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Age Identity

As we age, we tap into cultural notions of how someone our age should act, look, and behave, that is we establish an age identity. And even as we communicate how we feel about our age to others, we receive messages from the media telling us how we should feel. Thus, as we grow older, we sometimes feel that we are either too old or too young for a certain “look”. These feelings stem from an understanding of what age means and how we identify with that age. Some people feel old at 30; others feel young at 40. Our notions of age and youth are all based on cultural conventions and they change as we grow older. When we are quite young, a college student seems old. But when we are in college, we do not feel so old. Different generations often have different philosophies, values, and ways of speaking.

Racial and Ethnic Identity

The issue of race seems to be pervasive in the United States. It is the topic of many public discussions, from television talk shows to talk radio. Yet many people feel uncomfortable discussing racial issues. Most scientists now agree that there are more physical similarities than differences among so-called races and have abandoned a strict biological basis for classifying racial groups. Instead, taking a more social scientific approach to understanding race, they recognize that racial categories like White and Black are constructed in social and historical contexts. Several arguments have been advanced to refute the physiological basis for classifying racial groups. Racial categories vary widely throughout the world. In general, distinctions between White and Black, for example, are fairly rigid in the United States, and many people become uneasy when they are unable to categorize individuals. By contrast, Brazil recognizes a wide variety of intermediate racial categories in addition to White and Black. This indicates a cultural, rather than a biological, basis for racial classification. Racial identities, then, are based to some extent on physical characteristics, but they are also constructed in fluid social contexts. The important thing to remember is that the way people construct these identities and think about race influences how they communicate with others.

One’s ethnic identity reflects a set of ideas about one’s own ethnic group membership. It typically includes several dimensions: self-identification, knowledge about the ethnic culture (traditions, customs, values, behaviors), and feelings about belonging to a particular ethnic group. Ethnic identity often involves a common sense of origin and history, which may link members of ethnic groups to distant cultures in Asia, Europe, Latin America, or other locations. Ethnic identity thus means having a sense of belonging to a particular group and knowing something about the shared experiences of group members. For some Americans, ethnicity is a specific and relevant concept. These people define themselves in part in relation to their roots outside the United States – as “hyphenated Americans” (Mexican-American, Japanese-American) – or to some region prior to its being part of the United States (Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee).


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 932


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