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Identity—what am I seeing?
I was unsatisfied with a view of myself and others that reduced identity to physical characteristics.
This article was originally published on October 7, 2021, as a Web Original.
When I was in high school, I was surrounded by a culture that was very invested in placing people into categories, and the most important category was race. It was considered a moral duty for everyone to be conscious of their own race and to try and reckon with what that meant. I was taught that for some people it meant they were doomed to a life of struggle and oppression; for others it meant contending with the “fact” that they were inherently prejudiced people, and that, because they occupied positions of privilege, they had unwittingly benefited from the prejudices of some, which had resulted in the oppression of others.
Coming from a racially mixed background, I found these cultural rules confusing. At different times I was able to experience both sides of this divide, but I didn’t seem to fit in perfectly anywhere. Furthermore, I recognized that everyone has complex and varied experiences related to the way they look, and I wanted to understand and respect those experiences. As a student of Christian Science, however, I was also unsatisfied with a view of myself and others that reduced identity to physical characteristics—and seemed to make them more important than everything else.