Racial Identity.

They impose upon individuals certain obligations and expectations dictated entirely by one’s sex. As a result, how men and women experience the world will differ accordingly. And it is precisely this “experience of the world” that shapes our identities, both as individuals and as members of groups that we strongly identify with.

Ultimately, our shared experience with others molds our identity as an individual. The bifurcated experience of males and females living in antagonistic cultural circumstances provides a crucial factor, sociologically and psychologically, in the development of personal identities. Two short works by Zora Neale Hurston and Brent Staples each illustrate the unique factors that go into the construction of identity, which is largely contingent upon one’s sex.

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The creation of one’s social and personal identity is not something which happens in one event or experiment. It is a process of layering: the taking of particular experiences and building the edifice from those conditional factors. The gender roles that a society assigns apply to all people, independently of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. For this reason, we might say that one’s sex comes first in determining how a person sees himself or herself in the context of the group or society. One’s racial identity thus comes conditioned by this gender role, which is often established even before the time a child first encounters any kind of racial distinction. By recognizing the fundamentality of the sexual identity, we recognize that racial identity can be bifurcated by that gender divide between man and woman. This ultimately determines how and by what process the individual assimilates his or her place in a particular racial group into a personal identity.

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