Nathanial Garrod

Identity and Me

One of the assignments in the Student Development Theory class I am in is to facilitate the discussion for the second half of class. A week ago today was our second week discussing privilege – the reading for class was the first three chapters of “Why Do All The Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?” by Tatum.

There was an activity during the first portion of my peers presentation. We were to write down ten parts of our identity each on individual sticky notes.

These are a few of the things I wrote down.

  • Straight
  • White
  • Male
  • Christian
  • Low Socio-Economic Status
  • Californian
  • Nerd
  • First-Generation Student
  • Orphan

When we were done, we were assigned to pair up with someone else in class and share our ten characteristics. After sharing, we were instructed to remove five parts from our partners stack of sticky notes. We took our remaining five stickies and partnered with someone else, shared our remaining identities, and lost three more. With only two parts of our identity left we were to find one final partner. After sharing, this partner removed one of our identities.

Several questions were asked; “how would you feel if people only treated you like this part of your identity?” “How would you feel if this was your only identity?”

What I was left with was First-Generation Student (FGS). I think the power and impact of being a FGS has been more significant for me since I earned my Bachelor’s degree. I realize now how incredible and significant it is to achieve what I have achieved – to break a cycle – and I now feel very passionately about advocating for this group.

I selected Nerd over Geek because of John Green’s quotes… “being a nerd means you actually care about something more important than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan…”  and “…being a nerd means that you’re allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff…” I am so incredibly passionate about Science-Fiction because I believe that in removing ourselves form our element we see what makes and breaks people. I think it is one of the few ways we can truly understand what humanity means. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in Science-Fiction. Probably my moms fault, for showing me Star Trek when I was young.

I feel like so often people see me as a Straight White Christian Male. This fear almost paralyzes me, makes me more awkward. These are four of the most privileged categories one can be in and I do not want to be seen as just these things. I am an ally. I want to understand other stories. And just because I am a guy does not mean I am into wrestling and football and hating the mall.

A year ago – or even less – I never would have said that being Californian was a significant part of my identity. Yet being away from home makes me miss the land of avacados and grapes, rolling hills, blushing skies and frigid waters lapping at the sand. I miss the places just as much as the people. The attitude, the style, the awesome. Yet I lived there. It helped form me and shape me. It made me into who I was when I came here. California became a part of me, so I carry California with me. Also, would California fall within Hank Green’s rules for Terrible Names for Children?

Low Socio-Economic Status (SES) is far too often combined with FGS, and it is not always true. I knew a young man in undergrad who came from a very well-off family, they just had not been to college. SES compounded with FGS is something that is very challenging. I come from a background of not knowing if the lights were going to be on next month and “you can’t wear that color outside.” It is weird for me to be able to fill up my car then buy a beverage from Starbucks. I have enough money that I’m not eating rice and beans every night for dinner. I can go out and eat with people.

Yet if all of these things were removed from me and all I had was First-Generation Student, I would be okay with that. Because I think that is the one part of my identity that can compile all my other identities well.

I wrote this because I felt like I needed to write down an explanation (mostly for myself) of why I selected what I selected, and what some of these characteristics mean to me.

What identities do you have? How would you feel if you could only identify with one of them? Get the conversation going down in comments!

3 Comments on “Identity and Me

  1. Nick
    April 9, 2012

    It’s interesting that you lump yourself into low-SES. I suppose it depends on how you measure SES. If you use income alone – sure, you and I are in the same boat. If you look at education AND income, I’d argue that you are most certainly NOT in a low-SES, but likely a mid-SES group. Such a sticky concept!

    • Hope
      April 9, 2012

      I would argue that education does not directly influence SES, though SES can highly influence education because of opportunity and access. However, being lucky enough to be educated does not automatically bump someone up in SES status. (Socio-economic status literally means income and wealth.) As someone who comes from a very low-income background, the only way that I was able to pay for college was through grants, scholarships, and loans. This definitely does not mean that I am any higher in SES. Hopefully, because I will be receiving an advanced degree, I will be able to hold a higher paying job and raise my SES. However, I am still a grad student, still struggling, and still low-SES.

      • Nick
        April 10, 2012

        Your points are quite astute, and I don’t doubt that SES is related to education (e.g., access, financial resources, cognitive outcomes, see Hart & Risley, 1995.) SES is not determined on a singular criteria — income, education or occupation, but again – it goes back to your conceptualization of SES. The government prefers equations that rely specifically on income and wealth to determine eligibility for social services while excluding educational attainment. However, at least from a psychological perspective, someone who has a bacc. degree would likely not be classified as low-SES based simply on their net-worth. Many people have differing views of SES, and that’s not going to be resolved soon, haha, but even the NCES uses a tripartite definition including income, education and occupation (Sirin, 2005). Haha, SES is not a straightforward concept..but yeah.

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2012 by in Education, Student Affairs, Thoughts.