Question: How is identity defined?
Answer: Differently for each one of us? Or, the same.
Who am I? What am I? Am I British? British-Asian? Asian-British?
What box should I fill out?
My family—my parents and my sisters—are white.
Am I meant to know which ethnicity box to tick? I end up ticking “Other.” The questioner may think this is an act of social rebellion. It really is that I don’t know the answer.
Growing up, I was just Monty Pye: climbing trees, making tree houses, and swimming in the rivers with my friends.
As a young adult, a casual conversation I’d had, led to an apparently huge concern. As I didn’t know the answer to the above questions, the next day I was called to the college counselor to discuss this. To be fair, I think she was wise enough to realize that I didn’t think much about most things in life, and that this wasn’t some deep-seated angst, and was more about a young man not being aware of shit!
However, as I’ve grown older, this has caused an inner debate more than once.
Other people seem to know who/what they are.
They have a definite sense of themselves as African American, Asian-American, Korean-British, British-Chinese etc. This doesn’t mean I feel insecure (anymore) as a question about who I am, but it’s more of a chip on my shoulder.
Since I don’t know the answer, when asked I flippantly reply, “I’m white middle-class British.” As this really is what I feel. I was brought up as this, I understand the culture of the white U.K. middle class. I don’t know what a British-Asian is meant to feel; I wasn’t brought up with this culture.
If someone talks with a U.K. accent, and acts and reacts as a British white person would in a situation, then isn’t this an identity?
Why should this not be me? Why should I be told that I am not?
“But Monty, you don’t look British.”
So, the cycle continues. What or who I define myself as, should this not be how I’m addressed by others?
I purposefully ensure I talk with a strong “proper” British accent. This is part of the opening dance in letting people compute that: “Ahhhh… he sounds British.”
Why do we feel the need to have an identity? Is it for ourselves? Is it for others? Why do some have an identity crisis and others don’t? As I don’t know the answers, do I ignore this and carry on with the white British middle class routine? Or, should I seek out what others think that I should be?
Please do comment and let me know that I’m not alone with these musings…