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The following Featured Post comes from Relationship Group 1, Thread 3.

1. Introduction (I)
Mon, Sep 13, 1999 - 6:49 PM/EST

My name is Jonathan, and I'm a communications professional living in Pasadena, Calif. I'm 35, single (previously involved in a long-term, cross-cultural relationship), European American, and Christian.

I'd like to offer some notes and observations on the bios of the 61 people who initially signed up for this dialogue group. I'm interested in how people choose to self-identify. I believe that often, what people choose not to state is as important as what we do state about ourselves.

38 people identified themselves as women
13 people did not identify by gender
10 people identified as men

3 people identified as gay or lesbian
0 people identified as straight

14 people idenfied as white
11 people identified as black
3 people identified as being biracial (one of whom identified as Hispanic and white, and one as Cherokee and black)
1 person identified as Cherokee
1 person idenfied as "traditional"
1 person identified as being from India
1 person identified as being Asian American
1 person identified as AmerAsian
1 person identified as Jewish
1 person identified as "light brown"
1 person identified as a "person of color"
26 people did not initially identify any ethnicity

Note that while a majority of registrants (48, or almost 5 out of 6 people)identified according to gender, only half (36 people) identified according to ethnicity or color.

19 people identified as parents or grandparents

23 people identified as having been in, or as currently being in, or as wanting to be in, an interracial relationship.

2. Introduction (II)
Mon, Sep 13, 1999 - 6:51 PM/EST

52 people did not initially identify according to faith community.
5 people identified as being Christian
3 people identified as "God-centered," spiritual, or seeking
1 person identified as having been raised as Hindu

9 people chose names that describe nature, such as plants or animals, including "black narcissus," "deep waters," "dragon," "ladyhawk," "sandflower," "sunshine," "swamp baby," and two people chose "songbird".

4 people chose amusing names related to an occupation or hobby, including "OK Cowboy," "ringmaster," "shock Doc," and "Web diva."

Almost half of the registrants in our group (28 people) identified according to occupations, including educator(7), creative artist (5), government (3), doctor (2), lawyer (2), communications/writer (2), counselor (2), Army, librarian, chemist, C-print captionist, and pastor.

I believe each individual is more than the sum of their labels, whether the labels are self-chosen or imposed by society. I'm interested in sharing with you, hearing from you, and learning from your sounds and silences.

3. Introduction II
Mon, Sep 13, 1999 - 10:10 PM/EST

I agree. I labeled myself as a chemist because it is (or was) unique for an african american woman to be a chemist. I am proud of being a pioneer. I guess it is because of my generation.
Now I am actively trying to make sure that students who are coming after me have to "label" themselves as an african american chemist, because it will no longer be unique, since there will be so many of them in the 21th century.

4. Hello, Betty
Mon, Sep 13, 1999 - 11:18 PM/EST

Betty, You have a right to feel proud as a scientific pioneer. Being a professional chemist is quite an accomplishment for anyone. I'm guessing that you graduated from college and entered the profession in the late 1950's--say, around the time of the Montgomery, Ala., Bus Boycott?

That was about the time my father graduated from the Univ. of Tennessee with a chemistry degree. I know from listening to him that there were not many women, and not many African Americans, working as chemists in the late 1950's/early 1960's.

Was there a particular role model or mentor who inspired you to become a chemist, Betty?

5. Introduction
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 1:09 AM/EST

Hi, Jonathan. THANK YOU for categorizing the way we identified ourselves. Fascinating!

I wonder if it's a cultural thing--how we identify ourselves. I never even thought of identifying my race--probably because it doesn't seem important to me as a part of my identity. I am a human being, living with a whole bunch of other human beings, rich in our diversity, on the planet we share with each other. I don't know whether that view is due to naivete, rose-colored glasses, spiritual faith, social determinism (meaning: How ever will the human race survive the new millennium if we can't accept each other as who we are?), or a simple dream that refuses to die.

6. Identifying Yourself/Labels
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 1:21 AM/EST

I was interested in ayrie51's movement to get away from labels. I think that in many senses, yes, it is a beautiful idea to get away from labels and see each other as human beings. We Hindus often say "We are not our bodies; we are our souls." You don't have to belong to any religion to see that, but I believe that only more highly evolved people can see past somone's outward labels to who they are inside.

However, ethnic labels, when used in the right way, can be useful. I belong to several categories according to my occupation, ancestry, culture, and status in my family and community. When I say that I am of a certain faith, then I take pride in identifying as a member of that faith and it in some ways defines who I am. If you say you are a Christian, than it is safe to assume that you believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

ayrie51, I think what you are trying to do (by all means please correct me if I'm wrong), is get away from certain stereotypes associated with labels. If I say I am Hindu them some will think of a peace loving vegetarian. Others will think of a heathen idol-worshipper. It depends on their point of reference. Saying that I am a human being automatically gives a point of reference that joins the two people together, regardless of their past expriences or prejudices.

7. Arriving
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 2:41 AM/EST

It is after midnight here in Colorado. My most consistent label might be "night owl." But mostly I think this about labels: When we label ourselves, often we are naming a role we play. Sometimes that label is shorthand, however, for what we do, what we value, etc. I teach college English courses, which is what I've been doing tonight. I like doing it, and it is good to be paid for doing something I enjoy. But if I disliked it, my job title would be the same, right? I'd say "professor" and you'd infer something about me from that title, which might very well be based upon your own experience with people who wear that label.

I think it is interesting to talk about ourselves in terms of verbs--"I do . . ." "I feel . . ." "I think . . ." "I like . . ."

I write. I worked for a very long time learning how to do it well. But if I identify myself as "a writer," then maybe I'm not quite free to stop writing if I've decided I've learned all I set out to do. But then, I believe that "in a literate society we are all writers."

I'm just trying to introduce myself a little bit here, and it gets late even for night owls, who then don't express themselves too clearly. So I will say goodnight.

But---I would like to know what sort of chemistry Betty's involved in.

8. identifying yourself/labels
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 7:37 AM/EST

Hi, Ambers! You stated it beautifully. Thank you. I agree that the categories we choose to describe ourselves often represent a personal source of pride, which unfortunately can be misperceived by anybody misinformed or prejudiced against that category, while others can relate to it and delight in the bond it creates. We all need a common point of reference in order to understand each other, I think. For me, it's always been: human being.

9. Identification
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 10:43 AM/EST

Or could it be that we also chose to direct our claimed identities towards areas that we perceive as being key to the purpose of this group. Perhaps some of us also wanted to provide the group with an idea of how our opinion may have been formed, based on our various backgrounds. I could have listed all the negative assoc. that I've encountered but as a group, we are still infants. As we go on, I am sure many things will be revealed. As for me, I am a 47 yr old, African-American woman living in Ohio.

10. Introduction
Tue, Sep 14, 1999 - 7:01 PM/EST

Very insightful messages have been posted about this concept of labels and how they impact us. It reminds me of a workshop I once attended where the facilitator asked what we first notice about people. Most participants stated things that were intangible, such as warmth, sincerity, etc. He then told us that we weren't being honest with ourselves--that what most people notice first is race, age, gender, size, and disability, and that those characteristics color our transactions with those we meet. Many of the people disagreed, then he asked us to imagine an 85-year-old, blind, Chinese grandmother and a 19-year-old African American male who is 6'4" and weighs 275 lbs. Then he asked if we would respond to each in exactly the same way and if we would make the same assumptions about each.

Good food for thought, right? It was a learning experience for many of us that day.

Read more featured posts here or continue reading thread 3 from Relationship Group 1.

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