Essay on Racial Identities, By Kwame Appiah

Essay on Racial Identities, By Kwame Appiah

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Kwame Appiah, author of Racial Identities, explores the complexity between individual and collective identity. Throughout the text, Appiah attempts to define these complicated notions, noting their similarities and differences. He calls upon the ideas of other philosophers and authors to help formulate his own. Essentially, individual and collective identity are very much intertwined. Appiah argues that collective identities are very much related to behavior. There is not one particular way a certain ethnic group acts, but instead “modes of behavior (Appiah 127).” These behavioral acts provide loose norms or models. However, Appiah also notes that it is how individuals essentially make or allow these collective identities to become central to their own individual identity, that differentiate them. How collective identities are used and implemented will vary between person, therefore the relationship between the two will vary.
Appiah uses the example of the African American race throughout his work to describe the relationship between African Americans and the “white society” (Appiah 121). He describes that blacks are constantly being recognized in a white person 's state of mind, through a white person’s point of view, through a white person 's eyes. Appiah argues that the African American race has not be constructed within the race itself, but instead shaped by the society around them. There are no vales, practices or beliefs African Americans share. They are only understood in reference to, “the bearers of other American racial identities (Appiah 122).” This idea is central to the identity of African Americans, however it is negatively central as it “insults their dignity” and places “limitations on their autonomy” (Appiah 12...


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...rranging them to work in his factory. Both Oskar Schindler and Bruno did not allow neither their collective identity as Germans nor their pro-Nazi culture, to become central to their own individual identity and morals. They did not allow the constraints or “expectations of others”, in a German sense, to make them act differently.
Collective identity refers to behavior and serve as a basis of understanding. However, how those collective identities are implemented into the personal identities of someone are different. For Martin Luther King, the collective identity of the African American race as constantly having their dignity assaulted, caused him to change his own personal identity. For Oskar Schindler and Bruno in the films, they abandoned their collective identities as Germans and instead rewrote their personal identities to include morals and compassion.

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