American Racism Society
In Nathan McCall’s “Makes Me Wanna Holler,” he describes the difficulties he must face as a young black boy experiencing the slow, never-ending process of the integration of blacks and whites. Through this process, his autobiography serves as an excellent example of my theory on the formation and definition of racial identity; a theory which is based upon a combination of the claims which Stuart Hall and George Lipsitz present in their essays regarding racial identity. Therefore the definition I have concocted is one in which racial identity consists of an unstable historical process through which one comes to know themselves in relation to an outside group. In this paper I will present Hall and Lipsitz’s arguments, describing how they confirm and support one another, leading to my theory concerning racial identity. I will then show how this theory is clearly exemplified in the story of McCall’s childhood.
In Stuart Hall’s “Ethnicity: Identity and Difference,” he claims that identity is a volatile social process through which one comes to see the self. Hall argues that identity is not a thing rather a process “…that happens over time, that is never absolutely stable, that is subject to the play of history, and the play of difference.” These factors are constantly entering the individual in a never-ending cycle, re-establishing and affirming who one is.
The “play of difference” contributes to this cycle through what Hall identifies as “the Other,” an outside group used for differentiation. He claims that “only when there is an Other can you know who you are.” The “Other” serves to provide a comparison in order to discover that which one is not; this is differentiation. Identity does not solely rely on the social differentiation of the self – identity is mutually constructed. It does not exist without “the dialogic relationship to the Other.”(Hall, 11) That is, one’s personal narrative of the self must also come into play, relating identity to difference.
This personal narrative is attained only because of the important role History plays in tying these factors together. In order for one to relate identity to difference using the dialogical method, he/she must “position [themselves] somewhere in order to say anything at all.” This position is attained through an understanding of history; a history which is constructed not only politically, but also through narrative and memory. (Hall, 13) The past is “recovered” and therefore present in our lives.
Throughout his essay, Hall applies his ideas regarding identity to race and racism through the examples he presents. He describes instances that show how members of certain races come to relate themselves to their race through the identity process he presents. The discovery of race, how people interpret one’s biological makeup, is also attributed to history and “the Other.” The form of racism, the system of providing disadvantages and...