(1) who or what something or somebody is
(2) the characteristics, feeling or beliefs that distinguish people from others (Oxford English Dictionary 7th Edition)
So I decided to start my discussions (at least, that is what i hope it is and not some random blabbing) with a somewhat serious topic so y’all don’t think I am naturally unserious (**smiles**).
A couple of years ago I was filling an application for a job in a firm (just in case you were wondering, I didn’t get the job **covers eyes**) and it got to that part I really hate in job applications; the questionnaires (you know the interview questions before the interview), ‘why should we hire you’, ‘why did you apply for this job’, ‘tell us how you fit the role you are applying for’ etc. Trust me, if you have filled as many job applications as I have, you would hate it too. Anyways, so one of the questions asked was something like ‘In a 100 words, write an intelligent treatise using the title I AM’. I wasn’t sure how to go about this. I debated on it for days, asking myself many questions on what to write and what they really meant; I eventually decided they were implicitly asking that first interview question ‘tell us about yourself’ (seeing as I didn’t get the job, maybe I was wrong **shrugs**). However, what this question had done was to stimulate in me a deeper question of identity.
Identity, from my perspective is a mother of complexity. I’ll explain what I mean, but firstly I would like to talk about the definitions of Identity. The Oxford dictionary basically says it is a means of defining someone/something thus, creating features that can be used in differentiating it from other things, people or groups. Many would say that identity is a tool of order and even a tool of understanding; I am inclined to partly agree with both. You tend to understand things better when you know what they are; you understand its usefulness, vices, strengths etc. However, and this is my point, because of the need, even demand for such social definitions, things and especially people tend to be more complex. Take myself for instance and depending on the context, today I could be defined as a female or as an African, tomorrow it could be ‘Oh! She is Nigerian’ or she is from the Niger Delta region or she is this or that, all these many definitions for just one person, for just me. These various ‘identities’ are regarded by society as playing a huge factor in my attitude, thought pattern, actions, abilities and even knowledge or lack of it. While I do agree that these social factors could play a role in a person’s true identity, I also believe and emphasize that this use of social identities as a need to create order and understanding also creates a greater complexity in truly defining that person or thing. If the definition of who I am is constantly controlled by all these social factors, how can I truly define myself? How can I truly distinguish myself from others in same social groups? Especially if assumptions/impressions are made about me based on these social identities and without interactions? I am not even going to start on the fact that I strongly believe that all these social identities created out of the so-called need to create order and understanding, is really born out of the underlining desire to dominate and claim superiority. The rich are defined as the ‘upper class’ so they can claim superiority over the ‘middle class’ or ‘lower class’; ‘male’ to claim dominance over the ‘female’ and so on (Like I said, I wouldn’t get started).
Someone might say but you are undeniably ‘ female’ and ‘black’ and African and Nigerian …; Yes I am and make no move to deny so. However, I have to point out that I see myself as being all these things because society has over centuries defined me (these groups) as being just that. Society has grounded it into my head, and that of the entire world. It has been grounded right from my mother’s womb, my first years, until date. It has been grounded through my communications, my education, my associations etc, so how can I not think that is what I am? How can I not think that ‘hey! Am female and African as such, I should be submissive, be patient, love kids (By the way, I do love kids), be a good cook (not so good) etc, basically I should make myself marriageable or end up alone’. What I am trying to say is that underneath all these complex and ever-changing definition of who I am (or should i say, who the world says I am) based on physical features and my geographical history etc, I am first and foremost a person, an individual!!! Who I am is a factor of my individual character and personality, and trust me that is complex enough. You can’t define me before you meet me based on the fact that you know I am female; you can’t assume my strengths and vices. You can’t judge me before you talk to me and get to know me, just because you know where I am from or the colour of my skin. To you, it may be easier to understand and deal it when you profile and prematurely define me , but to me, you complicate my life; you add another level of complexity to who I really am; you add more lining to my already thick clothes, more garage for me to sieve through. While, I may be categorized as a female, an African, Black skinned, a Nigerian and proudly all these. These are not who I am!!! I am simply ‘ME’. I am a smart, flexible, funny, worrisome, impatient, brutally honest (You can say Nicki Minaj **laughs**), prone to airing my opinion, feisty, friendly and a loyal individual. I am an ‘individual’ who believes in God, Love, Family and balance. Again, I am ‘ME’ as you are ‘YOU’.