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Taking It Home, Workshop 3: You Are How You've Lived: Exploring Individual and Group Identity

In "Building the World We Dream About," a Tapestry of Faith program

I believe that many Unitarian Universalists need to reconcile the moment in their lives when they first felt inferior to someone or something and how that moment has shaped and influenced their lives. — Rev. Monica Cummings, minister to Unitarian Universalist Youth and Young Adults of Color

Referring to your own identity circle, choose one aspect of the social identity that is not your own—that is "other" in terms of race/ethnicity, gender/gender expression, ability/disability, or sexual orientation—and write a story about a day in the life of that person. For example, if your circle of "identities" states that you are a White, straight, woman with a Ph.D. who grew up in downtown Chicago, reframe your identity in terms of one to two social identities that is/are "other" in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, education, geography and/or ability. You might reframe your identity as a Latino, as a bisexual man, as someone with an 8th grade education, or as someone who lives in a rural state.

Your writing might take the form of a journal entry, a web posting, a one-person play, or a poem or song. If writing is not a good format for you, find another way to tell the story of this person's life. Speak into a recording device or create a visual representation in the form of a collage or "story board." However you proceed, you will need to ensure that you are able to retell your experience in great detail. Focus on the details of your day. What type of bed did you sleep in last night? What was the color of the walls? What did you do when you woke up? What did you have for breakfast? What happened at work? Who did you speak with? Who talked to you? Who avoided you? And so on.

NOTE: One of the challenges of this exercise is to avoid stereotypes, projections, and an exclusive focus on victimization or exotic portrayals of people from identities that are "other" in terms of your identity. Think about what people from the assumed identities like or enjoy about their identity, and in what ways they are challenged by their identities. Consider the following questions:

  • What are the advantages of this identity? What are the disadvantages?
  • How is this identity portrayed in media (electronic and print, news and dramatic portrayals)?

To help you with your narrative, consider researching websites that publish articles and statistics about racial and ethnic groups in the United States in terms of housing, education, health care, and employment. You might also read websites on which Unitarian Universalist People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity post sermons and readings about their experiences.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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