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How your identity and/or that of others are shaped by cultural representations and news events?

In this essay I intend to explore the concept of identity in relation to contemporary understandings and representations of racial and ethnic identities. I intend to explore this concept in relation to the cultural representations that are portrayed through the news (the media) and social/political events. This issue is particularly important, especially in contemporary British society due to increased immigration, the perceived link (perpetuated by the media) between Muslims, terrorism and Asian orientation and the amalgamation of the 'other' (the notion that Westerners are the concrete/real/higher identity and 'other' social groups are defined against, or in opposition. to it). It is important, however, to outline within this essay what is meant by identity, cultural representation, 'news events' and my own positionality in relation to answering this question.

Based on the reading I have undertook for this essay, I have come to realise that identity is a very complex issue that we often do not think about until questions are raised about our identity. Coming from a country outside of the United Kingdom I have seen how identity, and the classification of different identities, differ within different cultures. I am a black Nigerian and although I have only been here for six years I find it much easier to interact with people from my own country than people from other countries, including the UK. I think this is due to a number of reasons which will hopefully become clear in this essay. These main two reasons are that (1) people from my own 'community/social group' have similar ways of classifying identities that I can recognise and interact with, (2) this facilitates symbolic interaction within which the meanings that are attributed to these classifications and the historical context within which my identity has developed can be represented.

The, often, false representations of racial/ethnic minorities that are portrayed by the media prevent these social groups from being understood, explored or even engaged with. Although there are many different types of media mediums, only those who claim a certain identity can 'truly' know (and have 'real' representations of it) about that identity. This can also be the case when we attempt to answer the question about who shapes our identity - we do.

In conclusion, this essay has explored a number of issues that have not been exhausted due to the space constraints. However, the three main points that this essay has described and explored are: - (1) Identity is subjective, learnt, collective, practical, theoretical, historical, political and social amongst a number of other variables. (2) Collective racial/ethnic identities are sustainable outside of context as the historical meanings and traditions that are the essentialized elements of that identity are perpetuated and passed down through generations through stories, food, cultural celebrations, pictures, gatherings etc. Finally, (3) our identity is shaped not only by cultural representations but also by media related interpretations of a specific identity. This can be both positive and negative but is often homogenous. I do, however, agree with Darder and Torres (2004) that 'race' has no scientific basis as the categorization and identification of collective racial/ethnic/cultural identities is simply constructed: socially, historically and politically. We have to accept that people are different. This is what multiculturalism perpetuates. An equality of identities is not a hierarchy.   

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