Advanced Essay # 2: Identity of Self vs. Society
Laughter and a sense of lightness filled the night. Family Dollar sign is shining in our faces. There were six of us. As soon as we’re at the door, a woman stands in front of us with a stern face at us. She had her arm crossed, back straight, and her feet stood apart. Suddenly, I notice the cold wind and the laughter dying out.
“Why are y’all here?” She questioned. Before I could answer, my sister beat me to it.
“We have money.” Zoe proceeds to take out the three dollars I gave her and laughter came alive. Despite this, the woman looks were unwavering and laughter died again.
“Y’all sure?” She asked. “When a group of young black folks come around, it only means one thing in this store.” She didn’t need to say anything for us to know what she meant. Nyomi spoke this time.
“Ma’am. We are Christian black sisters. We’re not looking for trouble, but for snacks.” Everyone smiled at that, and finally, the woman smiled.
“Well, I can’t say no to that.” She started. “Come in and getcha goodies. I had to be precautious with people like y’all.” Everyone went in and got their snack, the light mood back. But I couldn’t help to think how we were treated. We’re young folks, but that doesn’t mean we’re a part of the worst of them. Why did she think that way? Why did she question me about who am I?
As we grow older, we start to learn about ourselves and start to form an identity that fits who we are. Our identity can be influenced and can change from time to time, but it still fits for us. However, we are also born to the identities from society the moment we’re born. These identities can be permanent or temporary. With such identities from society, we become victims of the stereotypes of the identity, whether it’s good or bad. How then, are we to be comfortable with social identity? We don’t. Instead, we put a mask of what society deems acceptable, despite how we may feel.
However, when we do so, not only do we do it to fit in, but also we end up having a disconnection to each other. Thandie Newton, an actress, said in a Ted Talk entitled Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself, “Only we're not living with each other; our crazy selves are living with each other and perpetuating an epidemic of disconnection.” (July 2011) This quote shows the separation between people within a society. With the identity society puts on us, it causes people to stick with similar identities to themselves and that understands the pressure with that identity. As a result, many don’t wish to approach people who are different from themselves. In society, it’s been taught that being different can be good. However, when there’s a certain trait is what makes a person different (a different identity that goes against norms for different), it becomes unacceptable and shamed on. So instead of continuing to keep showing it, people decide to hide it in an acceptable identity and stick to those people with that same identity.
Thinking about this, it makes me think of what Wesley Morris, an author from New York Times Magazine, wrote in one article called Why ‘Self-Identifying’ Is Different From Coming Out, “[i]t’s [easier] to hate whom you can’t see and harder to hate whom you can.”(Dec 2015) The idea of Morris shows how others refuse to get to know the person and puts an identity they see fit for them to either love or hate on it. Instead of accepting people, many people choose to ignore their identity and continue to put them in an identity they see fit. Why? It helps them to categorize people who they consider good and the people they consider bad. It’s hard to accept or reject a person when they already know who they are. However, when going off of someone's identity, it can be from what they can see. Even if it’s not fully who the person is. This helps them in their mind to fit into society, but also to protect themselves.
It annoys me to know when people put an identity on me, they’re right. I’m talking about when they went at it the wrong way. Despite my maturity and mannerism, I do some things that are youthful-like. Some are okay with that while others judge when I do. “Typical” becomes their favorite word to say around me. It felt as if they expected that. Just like the woman expected of Hush Puppy to act a certain way. In the shelter scene of the movie called Beasts of the Southern Wild, the woman is yelling at Hush Puppy saying, “You’re going to have time-out. Are you even listening to me?” (June 2012) Hush Puppy and the girls from the Bathtub are dressed up nicely. They’re not listening to her and are not sure what to do with themselves. It was expected of Hush Puppy to misbehave because she was never raised that way in the Bathtub. When she does so, the woman is questioning her in an angry way. That the behavior of Hush Puppy isn’t normal in her society.
Looking into society, I see a lot of people together yet separate. It’s a wonder who they are. Will there ever be a time to show it? Does there need to be an identity in every aspect of who we are? Thought it’s all around, it is not seen in SLA. Here, people can be themselves and not be judged for it. Maybe society can start with a little less hate, like SLA.