The Construction Of The Invisible Identity: A Method Of Social Oppression

2668 words - 11 pages

The Construction of the Invisible Identity:A Method of Social Oppression[Always have the title at the top of your first page of writing. I also see that you went way over the word count limit. Remember when you do that you take unfair advantage, by about 500 words, of your classmates who stick to the word requirements. One can add many extra supports for an argument with an extra 500 words.]The question of where individual identity originates is not easily answered. Essentialist theory would argue that "authentic identity" comes from within the individual, that all people possess traits that are a natural part of one's make-up and cannot be changed. Such theory would suggest that each race has its own inherent traits, both physical and behavioral, that are passed on to the individual. In his essay, "Essentialism and the Complexities of Racial Identity," Michael Eric Dyson defines one of the significant considerations of essential theory "that identity is socially and culturally constructed from the raw materials of the individual and social, the private and public, and the domestic and civic. Racial identity is not exhausted by genetic inheritance."(Goldberg 223) Influences such as family, social environment, geographic location, and historical circumstances [form ethnicity] are significant factors in the development of the individual identity. Race by itself is not an overriding influence, "although [identity] is undeniably rooted in pigment and physiology, racial identity transcends their boundaries." (224) There is no question that society bears much of the responsibility for how the individual is shaped, as no one lives in a vacuum; people are destined to interact with each other, and by consequence, act upon one another. Such interactions result in responses from the individual. External reactions to social intercourse might suggest how society forces the individual to internalize the reactions of others. This internalization impacts the individual's identity as his perception of self is defined by outside influences.One social force that has a direct impact on the identity of the individual is racial identification. In their book Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant state: "Everybody learns some combination, some version, of the rules of racial classification, and of their own racial identity, often without obvious teaching or conscious inculcation. Race becomes 'common sense' - a way of comprehending, explaining, and acting in the world." (Omi 106) Throughout the history of man, people have assigned identity based on race, both as a means of distinguishing one group from another (i.e. categorization), but moreimportantly as a means of control. The dominant culture assigns identity to minority groups as a means of separating them, therefore diminishing their existence, and ultimately as a means of maintaining control over them. In many social structures, the status of the individual is based on skin color...

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