9. Identity


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Hey everyone, today is Monday November 9th, 2020. It is Native American Heritage Month. This is a time to recognize the living traditions and cultures of people with Native American heritage. Native Americans are also known as indigenous people. They were the first people living on this land we call The United States of America. They have been here unbroken since time Immemorial. The united states grew up, with, around and on top of these cultures.  


One thing we might not think of often is how different cultures contribute to the protection and defense of the United States of America. In the 1930s and 40s vicious fascism grew in Europe. Many countries joined together as allies to fight this awful movement of bullies, and this included the United States. 


Unfortunately, the Allies faced very clever enemy spies. One of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out how to communicate with soldiers without the enemy spies intercepting and stealing the messages and learning what the allies were going to do. The enemies were so clever that the United States was worried that they could not come up with a code complicated enough that the enemies couldn’t' break it. 


However, there were heroes among heroes and some very brave members of the Navajo nation volunteered to translate the English communications into Navajo. The enemies were smart, but not nearly smart enough to crack the Navajo language. This helped the allies to communicate and ultimately win the war. These Navajo soldiers were heroes in defeating the evil fascist bullies. 


And you can celebrate them twice. First, it’s Native American heritage month. Second, its’ also Veterans Day this Wednesday. Veterans day is a time to remember and celebrate the contributions that men and women have made in defending the principals of democracy and making our nation safe from bullies who try to hurt it. 


Veterans Day is coming this Wednesday. There’s no school. You can think about Veterans as a group. You can think about Native Americans as a group. You can think about Native American Veterans as a group. In fact, when you are thinking about social category groups like this, you are thinking, in part, about some of the things that make up a person’s identity. 


And that is a perfect segue into our November SEL theme of identity. When you ask yourself “Who am I or what does it mean to be me?” you are exploring your identity. Identity can come from who you are as an individual and identity can come from what groups you belong to. And it can come from both at the same time! 


There are many levels to Identity. There are the things that people can observe and there are things that are deeper in the heart and mind.  Identity relates to the things we like and don’t like which shape the choices we make. For example, if I love basketball, I may choose to play basketball, watch basketball, wear basketball clothes. I may start to shape my identity as a basketball player or athlete. That may become part of my individual identity.

Identity is most simply thought or as the characteristics of who a person is. It is also the way a person establishes their view of him self, her self or their self or selves. It is closely related to the concept of the self, and self-concept, and values and personality. Here are just some of the things that can help shape a person’s identity.  Gender

  • Ethnicity

  • Skin color/race

  • Life experiences

  • Religion

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Language

  • Relationship status

  • Family size and composition

  • Sexual orientation

  • Education

  • Interests

What we want to think about today is around the groups we share a sense of belonging with. The connections we have to groups of people will have a big impact on our identities. For example I share a sense of belonging with athletes, in particular, basketball players. Playing basketball is a big part of my life right now and it shapes how I think about myself. 


The way we see the groups we share a sense of belonging with can shape the way we see ourselves. If we see our groups treated with kindness and respect and thoughtfulness we may feel good about ourselves, and it may be easier for us to expect that treatment from other toward us, or we may be more likely to treat ourselves that way also. However, if we see our groups being treated with suspicion or talked about in a derogatory way, we may think less of ourselves.


Imagine if when you watched a movie or listened to a song you saw or heard your group looking good and being treated well. Imagine how you might feel if you could see people you share a sense of belonging with represented in all different types of jobs, or positions of power. It could be easier for you to see yourself doing something like that too. That’s actually an example of a thing we call self-eff-I-ca-cy. That’s the ability to see yourself doing something or being successful at something you’ve not done before.  Seeing someone like you doing something can make it easier for you to see yourself doing it. 


Now imagine the opposite. Suppose you rarely got a chance to see yourself in positions of power, or being respected or doing something cool. That would be terrible. It could require a lot more energy to imagine yourself doing something new or cool or respected or whatever positive word you want to insert. That could really impact your belief about yourself. That could really impact your identity. 

That is very important to think about.  And we are going to be thinking a lot more about that as we move forward through November. But we have to change gears here for a very important and very connected reason.  Our nation is on the precipice of history. As of the recording of this, Friday November 6, 2020 the United States is about to do something it has not done in our 244 year history. 


For 244 years, the Executive branch of our federal government has been lead by a male president and male vice president. For 236 of those years both the men in charge have always been white. 8 of those 244 years the president, was not white, but he was still a he. Now, something that has been a long time in the making is possibly going to happen by the time you hear this on Monday. 


Since I am the only female on this podcast right now, I’m going to be the one to tell you. As of the recording of this, America is on track to send the first female in American history to be the Vice President of the United States. Her name is Kamala Harris. Excuse me, I mean, her name is Vice President, Kamala Harris. 


The hugeness of this should not be lost beneath the tantrums of sore losers. This is a remarkable moment for the identity of many people in our nation, and even the identity of our nation.


Think about this, how many women have lived and died in and for our nation and never seen themselves at this level of government? The answer is, none anymore.


And just to add awesomeness to this you should also know that Vice President Harris’s mother is Indian-American her father is Jamaican American. So this is also a first for people who identify as having connections to India and people who identify as Jamaican. So, that’s at least 3 firsts for people to expand their identity. 


Now, of course it is only Friday as we are recording this, and we don’t know what could happen over the weekend, but as we are seeing it from here, we are feeling nothing but joy for these firsts.


It’s true. Whether part of your identity is connected to Democrats or Republicans you can find joy in understanding that we are now only maybe one election away from shattering the ultimate glass ceiling. That is something all of us can choose to feel pride in. 

It’s true, our nation has expanded the identity of concept of what leadership can look and sound and dress like. Or at least, we have the chance to. 


As we go through this next week try to give yourself some time to reflect on the groups that you share a sense of belonging with. Maybe make a list. 


My list will include Vice Presidents of the United States. And also, future presidents of the united states. Until next week, may your thoughts and feelings be with you. And good night Vice President Harris, wherever you are. 

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