Understanding My Story

Who we are — our core identity — is complicated! It is influenced by many factors: individual characteristics, life events, choices, cultural recognition, and socialization.


Collective Identity

Print by Bai Yiluo, Collective Identity


To understand more about how issues of race, class, privilege, and power shape our perspective, read “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I: (PDF)” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. This article is a useful introduction to the idea of intersectionality and how our many identities, both target and dominant, shape our experience.


Take some time to think about the various identities you hold. Common factors to consider include race, class, gender, religious affiliation, age, or affectional orientation.

You might also consider roles that you identify with (i.e., daughter, spouse, father, teacher) as well as experiences (i.e., cancer survivor).

Once you’ve given some thought to your identity, take a blank piece of paper and write your name in the center. Next, in a somewhat random, web-like fashion, quickly jot down the many identities you hold. Show identities that are more important to you in larger print with smaller print for identities that are less important.

Though our identities evolve and change through the course of our lives, for the purposes of this exercise, please stay focused on the identities you hold at present versus those held in the past or hope for in the future.

Once you’ve completed your identity map, take time to reflect on and record in your journal your answers to the following questions:

  • Looking at your identity map, do you find that you identify as part of any dominant groups — ones privileged by our society?
  • Can you think of unearned privileges you enjoy in our society as a result of one (or more) of your identities?
  • Are there subordinate groups that you’re part of? What has helped you survive and thrive in the face of discrimination and oppression?
  • What aspects of your identity are most important to you?
  • Are there any aspects of your identity that are in conflict with each other?
  • Does geography influence your identity? If so, how?
  • How much control do you have over determining your identity?
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