As we have started our journey towards becoming teachers, I believe it is of vital importance to expand our understanding of the world, to adapt our perceptions of reality and to become active citizens in our society. Being an active citizen encourages one to participate in the community, to contribute positively and to be an agent of change. I believe that it is the purpose of EDUB1613 to allow us to go beyond merely learning in the classroom and to become actively involved in our societies, communities, and one day, our schools. I regard EDUB as a challenging module, not academically challenging, but rather challenging in the sense of my believes, values and perceptions.
By taking into consideration our own individual identities and where we come from, one is able to see the importance of or social and multiple identities, as well as the intersectionality thereof. Furthermore, we are able to see how the cycle of socialisation has experienced in or own lives as well as influenced our position in society. The cycle of socialisation, combined with our social and multiple identities, have made us aware of social inequalities and enabled us to be agents of change and active citizens.
On 4 February 1999, I, Rochelle Roos van Wyk, was born in Westville Hospital, Durban. The screaming pink bundle of flesh I was back then, would have never guessed the journey I had lying ahead of me.
I lived a peaceful life for 4 years until an even louder and pinker bundle of flesh came into the world; my little sister. My family then existed out of me and my sister, my mom, my dad, as well as my half brother and sister. We lived in Pietermaritzburg for most of my life and I attended an Afrikaans primary school, Gert Maritz, and an English high school. The transition from Afrikaans to English was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome in high school.
I immensely enjoyed high school and still believe it was the place where I had grown the most. It was also here that I became aware of the diverse group of people we have in our country, their cultures, religions and values and beliefs. During this time I continuously challenged my own believes, values and perceptions of society. I believe that it was due to my high school, and my upbringing, that I have always been an open-minded individual; always aware of injustices and oppressive behaviors. It was also then when I discovered who I am; my own social identity and my multiple identities.
Identity and Multiple Identities
Social identity relates to the way we identify ourselves according to that which we have in common with others. Some identities are stigmatized and some social identities are multiple. Together, the different roles a person plays helps them understand their overall identity. (Howstuffworks.com contributors N/S) As a result, the social identity theory was developed as an integrative theory, that aimed to connect cognitive processes and behavioral motivation.
British social psychologist, Henri Tajfel, and his student, John Turner, developed this social identity theory in the 1970s. The key ideas of social identity theory are the following: (Ellemers 2017)
• Cognitive Processes – This process involves the following; the inclination of individuals to identify themselves as members of a group rather than individuals, individuals determining the relative value or social standing of the group, and their own sense of who they are is affected by the way they view other individuals in the group.
• Motivation – social behaviour is determined by the individual (interpersonal behaviour) as well as by the individual’s group. As a result, individuals are inclined to seek out positively valued traits, attitudes, and behaviours that can be seen as acceptable by their group.
• Strategies For Status Improvement – The motivation to create a positive social identity lies at the core of intergroup conflict. Disadvantaged groups attempt to improve their group’s position and social status, while members of advantaged groups aim to protect and preserve their privileged position.
As evident above, our social identities are determined by the groups we join and their views of us. As a result, the factors of identity which are most evident in dominant groups are often ignored due to individuals perceiving them to not be important enough to mention when considering one’s identity. (Tatum 2000) Certain forms of identity, such as race, have been discriminated against for many years. We therefore have to keep our privilege in mind as part of certain dominant groups. By discussing and bringing up these issues, minority groups gain traction as we encourage others to be more accepting and prevent discrimination because of identity.
Multiple identities, however, is the idea that we do not have one central identity, but multiple. (JRank N/S) One’s ‘multiple identity’ can encompass different, and often contradictory, identities. Our multiple identities are generally the identities we associate with, or use to describe ourselves.
A number of these identities, such as race or ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and physical or mental ability, have an element of oppression associated with it. Each one of these identities presents us with a dominant (privileged by society) and a subordinate or targeted (disadvantaged by society) group. (Tatum 2000) Each individual is both a member of a dominant and targeted group, yet we focus on the targeted and the dominant identities are left unexamined.
Since our multiple identities are socially constructed, the specific number and characteristics of our identities are constructed over time due to the social environments that shape us. Consequently, our multiple identities, both social and personal, are relevant and engaged in our social milieu. (JRank N/S) Each of our identites respond to our social environmnet and the context of the situation and, as a result, no one identity is more self-defining or true than any other.
Intersectionality of Identities and Multiple Identities
Intersectionality can be defined as incorporating the immense range of cultural, structural, and social contexts and roles through which we are shape and with which we identify. (Roysircar 2016) Our identity and its self-definition are complexly interlinked between individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations, and relationships.
Intersectionality focuses on our similarities and differences experienced by individuals in the same social groups, “with a focus on marginalized aspects of identity that result from structural inequalities and oppressions”. (Roysircar 2016) An example of this would be the experiences of black homosexual professional male, in contrast to that of a white homosexual professional male. Here oppressions, such as being homosexual, and privileges, such as being professional males, are elements of their interlocking identities. This can therefore result in various systems of inequality that are transformed by the intersections of multiple identities.
Thus, intersectionality is more than just incorporation, as it can be used to make groups conscious of inequalities by creating common injustices between these two previously unrelated groups; as we see with the white and black male who would not have previously been associated, had it not been for oth of them being homosexual. One therefore has to be aware of one’s own intersecting identities, as well as those with whom you interact. This is due to each of your multiple identities providing one with various levels of power, privilege, and oppressive experiences.
One should however not be ashamed of your multiple identities, as it is this sense of multiple identities which is what “adds colour and flavour to our lives, what makes us more dappled as individuals and which is something to cherish.” (Rajab 2014) Economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen, has emphasised the following; “I can be at the same time an Asian, an Indian citizen, a US resident, a British academic and a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry.” (Rajab 2014) It is however important to be aware of the roles each of these identities plays in your live, and the privlidges and injusties accompanied with each. To name these identities is an empowering process and leads to a better understanding of the positive and negative implications that the multiple identities have on the individual’s ability to participate equally and free of prejudice and assumptions, at all levels of society. (Johnson 2017)
Cycle of Socialisation
The Cycle of Socialization helps us understand the way in which we are socialized to accept specific roles, how we are affected by oppression, and how we help maintain an oppressive system based upon power. (Adams 1997) The cycle of socilization is therefore that which creates, adpats and influences our identities. The cycle take place in seven stages:
1. The first circle in the cycle represents the circumstances we are born into and have no control over. When we are born, we are born without bias, assumptions, or questions and we are born either into a privileged or underprivileged situation.
2. The first arrow illustrates the fact that we are immediately socialized. This socialization is generally on the grounds of our gender; a pink blanket if you are a girl or a blue blanket if you are boy. We are therefore immediately associated with a certain group and will be judged if we do not act accordingly. This socialization takes place interpersonally and intrapersonally.
3. The institutions and cultures that shape our view, beliefs and prejudices or acceptance, is represented by the second circle. The institutions include ones school and church, whereas the cultures include media and language. (HARRO 1982)
4. The second arrow shows how our instilled of ideas, beliefs, and behaviours can reinforce the cycle of oppression. We therefore feel compelled to act a certain way, as it is perceived as the ‘norm’.
5. The third circle signifies the continuous cycle of oppression that we, ourselves, now create based on our identities.
6. The last arrow is the results of the cycle. We are forced to come to a conclusion with regards to the cycle. The conclusion may either affect us positively or negatively.
7. At the centre of the cycle of socialization is fear, misunderstanding, insecurity, confusion. All the elements that may have been reason to keep us in the cycle for so long.
In my own life, the cycle of socialisation has affected me in a number of ways. The beginning (circle no. 1) of the cycle resulted in me being born a white female in a middle-class home. Being white immediately categorised me in the dominant or agent group, as my racial group had never been historically oppressed or prone to harsh prejudices, and being of the middle-class gave me more opportunities than that of the lower-class. However, being a female place me in a target group, as women are perceived as the ‘weaker sex’. My first socialization (arrow no. 1) resulted in me often hearing phrases like “girls don’t sit like that” or “those toys are only for boys”. I did not question these instructions, as they were coming from people more experienced in life, so I merely obeyed. As I was in completely Afrikaans and primarily white primary school, my institutional and cultural socialization (circle no. 2) resulted in me being affected by prejudices concerning black people, as I was made to believe that black people were different from us. Enforcements (arrow no. 2) therefore affected me as I was afraid (the core) to question these incentives due to a fear of seeming strange and being excluded. The Results (circle no. 3) of these socializations, was that when I came to a completely racially diverse high school, the prejudices comments affected my ability to make friends with individuals from different races. I had to experience, by my own incentive, that all races were equal and capable of being friends. I have therefore begun to take action (arrow no. 3) and not allow another individual’s perceptions and prejudices’ to influence my own. I aim to be open minded and free to interpretation.
Being Aware of Societal Inequalities
“Social inequality is the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society.” – Katherine Moffitt (Moffitt N/S)
Social inequalities present itself in two forms; direct social inequality, which is deliberate, and indirect social inequality, which is unintentional. Social inequality, whether deliberate or not, is something we should all aim to be aware of. In an ideal society, where there are no social injustices, every citizen is able to contribute to their society equally and to, as a result thereof, improve the society in which they reside.
Although this is the ideal, social inequalities are very prominent in our society. The first time I was made aware of these inequalities was when I was in grade 5. I had been ill at school and had to be taken home. As a result, my mother had to leave work to come and pick me up. In the car she mentioned that she was called ‘unprofessional’ by a male co-worker due to leaving her office to collect me, yet merely a week ago her boss was praised for taking the day of to take care of his ill child. It then became aware to me that women are criticised a lot more in a professional world.
Women are still perceived by society as being the ‘caregiver’, yet the problem occurs when women try to balance work and family, and end up still having to carrying all of the care-giving responsibilities. It is no longer practical to fight for gender equality, and to still expect professional women not to be mothers.
This small incident that occurred when I was so young made me aware of the fact that I may one day not be perceived as an equal to the boys in my class. I realised that society has different views for different genders, and all though I have all the same abilities as a male, I will always be believed to be weaker due to a women’s ‘nurturing’ role.
The conclusion to your essay should outline some of your personal goals towards your journey of becoming an agent of change in the fight against the many kinds of oppression. Draw on the messages that you have received but which you would like to question.
Direct Social Inequality – Occurs when unfair treatment of a group(s) is deliberate and can be present in either community or government capacities.
Indirect Social Inequality – Occurs when unfair treatment of a group(s) is unintentional, but still takes place.
Integrative – combining two or more things to form an effective unit or system.
Interpersonally – refers to something involving, or occurring among several people.
Intrapersonally – involves oneself
Milieu – a person’s social environment.
Stigmatized – regarded as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval.
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Rajab, Kalim. An innocent conversation on dress conjures up deeper thoughts on identity and what it means to be a global citizen. . June 23, 2014. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2014-06-23-on-multiple-identities/#.WvwcbNR97s0 (accessed May 16, 2018).
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