Sociology of Identifying and Identity

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Continuing on with Theories of Race and Ethnicity, I will talk about the sociological definitions of identifying and identity, which was coined by Jean-Paul Restoule, in this article. This is an important concept to grasp because it is a such a great tool for understanding yourself and your true feelings
about your ethnicity.

What is identifying?

Identifying is a process that occurs in context to someone's situation and history. An Asian who practices and celebrates the traditions of his culture, and is proud of his ethnicity is considered a person who identifies with his heritage. However, it is hard for people (minorities) to identify because of colonization.

Colonization occurs when a dominant group uses social institutions to prevent minorities from feeling proud of their cultures. If you look back into Canadian history, you will discover that colonization was at play a lot. An example would be residential schools not allowing their First Nations students speak their native tongue because it was not a civilized language. 

What is identity?
Identity is an idea/belief which surpasses history and social situations. This is a stereotype or image that society has created for you and your ethnicity. Additionally, you tend to believe that this image is true.

Also, since this is how the "out-group" culture views the "in-group" culture, this stereotype or image tends to survive much longer. An example of this would be the many stereotypes about the 'races.' Asians are physically weak but naturally smart and good at math; Jewish people are cheap; Black people are dumb but genetically gifted at athletics, etc. None of these are true to entire groups of people. Maybe certain individuals and/or small groups, but definitely not entire 'races'.

Do you have any thoughts or comments on Restoule's concepts? Share them below in the comments area.

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