The moment a baby emerges into the world, their racial identity is assumed. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, whatever it may be, it is assumed by anyone and everyone. As the child grows, they develop how they racially define themselves. One feels an immense feeling of solidarity and lack of belonging without a stable and finetuned identity. The following points explain why racial identity matters and how it impacts lives.
Why Racial Identity Matters
Our racial identity, unfortunately, is influenced and sometimes completely formed by what we see in the media.
Media tends to portray African Americans sagging their pants, or Asians not knowing English, and Hispanics being immigrants — illegal or not.
And these representations set a tone throughout society. Some can relate to the stereotypes, but most feel alienated from their racial community, and this is why racial identity matters.
Racial identity allows individuals to find comfort in a warming sensation of belonging. Whether it be a celebration or consolation, when things happen that affect entire races, it helps to be a part of the community.
How It Impacts Lives
Racial Identity impacts all different aspects of racism from pregnancy outcomes and mass incarceration to education disparity and police brutality. But to best explain why racial identity matters, it is essential to understand how it affects lives. The play and movie, “American Son,” addresses the issue with admirable accuracy.
In the movie, the son, Jamal, has a white father and a black mother. Jamal lives in a majority white neighborhood, went to a majority white school, and hangs out with white kids. On paper, Jamal could easily be mistaken as white.
The Two Realities
From growing up in a white community, Jamal incurred two different realities. In this reality, his white friends make comments like “you’re not that black” or “you’re the whitest black person,” thus diminishing his association with the black community.
These comments may seem like nothing but sarcastic and innocent jokes. But it wreaks havoc inside the minds of those who struggle with racial identity by denying their sense of association.
The other reality reminds Jamal that he is most definitely not white.
When Jamal walks past the mirror, he’s reminded he’s black.
When he sees a boy that looks like him mercilessly murdered on television, he’s reminded he’s black.
When the government asks what his race is, he’s reminded he’s black.
All his life, he is told that he is black.
When people make comments like those above, it goes against what the world tells him. It makes them feel isolated from any community. Lack of community means no one to console with and no one to relate to.
It is vital that we, as a society, take this issue seriously. It is essential to ingrain the proper ideas into children’s minds. Treasure your child’s racial identity. It could be small to you, but to them, it can mean the whole world.
Race was designed as a prejudiced form of identification to enable oppression. It is not the determiner of who someone must be to fit that mold.
In fact, there is no mold. What you make think a black person must be, or what an Asian person must be, is merely what society prejudicially decided Asians and black people must be. Not what and who they indeed are.
It may be difficult, but for change to come, it is crucial that you challenge what the world tells you.