Socio-Cultural Competence: What’s My Identity?

When it comes to helping our students attain the third goal of Dual Language, Socio-Cultural Competence, the first place to start is with assisting our students in recognizing their own identity groups. However, we cannot accomplish this until we explore our own identities. In fact, self-identification is the first step in becoming anti-racist regardless of your role in society.

Identity is the set of personal characteristics that help us belong to specific groups.  These groups are known as identity groups.  Everyone belongs to multiple identity groups.  Common personal characteristics used to define these groups include but are not limited to gender, ethnicity, race, religion, socioeconomic status, age, language, marital/relationship status, nationality, parental status, sexual orientation, education, and career.  It is the intersection of these and other many identity groups where a person’s unique individuality is found.  

Our identities are important because they shape who we are, how we see the world, and how others treat us.  For instance, while most people value family, some parents may devote more time to being actively involved in their children’s education while others value building independence.  This largely depends on different aspects of the parents’ identities such as their ethnicity, age, and education. Furthermore, people may treat us differently based on our phenotypical or visible traits such as gender, skin color, or age.  For example, it may be harder to get a new job if you have a few more grey hairs than other candidates even when you have better credentials.

In order to effectively work with students, families, and colleagues from different combinations of identity groups, we must first define our own identity groups using these and other personal characteristics and think about how these have shaped our own experiences.  Questions to ask ourselves: Which characteristics are automatically visible to others?  Which characteristics/identity groups impact how others view you?  Which characteristics afford me privilege?  Which identity groups add to my struggles?  By considering our own identity and asking ourselves these questions, we are on our way to improving our work as Dual Language and/or antiracist educators.

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