My identity has been shaped by several significant influences in my life. Since my childhood, the issue of identity has been altogether a funny thing. Almost every day I feel like I am discovering new things about my identity and these changes make me feel like, perhaps, I will never figure out exactly who I am. The most significant influences in my life include: culture, ethnicity, family values, economic factors, racism, language, migration, religious factors, acculturation, and gender.
I have lived in the United States since my childhood, and life has never been easy, since I am always considered to a part of the minority groups. Because of my ethnicity, I have experienced culture shock that, in a sense, has kept me discovering and recovering myself constantly. This identity issue has been brought about because of my parents who are from different ethnic and racial backgrounds; my mother is a Dominican, and my father is a white. While growing up I have discovered that there are limited spaces in which I was guaranteed the privilege of fitting into a particular group, particularly with regards to ethnicity, race, class, and sexual orientation.
Though I have experienced certain privileges due to specific aspects of my background, the primary concern in my life, however, is the fact that I may not be able to completely identify with the approach our society classifies individuals and groups of people. The racial and ethnical differences have made it hard for me to associate myself with any group because racial ambiguity and stereotyping is prevalent in our society.
I have never fully appreciated my identity as a mixed race. I have regularly attempted to understand how I can fit in the society and associate myself with the majority of the population. But my effort to interact and mingle with other races often leads to being considered as the ‘other’, an identity that is frustrating. Together with my siblings, we are the only mixed race in the family. Later on while growing up, I came to understand we are different from our parents and cousins. It was quite disturbing to realize that I was neither white nor Dominican.
The confusion was further complicated in school. I joined a public school where majority of children were white, but few were Puerto Rican and black children. Several people in the school considered that I was Puerto Rican. I perceived they had wrong assumptions due to their insufficient understanding and lack of respect for other races. Due to my unique identity I came to realize that, maybe, I deserved the mistreatment and ridicule from my white friends.
I have experienced micro-aggressions from both Hispanic and white people. Their communication was full of negative racial slights and derogatory insults to the people color. Because I could not speak Spanish fluently, I have had lots of struggle to connect to my Dominican roots. Though I grew up hearing Spanish, I was never able to speak it fluently. Language barrier has become a significant influence that has kept me away from identifying fully with my Dominican background.
My gender is another aspect that has shaped my identity. I broke up with my girlfriend when I was in sophomore year of college because of my gender. However, I was able to find a space where I fitted in. I enrolled in a club that was made up of students of color, in this club the students discussed the challenges they face on and off campus brought about by their unique identity. The club offered a comfortable space that helped me to appreciate my gender and racial identity.
My family economic status has also contributed to who I have become over the years. We lived an average life because my parents did not earn a lot of money. My parents never went to college, my father worked as a photographer, while my mother worked as a nursing assistant. My humble background contributed to my struggles in school. They tried to pay my fees and this created a huge gap with other children, since I was discontinued from several programs due to limited funds. As a result, my classmates labeled me as poor and coming from a low class family. While in college, I had to secure part time jobs to enable me to afford basic needs and take part in other programs that my parents could not afford.
These components of my identity influenced my sense of place and learning style in the classroom. Though I have experienced several challenges while in school, on the other hand, I have had the privilege of attracting attention from teachers and being able to interact with all my classmates. These influences have significantly shaped my worldview and life experiences, and, therefore, these factors have contributed to who I am today.
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