The word Identity is a term that has many meanings and this depends on the theoretical framework being used. It is a term that is used to describe a person as he appears to others. This description may entirely depend on the person describing it. In other words, how one appears to others is what will determine how his or her identity will be described. Therefore, how we behave towards others in society accounts entirely for the kind of identity we are branded (Cohen 1998).
However, the whole issue of identity is diverse and may involve several things. Because of this, one may carry more than one identity. For example, how one presents himself at his workplace may give him an identity different from the identity he is given as a result of how he presents himself in society. In other words, one can not be branded an identity based on only one side of his lifestyle. A comprehensive identity should therefore try to represent the person as he presents himself or herself in the entire society (Archie, Franklin, Elizabeth, Simon & Winchester 2002).
With all these factors in mind, identity becomes a broad topic that can not be described with a single statement. Similarly, the issue of identity has raised debates in various ways making states improvise mechanisms of trying to identify their citizens (Cote & Levine 2002). These concerns have emerged due to current issues such as globalization that has enabled people to travel all over the globe and settle anywhere on the earth’s surface.
Both internal and international securities are the other factors that have raised concerns about the identification of people. There have been cases where some people have been limited to travel to some states or completely denied the right to travel out of their mother state due to the identity they have been branded. Some of such people have been given the identity of a threat to international security (Stewart & Milton 1991). To summarize all this, identity is just a mere one letter word but it has been misunderstood by so many people (White & Wyn 2008). Contrary to what most people think the one-letter word entails a lot.
To understand identity at length, it is important to break down the topic into various subtopics as listed above. To begin with, personal identity is the actual identity that a person holds. This identity may be drawn from facts such as gender, the person’s age, his/her nationality, sexuality, and personality traits. Other minor factors such as disability, a person’s interests, and talents may also be used to grand the identity (MacNaughton & Zimmerman 2006). As such, personal identity can be summarized as the values associated with a particular person that makes him different from others. It is this identity that makes one see himself as different from other people around him or her. With the identity, one gets to appreciate him or herself as being unique in one way or the other (Davies 2001).
Various debates regarding personal identity seem to contradict the whole idea of identity. However, the value that keeps the person at one time to be the same at the other time (the same individual existing throughout different moments) is the bottom line of personal identity. There have been cases of diachronic and synchronic problems in identifying persons in the context of personal identity (Crahan & Vourvoulias-Bush 1997).
These problems have existed due to the mind-body problem. It is strongly believed that the mind plays a key role in determining the character traits the body presents. As such, it is believed that there is a relationship between the mind and how one’s body functions. Philosophers have come up with various hypotheses that try to explain this interdependence between the mind and the body. Some of the hypotheses have focused on the body’s sensory organs (Anderson 1983).
On the other hand branding, a person based on his consciousness has its challenges. Basing personal identity on consciousness raises debates on those people who have a mental disability. It poses the challenge of being judged irrespective of your mental status. Exterior people may judge somebody basing their judgment on how he behaves. It is common with people missing their consciousness at times. Therefore, concluding their identity based on how they present themselves has its demerits (Chandler & Marcia 2003).
Gender and Racial Identity
There is also an angle of racial and gender perception that governs personal identity. It is an intricate perception that requires keenness if it is to be determined and well delineated. Racial identity can be defined as the perception of oneself in light of the color of his skin and his racial origin. Since this has been among the most controversial form of identity for the obvious reason that it descends into discrimination, it is nonetheless considered impolite, obnoxious, and detrimental to consider people racially (Ross 1991).
That notwithstanding, racial identity comes with certain attributes that are associated with specific races such as people of black origin are generally considered to have attributes of masculinity in the sense of their in-built strength and candor (Stewart & Milton 1991). Persons of white origin have been thought to possess artistic talents that are reminiscent of Western culture such as rock music (Skattebol 2003).
Another form of identity that is closely related to racial identity is gender identity which is in specific reference to one’s gender. In a selfsame way, gender identity is an area that ought to be traversed with caution since history has taught us that it is an area that has been suspected to much abuse and insensitivity by chauvinist persons who have used it to ostracize one gender from another (Stewart & Milton 1991). Gender identity is the attribute that is given to a person based on whether they are female or male.
This comes with the accruing of given attributes that are common to respective genders. For instance, it is commonly known that the female gender is generally benign, articulate, and emotionally volatile as compared to their male counterparts who are considered forceful, sanguinary, and domineering (Skattebol 2003). It is important to add that these are attributes that are highly relative and dependent on whom you ask. This notwithstanding, it is clear that gender and racial identity are areas of personal development and uniqueness that indicate ardent differences in the persons and are therefore great identifiers in their own right.
Society is another aspect that helps to define a person. From the social perspective of identity, we get social identity. Our living environments are surrounded by so many factors. We live in a world that forces us to live and correlate with one another. This correlation involves various aspects that force us to make the decision. Such decisions have played a key role in determining the social identity we are given.
Having this in mind, social identity can be summarized as the identity an individual gets based on how he or she behaves and co-exists with other people in society (Seligman 1995). This identity may be influenced by various social groups such as friends, family, or ethnic communities. One’s nationality and cultural connections also play minor roles in social identification. These groups are a vital component in determining our social identities.
Social identification is an important aspect of humans as they exist in society. It is this identification that represents how we see ourselves about others as we live our day to day life. When it comes to social identity, the family plays a key role. There have been concerns with the social identity of children who are brought up outside their biological families. This is because the family is the center peeler in identifying one’s social identity.
Separating children from their families means that they are going to grow without their people (Evangelista 2003). These people play an important role in the whole social identity issue. They are the people who guide young children during the tender stage in life. Major decision-making of the children at this stage is guided by the people around them. As such, how they grow up and relate with society entirely depends on the influence of the family and close friends from birth (Gordon 1978).
There is also cultural identity. This is the identity one gets from belonging to a given culture. Culture in this context is derived from values and aspects that associate a group of people. These aspects include nationality, ancestry, race, sexual orientation, and aesthetics among others. With current globalization, the world has become like a global village (Fernando 1995). This has resulted in people traveling all over the world and settling in different places on the surface of the earth.
Factors such as business and the pressure of high living standards have forced people to travel all over. As such, there has been a mixing of cultures as people settle irrespective of their cultures. Such settlements have resulted in cultural interaction through intermarriages, business, and other social interactions. These interactions have led to the emergence of micro-cultural groups. This factor has raised debates as such groups do not have ancestral cultures. What follows then is the issue of cultural identity. Perrett (1999) states:
Culture describes what people develop to enable them to adapt to their world, such as language, gestures, tools to enable them to survive and prosper, customs and traditions that define values and organize social interactions, religious beliefs and rituals, and dress, art, and music to make symbolic and aesthetic expressions. (p. 57)
This implies that the practices and beliefs that bind people together into groups are detailed in their culture. This group is bound by practices and beliefs from the various ethnic groups. The distinctive nature of the identity of such groups is granted by such common values and beliefs (Sagast & Alcalde 1999).
There are other minor aspects of identity such as ethnic and religious aspects. Ethnic identity entails a person and his feeling of belonging to a specific ethnic group (Mandelbaum 2000). In the context of ethnic identity, it is believed that people belonging to the same ethnic group have the same thoughts and perceptions regarding various aspects of life. Religious identity is that that identifies one to a specific religion (Kroger 2006) such as people having the same religious identity, hold similar perceptions and thoughts relating to religious issues.
In conclusion, identity is a diverse area that is greatly misunderstood by very many people. Contrary to what most people think identity encompasses more than the mere physical values of a person. Comprehensive identification of a person involves assessing him both personally, culturally, based on his or her religion and ethnic values. It is important to further reiterate the central part that racial and gender identity takes in our modern perception of identity.
Given the heinous acts of discrimination and favoritism that have been propagated on the lines of race and gender, they are aspects of social identity that have been widely researched on and hailed as among the most important (Archie, Franklin, Elizabeth, Simon & Winchester 2002). With the numerous human rights’ activist groups that are in existence the world over and their infiltration into governance and policy formulation, it is overtly clear that their concerns about racial and gender aspects forming our idea of identity is very important. In establishing that we are different on these lines, it is surmised that this difference does not in itself mean incapacitation of superiority but just difference and uniqueness in personal attributes (Archie, Franklin, Elizabeth, Simon & Winchester 2002).
It is clear from this perception that identity is indeed a complex psychological notion and forever remains a wonder for its students when such humanistic and societal aspects as race and gender are added to its definitive matrix (Archie, Franklin, Elizabeth, Simon & Winchester 2002).
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