Typically, if someone were to ask your identity, you would automatically and immediately respond with your name. You have been conditioned to believe your name is your identity, and perhaps it might be, but I want to dig a little deeper by really discussing who you really are. Your name was given to you by your parents at birth, and you grew up thinking and believing of it as your personal passport to some degree. My position is you are much more than your name. Naturally, you are made in God’s image and given a divine purpose that must be fulfilled before you can depart. My goal is not to spend a lot of time on your biblical or spiritual identity, but it is worth mentioning because it is important.
The purpose of this article is to expand your understanding of identity from a social construct perspective as it pertains to society and specifically from a racial discussion. Over the past few years, racial disparities have been highlighted as the police abuse and killings of African Americans has shaken the core of America. The white extremist insurrection in January this year, and the most recent focus on indiscriminate attacks against Asians has called significant concern. The human construct of race has been generationally debilitating and created an inescapable condition on innocent people simply because of the color of their skin. No person is responsible for the race they are born into, but society has allowed a unique and unreasonable anointing of those people with lighter skin tones. If you are born into a family with a darker shade of skin, you are reduced and relegated in social statue, and your potential is restricted to achieving only so much, regardless of your individual talents, skills, and abilities.
Millions of books have been written and research conducted on the topic of race, and most conclude similar findings. The concept of race is humanly designed and accepted by the masses and adopted by the full spectrum of humanity. Most employment applications require you to list your race as a criterion of your identity. You are more than your complexion.
The point that I am making in this article is our real identity is not based on what a person calls you, or skin pigmentation, but should be defined by your character, values, and beliefs. Most would agree that you cannot be quickly identified by your thoughts, behavior, and beliefs because these traits are not visual, nor can they distinguish you from others. Most people understand that many people that look like them, do not behave or think in similar fashion. On the same note, oftentimes we find people cling to one another of the same race out of survival, or a feeling of familiarity, and comfort.
Far too many times I have participated in meetings and found that I am the only African American in the room or seated at the conference room table. One of my mentors, Dr. Samuel Betances is quoted, “instead of counting heads, it is important to ensure your head is counted!” His statement spoke directly to my soul! I was excited, because no longer did I think of my feelings of isolation. Racial representation is nothing more than a distractor. This new awareness, brought on a whole new way of thinking, and allowed me to elevate my engagement and interaction during these meetings. It also charged me to invest enough time to prepare for every meeting. I would spend countless hours reviewing meeting minutes from previous meetings, discovering the notes, challenges, and unresolved issues, and explored possible solutions to the many problems. This way, I could contribute valuable insights into every meeting I attended. What I noticed would change the trajectory of my professional career. I now would develop a system that I would follow before every meeting. My system for preparing for meetings became habit forming. This process helped me create a new identity, where my colleagues and superiors no longer looked at me as just the African American, but now as a person of value who always was prepared to move the organization forward.
Who gets to decide who you are? You do! No one has the right to determine who you are, or what you value, but you. Your identity is critically important. I should not have to change who I am to accommodate your comfortability. My goal is to be who I am, and nothing more. My identity is based on my beliefs, values, and life experiences. I get to be who I am, and only defined by what I choose, not society, not my name, birthplace, or pigmentation, but my character.
Your identity is who you are, not some manmade concept. Be who you are and thrive on your existence. Be defined by your criteria, and not what society selects for you. We honor your presence and existence and only want you to live your best life. Your identity is what you choose it to be. Do not settle for what the masses think about you. Decide for yourself. Your identity is unique and different. Be yourself!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald currently works for the federal government in Washington D.C. After serving honorably for 27 years in the U.S. Air Force, he retired as a Colonel and relocated to Northern Virginia. He earned a doctorate degree in management from Colorado Technical University, a master’s degree from Troy State University, and a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University. His book, Striving for Perfection, Developing Professional Black Officers, is endorsed by President Barrack Obama, General Colin Powell, and several senior government and military officials. He serves as an Adjunct Professor for Colorado Technical University, graduate and undergraduate Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Departments. He served as Outreach Director for the historical film documentary For Love of Liberty, The Story of Black American Patriots, Eleventh Day Entertainment, Hollywood, California. Gerald is active on several international, national, community, and civic organizations designed to inspire and motivate young people to do their best and safeguard our national interest.