Identity and Culture. Part 1/3
Where do we belong ?
Reflections I’ve made over some time, realizing our need and wish to be a part of some larger group or family. The question we all asked in our youth, and still do even though as matured grown ups. Where do I belong?
“The knowing the self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole, simply there and original, it is always constructed and stitched together imperfectly, and therefore able to join with another, to see together without claiming to be another.” (“Identity & Culture”- Chris Weedon 2004; in ref. to: Hall 1990 : p. 222, Haraway 1991b : p. 193 )
We are all a construction of the time we grew up in, and it also follows us through the next generations. When it comes to the question of Culture and Identity, which has been and is an ever present perplexing observation. The topic is an ongoing hotbed of discussion abroad. Unfortunately I do not find this topic as present in the society or a part of the conversation as it should be, in the country where I live.
While I believe our heritage and background is an important part of our Identity and its intertwined with the Culture we surround us with. It makes us who we are. I also believe its important for the upgrowing generation, my own kids, that it’s important to know, learn and understand these conditions that creates our self identity. which is one of my defining decision to take the bold act of leaving my so called native homeland, as a 2 generation African American, expatriate, to support them that they may have the understanding and knowledge of not one identity, and culture.
On a boarded social and political note, America has its first black president, whose mother was a white woman and father an african man. In President Obama’s book “Dreams from my father, A story of race and inheritance”, he refers to belonging. In this great divide, of identity and culture, the world refers to Obama as the first black president of the free world. This complex issue of belonging, set in the tapestry of identity and cultural perspectives, is a very interesting topic which seems to be on the minds of many.
As an expatriate, a person of color living in a homogeneous society; I have experienced the necessity to assimilate, and at the same time some of the extremes has taken years to understand and adapt to. When Identity and belonging to the group or Clan means everything, in this society.
In todays so called post colonial post modern era; xenophobia practices are still alive and well, belonging to that or any particular culture, identity is tantamount. Belonging is part of what one looks like, and espouse the sameness or likeness to. What you have in common with some people and what differentiates you from others. Ones name, language, customs, and ideological attitudes.
Its exceedingly difficult to belong when one is faced with the obvious, of being the outsider, by your appearance. When such strong bonds as; customs, attitudes and institutions laws are specifically designed for that group or culture identity, is formed. Instead of creating an atmosphere of the other were the outsider feel excluded and not included, thus making it feel harder to belong and to become a part of the society which I live in.
With the concept and idea of globalization, getting on a airplane is as easy as getting in a taxi and travelling to another part of the city, as is flying and being in another part of the world in just a short time. The history of culture and identity is changing, people are migrating, interfacing, ever changing and interdependent.
I have always felt comfortable in my skin, but never surprised or even shocked on this journey living on this planet as a man of colour. It is uncanny and even weird that with all the past struggles of great freedom fighters, from, the controversial Malcolm X, to the great Nobel Laureate Dr. Martin Luther King, and former President of South Africa, apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela, that colour and its discriminatory practices have not disappeared, they have just gone underground. As white liberals moderate a agenda of inclusiveness being popularise the ideal that color does not matter, residing the idea that history be ignored as though it never happened..
The recent striking down of affirmative action in the supreme court in the United States of America, was a disappointment to see, when affirmative action was put in place, this law was to ensure that Blacks be given the chance to close historical gaps that gave countered groups generational privilege born into power, prominence,dominance and control. If you watch on of Tim Wise lectures, debates/discussion that you could find online, you can get an indication of some of the thoughts and research done on the issue of culture and identity.
A partial quotation from Tim Wise’s book; White Like Me, chapter 1: born to belonging: “While some might insist that whites have a wide range of experiences, and so, presumably, it isn’t fair to make generalizations about whites as a group, this is a dodge, and not particularly artful one at that. Of course we’re all different, sort like like snowflakes, which come to think of it are also white. None of us have led the exact same life. But irrespective of one’s particular history; all whites were placed above all persons of color when it came to the economic and social and political hierarchies that were to form in the United States, without exception. “ page 3.
Throughout the formation and history of USA a formal system of racial preference was codified into the law from the 1600s until at least 1964. Not until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; did it change. Together with the Civil Rights Act of 1968 also known as the “Fair Housing Act of 1968”, the justice system finally passed a law making racial housing discrimination illegal. The implementation of these rights did take many years to comply by, and still in the Civil Rights of 1991 was modified to accommodate certain aspects that was not included a generation earlier. For those would like to see more on the subject can take a look here. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mef/white-like-me-a-film-featuring-tim-wise