[ahy-den-ti-tee] – the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another
Patrick talked about his finding his identity in this book, but more so the finding the middle ground between his roots on the South Side of Chicago and his new found, predominantly white community surrounding Milton boarding school. He discusses the struggles he faced as an underprivileged black boy in a sea of ‘students with trust funds, wealth, and other accommodations unfamiliar to the members of the lower class’. While he was there he learned the way those people talked, he mimicked the way they talked, and adapted his mindset to be more consistent with his peers. Through all this change he remembered what his grandfather told him growing up: “remember who you are and what you represent.”
I remember feeling much like him during my time in school. I didn’t feel really in touch with who I thought I was until I was in seventh grade. After attending a predominantly white elementary school, I was put on a waiting list to attend Inman Middle School. In the meanwhile, my mother enrolled me in the school close to my grandmother’s neighborhood. At Columbia Middle School I was among people that looked just like me, but I was a outsider. They told me I looked funny, talked funny, dressed like a white boy, and, the one that hurt the most, I was too smart. At that moment I thought I lacked the presence of white people to define who I was.
I finally transferred to Inman towards the end of the first semester of sixth grade. I was relieved to be there, but I still wasn’t defined as a person. I shortly came to realize that it wasn’t the presence of white people that defined me, after I was told the same things at my new school. It then clicked, I really wasn’t black enough, or so I had lead myself to believe. Over the summer I tried to tap into my ‘inner blackness’ and when I returned to school in seventh grade I finally fit it. I cursed, sagged my pants, slacked off in class, and even tried a few things. I was ‘black’, but something was still missing.
I was stuck in my race to define me, however, I lacked integrity, individuality, and most importantly, authenticity.
Authenticity is a matter of values. Know those and be true to them and you can comfortably navigate the uneven terrain of life.
Patrick talked about finally finding who he was. He said he fell into the common trap at Milton where he would pull the race card whenever it seemed appropriate. He was confused, until one of his teachers explained to him that race wasn’t the only thing that could define him.
Many African-Americans have become affixed in the mindset of entitlement and mediocrity because of the color of our skin. I realized after middle school that just because I was doing those things I wasn’t proving I was black. I was only fulfilling the stereotypes expected for me. Once I started high school I began to understand the value of friendship. no matter the race, the importance of a good work ethic, and that respect will take you further in life. Those crucial moments in the beginning of high school helped me find my true identity.
As I enter college I have come to understand a few things. The first is that I can not bear the woes of the people in my race cleaving to systematized racial standards. The second is that I must be accountable for my actions, because eventually I will have to walk alone and I want to be happy with the man I have become. The third and final thing is that I must stay true to myself no matter what is happening around me.
I am Reginald Hutchins. I am a black man. I have an identity.