Ethnic Identity Essay

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Explain and briefly evaluate the role of the family in ethnic identity (24 marks) Ethnic identity is something that an individual can achieve and express to others, for example, through the clothes they wear or their religion’s values. An ethnic identity can be applied to an individual as a way of labeling them and their culture as being different. This can involve a process of ‘othering’ where the self is seen in a positive way and anything different is defined in the negative. So, in the case of black and white identities, white people may see black people as ‘the other’, that is, not white, not being like ‘us’. Said (1995) explains how this process occurs in the West’s construction of the Orient as exotic. It is important to remember that identities can be experienced and/or applied to others and that what a person feels their ethnic identity is may be different from what another person thinks it is. The family is crucial in creating and reinforcing an individual’s sense of ethnic identity. A family’s surname and first name can portray a sense of ethnic identity, for example the name Gareth Jones suggests a Welsh link. The languages spoken in the family home, the food and clothing selected for children are also important influences. The values held by the family may be related to ethnicity. Francis and Archer (2006) show how British Chinese families value educational achievement. The family plays a crucial role in the educational success of their children, with families making considerable sacrifices to ensure success for their children, often going without new consumer goods in order to pay private school fees. However, this does not mean that children blindly follow the guidance of their family. It is likely that young people conform to some expectations whilst rejecting others. Modood et al. (1997) show how young South Asians are less likely than their

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