Have you ever thought about what shaped your very own personal identity? Actually our social identity and the way we interact with others affects our personal identity. Now this may be a fetch to understand but famous writer and critical thinker Ta-Nehisi Coates illustrates this perfectly when he says, “The streets were not my only problem. If the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left. Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.”. This illustrates my point perfectly because Coates is saying that if you are not a quick learner you will be punished now and later for your mistakes; obviously now meaning the streets and later meaning school. That shows that somehow Coates’ personal identity was shaped by his social identity after learning the way of the streets and school because he obviously personally changed and adapted himself to thrive in all settings he was in considering his respectability and him being widely known now as an author. If that was being said for Coates then that obviously has happened to all of us but more under the radar. In my own personal experience I was never a Bruins fan growing up even though all of my family was and after the years and years of going to parties and watching the Bruins hundreds of times somehow it grew on me and I began to really like the Bruins, so much so that I even ended up going to a bunch of their games and now I attended fifteen annually. But it is also like that for everyone; just think of how you became to like the things you do, certain foods, movies, sports teams, religion, etc… I am sure you can find some area in your life where the people you were surrounded with helped influence a decision you made or changed your opinion on something which in turn affected your personal identity.
Think about it this way; what is your favorite sport? How did you come to like and learn about the sport? I can tell you in my case it was from the constant watching and knowledge, sometimes unwanted, being thrown at me from my father who was an excellent hockey player. He would always bring home new hockey sticks for me and always drove me to be the hockey player I am today and in turn he helped me as a person. Not from the gentle conversations related to hockey but by the powerful meaning and impact behind every word spoken to me. This segways us into how our social identities shape our personal identities. In Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Coates has been leading a lifestyle of staying out of trouble but the best example of how our social identities shape our personal identities is when Coates gets a gun drawn on him, “ The boy with the small eyes reached into his ski jacket and pulled out a gun. I recall it in the slowest motion, as though in a dream. There the boy stood, with the gun brandished, which he slowly untucked, tucked, then untucked once more, and in his small eyes a saw a surging rage that could, in an instant, erase my body”. This probably the most powerful part of the book shows us that this “boy” who is flexing his gun off to Coates clearly was influenced socially by people to make him at such a young age carry around and wield a gun. We understand the characters young age by the imagery created by Coates and the boys “small eyes”. This shows somehow that the boy was influenced in my opinion for the worst, which then in turn made him pull his gun on Coates.
In conclusion well all know that other people and things influence our identities, but will we take every measure possible to be the best person we can be rather than feeding in and being like the “boy” with the gun?