You may know me as a Kenyan, an African, a woman, a single www.help!.woman. com woman, a dogler, a desperate dogler, a subway rider, a wannabe, kindaish, New Yorker. That is quite a bit to know about a person, no?
A friend recently asked me how I identify myself. Honesty being the best policy, I answered: “Ummmm.” Then he asked: “Well, what are you?” Then I answered: “Ummmmmm.” Then he just looked at me, somehow expecting a great epiphany to pop out of my head, or for the large question mark sitting above me to turn into a cloud of realizations. So, I answered, once again, loudly this time incase hearing was the problem: “UUMMMMMMMMMM.”
I mean I know who I am, I know what I do, I know… I do know my identity. I think. And you know yours, right? Can you state it? Is this something that we’re all meant to know/ do? Yes? No? Did I skip this class in kindergarten? All very confusing!
So in search of the truth I commenced the most in depth research project ever imagined. How do you identify yourself ? That is the question I posed to friends, strangers, strange friends and friendly strangers. It is after all a very awkward question. Weird in the sense that there is an obvious answer – we’re all human beings, at least most of us are, yet why does it feel so unnatural to identify oneself?
Hard to imagine that my research project didn’t go very far. Me: “What ARE you???” Friend: *blank stare* Me: “WHAT arreee YOU??????” Friend (possibly former): *politely, slowly, walks away*
My curiosity regarding this question is based on how absurd, yet telling the answer maybe. If we’re all human beings then what is this nonsense about being unique? If I am a woman and you happen to be a man, then what? Does that make me special in some way? Or, are you the special one? If I am a Kenyan and you are an American then I can see differently? I am different? Or are you the different one? If I am a Kikuyu and you are a Luo, then we are both different? And if we are both different, then don’t our differences cancel each other out? Confused yet?
The more I think about it the more pointlessly absurd my inquisition becomes. It shouldn’t after all matter what we are, it’s all about who we are, according to all the textbooks and mothers. But if you may, please check whether you are of Black/Hispanic/Caucasian origin, if you are Male/Female, if you are Disabled, if you have a Child, if you are a Child etc, etc.
See, I used to identify myself simply as a Kenyan woman. Then I came to America and was confronted with the fact that a) being Kenyan is irrelevant to most people unless your middle name is Hussein and you are attempting to run for president, and b) I am a black person. The imposed ‘black’ identity was initially very confusing. ‘Does he/ she know I’m black? How can they tell? Ohhhh, right, got it’.