Reflecting on the Fluidity of Identity

Throughout this past semester we have been digging deeply into identity and activist movements surrounding identity. In this the essential idea is that identity is fluid. It changes based on where we are and who we are with. As we move and change and age our identity does so as well.

This past week we studied the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican nationalist group fighting to have the same rights as every other citizen. It was also a social movement, aimed at getting more support services into New York City to help those who could not afford certain services, such as day care or medical care. The Movement centered around the identity of being Puerto Rican and its meaning.

The Young Lords had many ideas but within the organization there was a split. The women of the Young Lords were working not only to instill pride in being Puerto Rican but also in being seen as equals by the men in their organization and to work with the same amount of power and in the same leadership positions of men. For these women they were not only women: but Puerto Rican, and leaders, and New Yorkers. Their identities shaped by many things, not just one variable. Even these variables don’t make up their whole identities. I wonder who they would say they are and how our knowledge of their work has affected their identities. Does an identity change based on what someone else believes it is?

My own identity has changed several times as I’ve grown up and moved. I have been a local, an out-of-towner, a Wisconsinite, an Auggie, a student, an instructor. It changes depending on the situation. I wonder who one of my fellow students would say I am. I am a descendent of Scandinavian farmers. This is a part of my heritage and identity that I take great pride in. My family is made up of people who have worked hard, built their own lives. It isn’t something that is necessarily apparent about my identity, aside from the fact that I look very european. I am also a woman, one who is very aware of the issues my gender face as we grow up. The same issues that the women within the Young Lords were aware of and fighting to end.

When I moved to New York the first thing I was when I arrived was a Wisconsinite. When someone immigrates to the U.S. or becomes a citizen, do they see themselves as an American right away or are they an American and a Puerto Rican? Does it depend on which they are most proud of being? Is it more important that I am proud of being from a Norwegian family and that I love our traditions or does the fact that I am a fourth generation American mean more? Perhaps it simply depends on the situation in which we find ourselves that changes how we see our portray our identity. It is something I would love to learn more about, and hope to during the rest of the semester.

One thought on “Reflecting on the Fluidity of Identity

  1. Anna – I think this is a really important concept that we haven’t touched on so much in class. Each week we focus on one identifier and study how that thing has shaped a person/people’s lives. However, people are always more complicated than that. Perhaps in order to study the greatest impact a person has had on history, we must look through the lens of one identifier, the one through which they acted in the most public way. But to understand an individual person, we must take into account all of their identities. This concept is a really wonderful prompt for self-reflection and can perhaps help create empathy for the people we study.

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