Last week was the first week of second semester classes, so I had a plan in my head to write today, because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day therefore not only will I have some time to kill (that’s a joke), but I’ll have plenty to write about.
In retrospect, I should have taken five minutes several times throughout the week, because now there is so much good stuff that I would be better off writing a non-fiction book rather than a blog post.
But since it’s MLK Day I’ve got something specific on my mind.
JLMC 477 is a class I’m taking right now for my journalism minor. It’s called Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in the Media. (You’re seeing how this is going to relate to MLK now aren’t ya?!)
This is the first semester I’m taking 400 level courses, and I am really excited because the content of the upper-level courses is really interesting more often than not. And so far this one does not disappoint.
Assignment #1 is called “Roll the Dice.” The instructions are below. I encourage you to play along!
ROLL THE DICE
Take about 60 seconds and think about characteristics of your identity.
This part didn’t do much for me. I started the homework with the intent of just getting it done rather than learning. (Hey, I’ll admit my errors! I’m only human.)
Next, read the handout article titled “Complexity of Identity” by Beverly Daniel Tatum It’s only a couple of pages long. It is also available here: The Complexity of Identity. I hyperlinked this thing, because it was the point that I actually started to think.
Then, go to Random.org Dice Roller (you should see three dice) and click on the ROLL AGAIN button to get three random numbers. Use the lists below to determine your NEW assigned identity (at least two, if not all three, should be different than your current identity.) If your real identity is white, heterosexual, age 24, your new identity should be different in at least TWO categories. That is, only one may still be white, heterosexual, or age 24.
From your dice roll, list your NEW identity. See categories on below.
_______________________________ First Die (Ethnicity)
_______________________________ Second Die (Gender)
_______________________________ Third Die (Age/Ability/Other)
|FIRST DIE: RACE/ETHNICITY
||SECOND DIE: GENDER/SEXUAL ORIENTATION
||THIRD DIE: AGE/ABILITY/OTHER
1 = Asian
2 = Black
3 = First People / Native
4 = Hispanic/Latina(o)
5 = White
6 = Middle Eastern
1 = Female Heterosexual
2 = Male Heterosexual
3 = Bisexual
4 = Lesbian
5 = Gay
6 = Transgender/Inter-sexed
1 = Up to 16
2 = 17-30
3 = 30-50
4 = 50 and older
5 = Differently Abled (blind/deaf/use a chair)
6 = Non-Christian Religion
The real me is a white, heterosexual female, age 20. So my dice are 5, 1, and 2.
Upon rolling the virtual dice I became a white lesbian adolescent. My new dice were 5, 4, and 1. I guess I lucked out by one of them remaining the same. Now back to the instructions…
Take another couple minutes and think about your new identity. What do you know about your new identity? How much of it comes from personal experience? How much from interactions with a person or persons that fit that identity profile? How much from media?
This was the real reflection part. What do I know about my new hypothetical identity compared to my real one? I’m pretty good at being white I guess. With my new sexual orientation being white is going to help me avoid a fair amount of added trouble. You can say “It’s 2013, racism isn’t real,” but you’re fooling yourself. Truth is racism is everywhere BECAUSE it is only 2013. Shoot, my dad was born only three years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (And you are still a very young man, Dad, and you don’t look a day over 30.) And it’s no secret that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t exactly make the whole country to a 180 overnight.
The fact that I am now 14 years old again really stinks. Everyone tells you when you’re that age that “these are the best years of your life” and I say AS IF! When you’re that age you think you’re grown up, but really you’re still extremely awkward. Kids are mean. You are still completely dependent, a little selfish, and very unsure of yourself. Don’t get me wrong, there are very wonderful things about being that age, but high school is so far from being the best years of your life. So to all the high school kids out there: The average life expectancy in America is over 75 years old, do not believe anyone who tells you it all goes downhill after your teens! It makes up like 5% of your entire life!
And finally, the biggest change to my identity. The dice left me female, which I love being. But it also told me I now love female beings. Huh. This is the most difficult one for me to envision. I picture myself feeling very misunderstood by my family, friends, and teammates, but I don’t know to what extent they would reject me, it’s not something I have ever though about. If it was one of my friends or family members who came out gay, I don’t think I would see them any differently, but that’s just me. When I care I care deeply and unconditionally. But I can’t control how any one else feels. I must say it would take some real guts to “come out,” especially as a kid.
I’m going to paraphrase the rest of the assignment. After thinking about our new identities for awhile, we were instructed to Google them and see what we find, then type up a summary.
Warning: Think about what you’re typing in! not everything on the internet is PG!
I found a lot of information on what how parents should deal with their child “coming out” and startling statistics about bullying, harassment, and suicide rates amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teenagers. There are a lot fiction and non-fiction novels written for girls with my new identity. I found a web-forum where lesbian teenage girls were talking about their loneliness, confusion, fears, and feelings of abandonment. It was interesting and sad to read those posts.
So why was I so moved by this assignment? Because it was one unlike any other. It required me to think, but not in the same way that I think when trying to memorize physiologic processes within the body, or math problems. I actually thought about who I am and how lucky I am to be the real me. I thought about how it would be to have a different identity and the new struggles I would face.
How many of us see a person of another race, religion, or sexual orientation and actually think about what their life is like compared to ours? Do you see a disabled person and laugh at them, pity them, or just feel glad that it isn’t you? There are no rules to how you are supposed to feel toward other people. But I must say, putting myself in their shoes gives me a whole new appreciation for who I am, and a brand new respect for the things other people struggle with on a daily basis.
And finally, it made me challenge my beliefs about how I see the real me as well.
In what ways do other people’s perceptions of me influence who I think I am? The media portrays white college females in a variety of ways. Which of these ways do I model myself after? Is that really me? People are always going to have opinions on who they think I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to act that way if that isn’t the real me.
We are all guilty of this. We base our decisions on what we THINK we know what we want. But what we think we want is usually what has been drilled into our brains by others. For example, a little girl saves an injured bird when she is seven, so her parents decide she will be a vet one day. Years later she is in college studying to be a vet with no idea how or why she got there. Maybe she will go on to be a truly great vet, but maybe one day she realizes her passion lies in criminal justice.
Until we allow ourselves to have a fluid self image we will continue to rely on what we think we want, and who we think we are (based on what others have told us) and not what we feel. We have to let our own light shine from our soul, because when we let our own light shine, only then can we light the path for others.