- Bridgewater College WordPress

Rashaan Edward E.
My Cultural Identity Essay
Coming from New York, I often struggled with how to identify myself in a new environment such
as college. With no one from my old home nearby I could not rely on the views of others to show
everyone in my new school that I am who I am. Or rather, I am who I thought I was. My entire life I had
spent interacting with others who had seen me through the eyes of encounters with my entire family.
Most have known my family, and could say that they have known me longer than even had known who I
was. Now was the perfect time to figure out if I was exactly the person I thought I was, or if I was
someone entirely different. Someone who never had a chance to be the person they wanted to be
because they always had to worry about offending, embarrassing, or making the people I care about
uncomfortable. It was finally time for me to show everyone exactly who I was, with no regrets. Hopefully
it agreed with what I already believed but if not, then it was time to let go and move on forward. This
was my life and it is finally okay to live it the way I choose.
In life we base our self image on a number of things, starting with how we interact with others.
From birth people are watching us to make sure that we play well with others, share, and the follow
rules given to us. I have never been one of those people. Being born in Brooklyn, and raised in Queens,
and being into cartoons and super heroes, life was tough. Since I was at an all black school I often saw
students that were disobedient and hated authority, no matter if it was teachers, parents, or even
police. Hate for authority was always an underlying theme, and I also shared this way of thinking, but in
a different way. At an early age I understood that this life we lived was a construct of our environment.
If we lived in Garden City (the nearby millionaire neighborhood) would we still have the same material
desires for shoes, clothes, jewelry, and items to show others that we are doing well for ourselves, or our
parents were at least? I rebelled against it because I hated it, I did not agree with pushing others down
just to become popular or well admired. Not when I could gather the same notoriety with being kind to
others. So I began being nice to others, overly nice, when others would shun someone I would accept
them into my life. This gained me not only the love of students but for teachers as well. Eventually this
landed me to become the target for bullying, being called gay for being far too nice. I dealt with the
problems on my own, it didn’t bother me so long as others were happy. I wouldn’t fight my own bullies
but would beat those who picked on others to a pulp and deal with trouble that came with it later, using
my words. My gift of speech has gotten me out of many predicaments, where others in my school
lacked at speech I excelled. Speaking in Ebonics to teachers would prove to be a downfall for others,
their coolness factor seemed to weigh them down, whereas my ability not to care about how I am seen
helped me make the others smile and laugh. This ability to speak clearly and intelligently to my white
teachers and people of authority while speaking in Ebonics to my classmates would later bring me to a
contradictory path that I even dealt with in college. Speaking well, thinking on my feet, smiling all the
time, and being nice lead me to be called “white”. Sometimes even the “whitest black person” people
knew. I hated that term. I was black, have always been black, and will always be black. I knew that I
loved the same things my black friends from home liked, such as Christmas, go shopping for new
clothes, and even violent video games. There was no way I was white, I don’t even understand how I
could be seen as white. Was it because I liked anime, science, liked to learn, got along with everyone,
and didn’t have to act like I didn’t want to smile because I was actually happy. I didn’t understand, until I
went to college.
Once in college I noticed that everyone broke into their different racial groups, but I soon
noticed that it was nothing like in New York. In New York it didn’t matter what you looked like because
we were all Black, Spanish, or Asian, and just hung out if you shared things in common with others that
shared common interests. The blacks stuck together because they were black here. But I figured out
quickly that it did make a difference here, I stuck out like a sore thumb. If I didn’t find a black friend I
would be exiled out of the black crowd, which ended up happening eventually until I found one. I hung
out with two people, Josh and Duece. With one black friend and one white friend I quickly hung out with
black and white people and also had people who shared some of the things I did. That was, until they
left, when both of my friends gone I had to learn how to fend for myself. I quickly made other friends
with people who I shared interests with rather than cultural background experiences. Since I normally
dressed black I could fit in with black people but as soon as they heard me speaking with my professors
they thought I had been hiding a part of me from them so they would leave. And my white friends would
leave once they heard me getting excited, because I would start to act more “black”. This whole race
thing has followed me my entire life and has caused more stress than positives. I did not know it at first
but now I realize that I would not let the thoughts of others on race affect my way of thinking. I think
that this reinforced my postionality beliefs even more. The more I dealt with other people the more I
knew exactly who I was. After being in Bridgewater I know who I was before is not exactly who I am
now, but I also know that my ideas about my views for the world will not change what I already went
through. The difficult thoughts I had were the stand point I held onto. The thoughts I had no one else
but me could experience because no one from here has had those exact experiences. The way I reacted
in those situations were based off of what values I held. Although I may not know what others have had
to experience I do know what I went through and that it has shaped my entire world and the way I
interact with others.
The way that I interact with others is based on these two things. I may not realize it but life has
changed so much since I was little. I will never forget the struggles that have made me the way I am
though. I am also interested in what I will be like in the future.