Table of Contents
There has been an increased interest towards understanding the culture off identity. In this era, it can be said that a new form of recognition, a system of identification arose. This system breaks down the individual from a large multitude, outing in place a collection of various identification marks such as color, race and sexuality. The culture of identity removes individualism and enhances the feeling of belonging to, where an individual perception is defined by the group upon which they feel they belong to. The social group has its own distinguishable marks and identification measures which are shared among all members.
Weedon (2004) cites that perhaps in this era the most fundamental identification mark was race. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King the ultimate leaders of this era are often associated with the identification marks that is, black and white. The culture identity theory emphasizes that the personal identity is forged out of shared experiences and interactions. For both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, early family experiences developed and emphasized feelings of hate for a culture that despised people of a specific colour. Based on this assumption, they developed what many historians have termed as “black pride”. Black pride allowed people, even those in far off regions to come together. The feeling of belonging was based on simple identification marks, are you black or are you white. Black people held pride in their skin colour, developed hatred for the segregation culture and were protestors, people united to fight for what they considered their own rights.
Malcolm’s struggle was against systems and classifications that defined the black individual as less than human. To him and his predecessor, this was an attempt to reduce the social identity of the black person. For decades, the blacks were individuals each suffering on his own and each seemingly not aware of the other. The presence and belief in Martin and Malcolm brought together the blacks against white racism. The suffering of one individual became the suffering of all people of black skin.
On 1st December 1953 for example, Rosa parks a singular black woman passenger was arrested for refusing to vacate a seat in the public transport bus in favor of a white woman. The single event caused uproar, with martin Luther and other political leaders leading the African Americans in a boycott of all buses in the transport system. Several marches resulted and many more were arrested in solidarity with Rosa Parks
Another identification mark significant in the 20th century is Gender. Catherine Mackinnon is the most prominent figure in matters of gender and especially sexual harassment. Before her, women suffered in the workplace and had little to no power for anything to be done. Mackinnon succeeded in bringing women together, so that they now became a social group with much more significant power. According to Castells (1997), culture identity gives individuals powered and a significant boost where they were otherwise weak and small. In the previous decade, sexual harassment though present had not raised any significant concerns. With Mackinnon’s publication of sexual harassment of working women however, women all over the world not just in the Americas arose to fight the vice. It was no longer about an individual being harassed by a particular supervisor or boss. Rather, it became more about women in general being discriminated and the fight for women to be treated equally with all men.
Gender is a strong market in culture identity, almost stronger than the race and color of the skin. A singular case is often translated into, “we women” against the men. In 1970, Betty Freidan made her name by showing that identity in gender went beyond any skin color. Women of different races, social classes and even countries took to the street protesting the nomination of Cars well who opposed the equality in employment of women.
Culture identity often enhances the differences between people making it difficult to foster nay form of cooperation. For example, in the late 20th century, blacks and whites regarded each other with suspicion and sometimes great animosity even where their cooperation was needed for success.
In a society where culture identity is enhanced, it is difficult to see beyond the features that distinguish people. When a woman for example is not employed, it is deemed to be a gender issue (Hall and Gay, 1996). Rarely do people take the time to look at other qualifications that may have caused her to miss the opportunity such as education and experience. It is immediately categorized as sexual discrimination.
Culture identity makes equality impossible because often it enhances what others have and others do not. Before the coming of Luther and Malcolm X, there was little being heard about segregation and classification. However, the identity fostered by the two has led to remnants of the same even to this day. Often, the issue of race is cited when one person lacks and another has. It seems that equality will never be achieved as long as individuals think of themselves as being from one race or another.
Castells, Manuel. The Power of Identity. Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 1997.
Hall, Stuart, and Gay P. Du. Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage, 1996
Weedon, Chris. Identity and Culture. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2004.