Our Group and Individual Identities

Isn`t it true that we all have many identities? We have group identities and our individual identity. We are a sex. Woman or man. We are a gender, a race, a nationality, a religion, an economic class, a boss or a worker, a member of a family and the list goes on. Where do these identities come from?

The group identities are often inherited. The characteristics attributed to the group identity are attributed to the individual. The struggle is often to change the group identity. To find and assert our own individual identity. To define an individual identity. As we grow up, we and others that we know, help to construct a personal identity. Then we even have to struggle against this personal construct at times.

I think a great deal of the social and personal strife is related to and about identity and the judgement that often follows it. Should we take a more “you tell me” attitude when comes to identity? You tell me what your race, your sex, gender, nationality, religion, and etc. means. Shouldn’t you tell me who you are, rather than I tell you what you are, by identifying group identities and applying the standard characteristics to you?

That works until we get a Rachel Dolezal saying she “identifies as African-American” when she isn’t.

When you throw in the fact that certain group identities are entitled to certain social and even government and private benefits, like consideration in admissions to colleges, or grant funds, then it gets even more problematic to have people just picking what identity they are.


I prefer to call a spade a spade. What you are saying is can’t we get rid of stereotypes? My identity wasn’t formed by stereotypes but by what I saw in the mirror and around my dinner table. A great deal of the social and personal strife is related to a lack of knowledge and an understanding of reality along with the reluctance to accept reality.

Maybe it is because I don’t have many contacts with people who put any value on stereotypes and prefer to place their judgment based on quality of character and behavior of the individual.

I think I agree that choosing a group identity without matching characteristics is a problem for people. For instance, Catholics do not like it when someone identifies as Catholic when they do not have all of the matching characteristics or behaviors. They call these cafeteria Catholics. Yet, on the other hand, it is Catholics that should tell non-Catholics what it means to belong to their group.

Don’t you think it true that people sometimes choose to identify as only one of their many group identities and that is also a problem. Case in point: blacks as compared to whites.

First I notice that these are opposite terms when speaking about color. It is common to build up a group identity that the person identifies with. “We are smart and we are strong.” But when speaking about a relative group identity the tendency is to detract. “We are smarter and stronger.” This is possibly natural competitiveness.

The thing is that people are much more than just one group identity. No one is just white or black. I think part of the strife arises when we narrow the view to just one group identity and base judgement around it alone. It is more complex to consider the numerous group identities that a person identifies with and their meanings. So something like racsim or sexism is fundamentally a form of oversimplification to begin with. Even then we must review our knowledge of the group identity under consideration for accuracy.

We need to remember that a lot of group identities, not only racial but also things like “feminist” or today’s neo-masculine groups, or LGBTQ groups, or victims of abuse/ other crimes, etc, are reactions in part to feelings of having been oppressed by other groups seen as more dominant. Members of a group that’s dedicated to fighting this oppression tend to see everything in terms of oppression. In some cases they are right, but in other cases the group mindset - “we’re members of an oppressed group” - colors the thinking of the group when it comes to the perception of how they are treated and what other groups are saying/ doing. Something that looks neutral or like a small thing to someone outside the group, looks like a huge thing to those within the group because it’s being viewed through the lens of long-term or pervasive oppression. This creates communications problems between the group members and those outside the group.


You have to be rational and realistic about identities especially with regards to how others see you, you can’t expect someone to see what isn’t there. For example some people seem to identify as talented singers but to everyone else they are tone deaf.

Yes. Much as it is abused, the idea of privilege that the left uses is not without merit. Compare the reactions of a randomly selected group of men and a randomly selected group of women to being told to park their car at the far end of an unlit parking lot, and you’ll probably learn a good deal about different experiences real fast.

I shouldn’t have to tell you anything, and here’s why.
If you and I were to meet IRL, you wouldn’t be meeting an identity, you would be meeting a person.
Some of my likes and dislikes are typical to my race, age and social class, but some of them are not.
But it doesn’t matter.
As we got to know each other, we would figure each other out, learn how to connect and relate as two persons, and not two stereotypes.

I will say this, on a professional level, if I know my patient comes from a culture where, say, eye contact is kept to a minimum, I will plan my encounter accordingly.

Or the way Black Lives Matter got upset when people started saying “ALL Lives Matter”.

To most of us, “All Lives Matter” is a fine statement, it means all humans matter, including black people and regardless of race or ethnicity. I even have heard it from the pulpit.

To BLM, it meant we were saying black people didn’t matter. I disagree with that interpretation, but that is how they saw it based on their experience and the fact that “Black Lives Matter” was supposed to be about the special dangers that members of their group face from the police.

I honestly actually kind of agree on that one. A lot of these “all” type movements seem to end up watering down the original point. It’s more a version of changing the subject.

Kind of like if you went to your spouse and said “I don’t feel like you’re doing your share of the housework,” and they responded with “well, we need to make sure everyone is doing their fair share of the housework, not just me.” That’s technically true, but I imagine most people would still be very annoyed upon hearing it. Because the conversation at that moment was about whether that particular individual was doing their share, or whether they were leaving it to you.

I realize reasonable minds may vary in the issue. I see it through the lens of someone who was aware for years (because I was involved with criminal justice system) that people of color are not always treated fairly by law enforcement. So it wasn’t new news to me. I can say “All Lives Matter” and even include police (“Blue Lives Matter”) in the “All” without denying the point that there is often a problem in USA between people of color and police officers.

Someone else might use “All Lives Matter” as a watering down or to deny the BLM’s original point.

Overall though, “All Lives Matter” is Christian teaching. They do matter. Each and every person’s life is equally precious in God’s sight, whether it’s the cop or the person of color being arrested.


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