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Minority/targeted identities

The full topic was: Some thoughts on a minority/targeted identity I have that is not obvious to others

So, let me say first that prior to being handed this topic I had never encountered the phrase "targeted identity". Googling the phrase turns up a lot of stuff on identity fraud, but it also turns up the book "New Roots in America's Sacred Ground" by Khyati Joshi, and the phrase "When an act of discrimination is equivocal, the targeted identity is the identity that the subject perceives as being the object of attention or attack." Which is pretty close to what I understood the phrase to mean a priori.

Let me say second that I know some of my readership is uncomfortable with the growing popularity of the word "identity" to describe a cluster of psychological and/or social labels and/or attributes, am sorry for that, and am open to using other terminology but haven't yet thought of anything suitable. "Role" comes close, but my sense is that it connotes more something one experiences as projected onto one from one's social environment than something one experiences as emerging from one's own nature. Perhaps I'm merely splitting hairs, though, since I suspect those divergent experiences are entirely subjective anyway.

Anyway, I am often surprised by what is and isn't obvious to others, but over the last twenty years some patterns have become obvious.

One is that people assume I'm monosexual. My thoughts about that haven't really changed in years, so I will just point at them.

Another is that people assume I'm white.

Admittedly, I say that with tongue at least partially in cheek, because I do in fact identify as white. But the fact is I grew up in a Cuban immigrant household and Spanish was the first language I learned, and being categorized as white does sometimes seem to dismiss my "Cuban-ness" (sadly, I'm not Guatemalan) unjustifiably, and I sometimes get irritated by that. Or perhaps a better way to express it is that I sometimes get irritated when people use my presumed whiteness to dismiss a priori my ability to have any insight into topics that, were I perceived as Hispanic, I would be presumed to potentially have insight into. (r_ness and I talk often about the role that traveling among and mediating across different languages and cultures as a child plays in developing a flexible mindset, but I suppose that's wandering a bit too far off-topic here.)

Of course, I don't mean to suggest here that this is a net penalty; it isn't. Quite the contrary, there are far more, and more significant, topics that I would, were I perceived as Hispanic, be presumed by virtue of that perception to lack insight into.

And of course, around this time of year (and also December) there's the ubiquitous experience of people implicitly assuming I'm Christian, at least to the extent of wishing me a happy Christian holiday. I generally deal with this by wishing them a happy Jewish holiday in return, and thereby making explicit that the presumed sentiment is "this is my holiday and I'm sharing my joy in it with you" rather than "I am assuming that this is your holiday and wishing you a good one." The reactions I get outside my subculture suggest to me that the actual sentiment is more like the latter, though.


Apr. 12th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
Invisible backpack is one of my favorite terms for it.

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