The Social Construction of Cultural Identities

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The idea of social construction has many effects on individuals’ cultural identity. How one presents their identity comes from their cultural values and beliefs. However, some individuals develop their attitudes and values from their social surroundings and not from ancestry or background. It is just when one thinks about the social convictions and practices of and compare to someone else’s then it becomes apparent that there are contrasts and that these distinctions are of a social sort. The Ex-Colored Man had to do a lot with social status and how each culture is different in different parts of the world. The narrator, which is also the main character, shares his experiences with the different social settings he is surrounded by. He also explains on how he tried to fit in with everyone after finding out he is black and not white. His story also explains how social class can impact the way you are treated and how your status places you in a certain occupation. Seeing how every area is different, some poor and some wealthy can change your perspective on certain cultures.

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For example, and here I caught my first sight of colored people in large numbers. they filled the shops and thronged the sidewalks and lined the curb. I asked my companion if all colored people in Atlanta lived in the streets(29). With this it shows how one social setting can change what you think about on that certain culture. Because he saw all these colored people homeless he thought that all colored people lived like this. Compared to when he went to Jacksonville he noticed all these different classes and how some were rich and some were poor. For example when he explained the higher class of colored people, The third class is composed of the independent workmen and tradesmen, and of the well-to-do and educated colored people(40). He was very shocked to see all these different classes because where he grew up it was mainly white people and he wasn’t exposed to that many colored people so he didn’t exactly know how to react except to be shocked. After finding out he isn’t white that changed his whole perspective on things. When he found he was black he was very emotional since all his life he identified as white but he learned to slowly except it and saw the changes in his relationships with other people. For example, Since I have grown older I have often gone back and tried to analyse the change that came into my life after that fateful day in school. I had learned what their status was, and now I learned that theirs was mine. I had no particular like or dislike for these black and brown boys and girls.

After finding out that he was black he felt a closer bond to the colored kids, he tried to fit in and sympathized with them. He started to feel a closer relationship with one of the colored kids Shiny. Growing up he saw how the black and whites were treated differently and how blacks were somewhat always looked down upon even if they were in the higher class. Throughout the book he started to look at America differently through the lens of his race which was black. But towards the end of the book he falls in love with a white woman and wants to get married to her. When he finally tells her his true race, she leaves him and that hurt him. Later on, she came back and decided to marry him and he decided to pass as white. In Racial Passing in American History lecture, Passing refers to efforts by African-Americans, many of mixed ancestry, and other racial minorities to pass as white. This training was a reaction to the negative outcomes related with being named a racial minority in the U.S.A few black people additionally go as whites to go around against marriage laws that precluded interracial relational unions especially among blacks and whites. There are many stories and movies that show the challenges people go through to fit in. From changing their names and to the way they dress.

One good example is Hester Street, this movie shows great examples of how someone from another country came to America and had to change her identity to fit in more. Yankel who came to the United States three years before his wife was living in the Lower East Side of New York City primarily close Hester St. where the vast majority of the Russian Jews moved to. Studying the English language, Yankel had helped himself not exclusively to the American way of life yet additionally by attempting to be American himself, and by doing that he changed his name to Jake, and afterward expelled his facial hair. Jack before long discovers that Gitl and his child Yossele are for sure coming to America and he is very happy. In any case, when Gitl and Yossele arrive Jacks entire disposition changes on account of Gitl appearance, it isn’t exactly as Americanized as his or the other lady that live in his area. Throughout the movie Gitl tries to change her appearance so Jake wouldn’t treat her differently. Jake is already trying to help their son become American, but since he is young it is easier. But because Gitl is older it is hard for her to leave her own culture. A popular quote from the movie was said from their neighbour, Mrs. Kavarsky, You cannot pee up my back and make me think it is rain. This was said towards Jake, since Jake was trying to push the American culture on his wife and child, this quote says it doesn’t matter how hard you try to be American you will always be a Russian Jew.

Most immigrants do the most they can to become more western. Especially in the generation we live in today, people get judged for looking, dressing, or talking a certain way. Immigrants try to dress more western, some even leave their cultures to adapt a western one. In the lecture, Ethnic Adaptation, Representation, and the Construction of New Cultural Identities, it talked about how immigrants go from their native culture to an American one. For example, anglo-conformity or assimilation theory, or the anglo- conformist perspective. This view of ethnic adaptation argues that in order to succeed in American society, immigrants have to shed their own cultures. This meaning that the only way you can fit in is to leave your culture and adapt the American one. To conclude, there a lot of challenges people face when it comes to trying fit in with the rest of the society. People go as far as trying to identify I as a different race. Racial passing and assimilating into the western side of the world is something that will probably never go away. I personally know many people who have tried to change their whole appearance to look more American. For example, as a Muslim I wear a scarf for religious reason there are many Muslims girls out there who take off their scarf because they don’t feel like they fit in and because people looked at them differently. The whole fitting in concept can cause a lot a lot conflict in one’s life because people sometime leave their religion and cultures to become more western. Thankfully with social media people are starting to accept their cultures and now want to embrace it, but trying to be American will always be there.

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The Social Construction of Cultural Identities. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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