worlds. My mother is from the rich, upper west side in Oslo, Norway and my father is from the projects on the lower east side in New York City. My fathers parents were both born and raised in Puerto Rico but immigrated to American before my father was born. I grew up in Norway and consequently acquired an understanding of my own personal identity by being surrounded by mostly the white Norwegian population. During my childhood, my parents saw the importance of holding on to both national traditions and that resulted in my family celebrating American holidays, but there was always more emphasis on the Norwegian traditions. My Norwegian surroundings gave me a chance to tap into the white side of my family and my self-identity, but my parents made sure that my siblings and I would also be introduced and familiar with the Puerto Rican/American side of the family. We flew each year to the US, where all my fathers family lived after my grandparents, at an early age, immigrated, to the US. Even though I have been introduced to both sides of my family, I personally have had a hard time finding my way to my own personal identity.

WHITE CULTURE/COUNTRY

The first difference I noticed between us was the diverse ways we learned, accepted, and adopted our racial identity through our surroundings, represented through different cultures and countries. My previous notion was that all white societies were the same culture no matter where you are in the world. However, Molly and I have undergone two very diverse racial identity formations due to the different white cultures we were brought up in. Molly grew up in the white American culture, where there were not a lot of people like her, as she has a darker skin color. Consequently, she experienced her surroundings, full of primarily white people, expected her to act black. This has conflicted with her interpretation of herself, as she talks and acts like a Valley girl, which represents the stereotypical white speech and behavior, which is a result of where her identity formation took place. Furthermore, she explains how her childhood white-washed her.

Similarly to Molly, I have been more surrounded by the white side of my family; yet, in contrast, we had very opposite experiences, where the concept of white-passing played in. Because my skin is lighter than hers, I experienced looking more like my peers and my role as a white person would be easier accepted by my surrounding white Norwegian population. Philip Zimbardo explored the power of the situation and how it affected the identity and behavior found in the Stanford Prison Experiment. His theory can help to explain both Mollys and my experience of different roles with our peers, as we exist in systems of institutions where there are role requirements. Molly took the role of a white person, even though she knew she was not only white, but she acted in an effort to be accepted in her surroundings. Over the years she has found herself being surrounded by either white or black people, and has become good at adapting to her environment, jumping into different characters and roles of different speech and behaviors, depending on the culture. The power of situations, consequently, did influence our identities and behaviors, when we have for the majority of time been surrounded by mostly white role models; white female teachers, white friends, and white coaches. Similarly, we experienced sports to play a significant role in our processes of understanding our identity development. Through interactions with my surroundings and absorbing their reactions to my actions, I learned what was expected of me, and, therefore, experienced being more accepted in my community. Molly was never fully accepted in the white community, which in turn affects how she sees her identity. In contrast, I played the same role in my white community and was more accepted.

SELF IDENTITY MIXED-RACE

In Mollys childhood, her surroundings expected her to assimilate into the white culture but also at the same time keep her blackness, even though she was not raised with it. That being so, she is stuck in the middle, where she cant claim her white side, but on the other hand she does not know her black side. During her youth, she did experience having a handful of other classmates who also were mixed-race, yet they all had two parents and got to experience both cultures and where their identities belonged. She had to naturally adapt to the American white culture, and calls herself a product of white society, as she speaks properly white. However, she always tried to stay in the black culture by, for instance, playing basketball, treating it as a coping mechanism in an effort to fit in to the black community. This has made her feel good about herself, not only being noticed for her white side, a place where she could finally be more like herself. When thinking about a sociologically significant feature of my own personal identity, the very first feature that comes to mind is how I identify myself through two ethnicities.

George Hebert Meads work on identity and how we are shaped by our surrounding references, explains how we are created by how others respond to us, and we mirror our self through them. Meads theory enhances the understanding of how our surroundings saw our mixed-race self-identity and consequently, Molly and I received a different view and treatment during our upbringing. Mead explains how one individual has to take into consideration how other people look at them, by taking the role of the other, with an understanding of it not being all about the self. As such, Molly and I have refused to choose between our races. We are both caught between two ethnicities, finding ourselves having to explain our race to others who wrongly guesses based on our appearances. We agreed to the feeling of not knowing where we really belong and having no sense of strong identity. Consequently, we have and are both facing the struggle with the question of self-identity and where we belong, even though I grew up in Norway and she grew up in America.

SINGLE PARENT VS TWO PARENTS

Molly was brought up by only her white mother, who introduced her to only the white side of the family, which in turn reinforced Mollys knowledge of being different. She was only introduced to white, American holiday traditions by her mother, as her blood is a mix of mostly Irish. Consequently, Molly was introduced to celebrating holidays such as the Irish holiday, St.Patricks Day, with the famous Cronbach. For Molly, not being around her other culture, her black African American side, has been problematic with her own self-esteem and self-worth. Even though her mother tried her best, and their relationship being as strong as steel, not being surrounded by the same people as her has had an effect on her path to finding her identity. I have personally acquired my personal identity by being brought up by both my parents and they have equally had a significant impact. I have been given the insight to how two worlds collide, where one world can include a lot of privileges in life that can be seen as handed to you. I have also experienced a different world where there are no expectations or hopes of anything ever being given to you. This has given me a larger understanding of who I am and where I come from. Charles Horten Cooley, similar to Mead, explains our knowing who one is happens through experiences with others, through the looking glass self. Cooley argues how we have to mirror ourselves through others, and act towards peoples different reflections. Through Cooleys idea of the strategic and performative social individual, Molly and I have found managing our forms of identity in different settings to be challenging, as we are trying to find our place in a society that expects us to choose an identity. Consequently, our socially significant aspects of identity differed, because I have been introduced to both sides of my identity. We dont have a self without others.

FINDINGS

Through this interview process, I have been able to analyze and methodically deconstruct both Molly and my sociological differences of being multi-racial through our social elements that simultaneously influence our respective interpretations of self, through our different identities as mixed-race females. Zimbardos work on role requirements found in the power of the situation highlights how Molly and I have had to act white in our white surroundings. Meads theory on the process of becoming a social self through interaction with others, communicates how Molly and I are a reflection of how other people see us. We have both experienced the concept of white-passing, where I have lighter skin and that means that people see me as being more white and that is why I am passing easier through the white culture. She has dark skin, so she does not. Lastly, Cooley, as similar to Mead, argues how Molly and I are only a reflection of how other people see us, as they see that we are mixed but force us to choose a side. Consequently, we do not want to pick and are trapped in the middle with a conflicting self-identity. Personally, I did learn how to act around the white Norwegian culture; however, that was not the white culture I met when transferring to Berkeley last year. There is a different white community culture to be found here, and I have had to adapt to a different way of communicating. Because of the segregated cultural and racial groups, I found my effort in understanding my identity through my race as a cultural shock, where the different public perceptions of what constitutes as black and white has made it hard to find a place within the different divided cultures.

The Beautiful interviewee and my very close friend.

Works Cited

Philip Zimbardo.  The Lucifer Effect and the Psychology of Evil. Understanding How Good

People Turn Evil. New York: Random House, 2007

George Herbert Mead. The Self, the I, and the Me. OBrien, Fifth Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA.

Pine Forge-Sage, 2011. pp.152-156, 121-125

Charles Horton Cooley. The Looking Glass Self. OBrien, Fifth Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA.

Pine Forge-Sage, 2011. pp. 261-263, 126-128

Picture and sculpture credit: Yvonne R. Duck

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