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The Multidimensional Nature Of Identity

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Identity is dynamic and multiple. By this we mean that identity is not static, but changes as a function of your life experiences. Your identity is a composite of multiple identities, which are integrated, they do not work in isolation but in combination based on the situation. Racial identity is a dynamic sociopolitical construction and assists in the understanding of within-group differences of people of different races. Racial identity development is relevant to all racial groups and incorporates perspectives of a person’s view of self with regard to his or her own racial group and other racial groups. I identify as a black or African woman racially. My skin tone is brown, my hair in its natural state is curly and it shrinks when it touches water. As a black African I feel proud of all achievements that have been made by the people in the race, for example Barrack Obama, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Ethnically I identify with being a Somali. My family are originally from Somalia. My father is Hawiye which is the major clan in Somalia. My mother on the other hand is Isaaq which is also identified as the second major clan in Somalia. Therefore I identify myself with both Hawiye and Isaaq clan. My mother’s clan taught me to always respect my elders and what I say and do is the ultimate gate to heaven and future success. My father’s clan taught me to be independent and work hard towards my goal. Being part of an ethnic group gives me a strong sense of belonging and a stronger sense of community. Ethnicity is an essential typology as it helps explains my cultural roots, the reasons why we do things the way we do, the reason why we like the food we eat and the reason we dress the way we do.

My gender identity is that of a female. Due to my background, the way I was raised, my role models and the people that surround me, the gender roles attached to being a woman is not the traditional ones. It’s quite the opposite in my family. The women are more successful than the man and are more hard working. I was encouraged to do sports and take risks. There was very limited gender division in terms of roles and opportunity in my family. However, in the world we live in being a woman is almost a disadvantage based on the differential treatment that women are faced with compared to men. This can be seen in all aspects of life; economic, political and social. My gender identity is important, as it influences daily behavior consciously or unconsciously.

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My nationality is Somali since I was practically born there. However I also identify myself as Kenyan since I’ve lived here for many years and learnt the language, culture and its people. Getting a Kenyan passport isn’t easy and my parents tried to get us the passport but every year they tried, it ended up being complicated. This is because as we first arrived in Kenya, we came here as refugees due to the war that was going on back in Somalia, they took our finger prints and were identified as refugees. Due to this, we are still unable to get the Kenyan passports even though we lived here for 8 years. Hopefully, one of these years we get it.

Regionally, I identify with being a city girl. I have lived most of my life in Nairobi, I have schooled in different schools but they were all in Nairobi, the only time I’m not in Nairobi is when I visit my dad back in Mogadishu and my mother’s hometown in Hargeysia. Slowly by slowly I am starting to forget about where I used to live back in Somalia and am I now I dentify Nairobi as home since I lived here more years compared to Somalia.

My organization affiliation is a university student. This gives me a sense of belonging, as you don’t feel the pressure of getting an occupation yet. Society doesn’t pass judgement to people who say student as an occupation, as they would pass judgement to people who say they are unemployed. The organization affiliation gives me a sense of ease and belonging to a larger group of people. Additionally it gives me a sense a purpose. I didn’t start university immediately after I finished my O level exams, I took a gap year. I felt left out and worthless seeing my friends from highly who already started university before me. I wasn’t doing anything with my life, except eat, sleep and watch movies. I almost fell into depression, then I decided I won’t waste any more time, afterward I applied to USIU University and my spirits was lifted, as I felt useful once again because I had the potential to contribute to the community once I finished my education. I am who I am partly because of my family, but mostly because of who I want myself to be. I will never be exactly what I want to be because of my family upbringing, but I can provide myself with opportunities to live a somewhat similar life. My personal identity is shaped by many different aspects. Family, culture, friends, personal interests and surrounding environments are all factors that tend to help shape my personal identity. Family and culture influence my sense of responsibilities, ethics and morals, tastes in music, humor and sports, and many other aspects of life. Friends and surrounding environments influence my taste in clothing, music, speech, and social activities. Lastly my personal interests such as reading books, movies, watching football and specific types of foods also influence my personal identity.

Most people base their personal identity on the values, beliefs, practices and norms that people were raised by. Sometimes you might like something but you know those around you would not accept it. The cyber world allows someone to have a second personality from their original ones. It allows people to create a façade of who they really are. Social media sites allows people to portray more confident versions of themselves or false versions of themselves. It allows you to be cooler than your real life. The cyber world allows people to post their hidden fears and their preferences in life. For example, there is this social media platform called Pintrest that can allow you to be anonymous and post whatever you feel like. If you are always strong in real life and cannot show your emotions this platform allows you to post emotional things, basically, the world is your oyster when it comes to social media and the cyber world.

I am twenty one years old, which essentially means I’m no longer a teenager and I have entered my adulthood. I identify as a youth. My age group would determine how mature I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to behave. This is a perfect group for me as the term has a connotation of being carefree. I have very little responsibilities. I am responsible for my education and that’s about it. I depend on my parents for my financial expenses. I am old enough to make decisions without asking for permission from my parents, I can ask for advise but they respect my decisions in life, because at the end of the day it is my life and I will learn by making mistakes on my own. This is the time in life to experiment and learn about myself in order to be the best version of myself as an adult. It’s also important to note that all decisions as a twenty one year old has consequences and at my age I can be arrested if I break the law, therefore I can be held accountable for my actions. My age would dictate the different ways to act based on societal expectations. I consider myself as a religious person. It gives me a sense of purpose. Additionally, it’s nice believing in a higher power, and a reward in the afterlife if you are a “good person”. The religious faith that I believe in is Islam. This was determined by my culture and the ethnicity I was born in. Islam teaches me to respect elders and love children and promote brotherhood and sisterhood. Islam promotes justice and equality. You are treated equally either you are Arab, Non-Arab, White or Black you are treated equally in Islam. I was taught from a young age to pray five times a day and to always cover my hair when leaving the house. Of coarse there are times I didn’t follow up all the rules provided by the religion, but as we are young, we do things that are not in line with the religion. However as I grew up, I turned towards the religion and became closer to God. At the end of the day no one is perfect. Religion also helps me live a more structured life. I follow most of the rules and regulations stated in the Quran (the holy book), as I have been socialized from childhood in believing that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. As an adult good and bad is no longer so black and white, there is a grey area in life and I’m inclined to believe that God is the only one that can judge and the most you can do is try be as kind and considerate to other human beings as possible.

The social class that I have grown up in is upper middle class. I have gone to the best schools in Nairobi and I have been socialized in a particular manner. I have been socialized in a particular way, while in school I was encouraged, to take in extracurricular activities such as sports. My parents expected us to behave properly at all times and especially when there were guests in the house. The friends I had were known and my parents had to know their parents. Being a member of the upper middle class, there are expectations and a certain degree of social responsibilities. My social class expects high aspirations when it comes to jobs and living standards. For example my parents expect me to get a good paying job in order to move up the social ladder.

A minority group refers to a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state which possess and wish to preserve stable ethnic, religious or linguistic traditions. They are culturally, ethnically, or racially distinct groups that coexists with but is subordinate to a more dominant group. I don’t think the minority status identity applies to me, especially here in Kenya, I don’t see myself joining any of those found in the country. Maybe when I go to another country and see one that fits to my liking.


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