Identity Blues!

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By Davis Wesley Tusingwire

For little Jennie, going to one of the best schools in town, where your mother is a teacher and thus guaranteeing special treatment and extra access where students/pupils are concerned, was not such a big deal. She disliked how that particular environment worked against her true identity. See, she wasn’t looked at or treated as Jennie. Instead she was expected to be more than she could be at the time. She probably had the potential to be more, but constantly comparing her to elder sister Judith wasn’t exactly helping. Teachers punished her because she did not write as well as her sister, did not dress as smartly as her sister and for a teacher’s daughter, did not perform as excellently. No body cared about who she really was.

She is not the only one. We have heard stories about mistaken identity, mixed personalities, misjudgement, among others. An identity crisis is common among teenagers across the world, as they discoover themselves and their abilities. Books have been writen and movies have acted about this issue.

And yet it doesn’t end there. Beloved and now fallen, former NTV News anchor Rosemary Nankabirwa endured the bitter words from critiques when someone leaked a picture of her, sick and frailing . To the public, she and all the other public figures are regarded as super human and therefore not expected to be as human as everyone else. It is funny to think, people were surprised she could look that way, as though she was born on Mars. They are human, like you and me and therefore, bound to suffer illnesses, eat the same kind of food, gain or lose weight or even die. Just like everybody else. But alas! A very dangerous stereotype is attached to their identity and we see them misjudged if they dressed differently from what we expect of them, or visited places we think are way below their standards. We almost think they are immortal.

During Easter prayers, a Burundian National dorning a Rick Ross look alike beard was arrested at Rubaga cathedral in Uganda where he had gone for service and detained on suspicion of being a terrorist, all because of his beard. Most terrorist attacks across the world have been linked to the Muslim fraternity, who as a cultural practice grow a beard; for whatever reasons, and this young man could have innocently grown one too, unaware that it would get him into trouble.

Ladies have been called sluts/whores because they dared expose more flesh than the ordinary woman.

Men have been branded homosexuals because they are more soft spoken than their brothers, or because they have a pierced ear or because they prefer brighter colors in their wardrobe among others.

Not so long ago there was a debate on social networks especially Facebook and the mainstream media in Uganda as to who is the fairest? This discussion centred on our current Miss Uganda-Miss Leah Kalanguka who upon being crowned, was criticized and demonised for being ugly because of one poorly taken photograph of her that appeared on the scene. The criticism arose from the angle and comparison with the the recently crowned Miss Rwanda who was deemed and declared a true beauty due to her appearance on the outside.

We have witnessed some people being harrased because they are related to a given person or are over worshiped because of the same.

And through all this, nobody seems to notice what they have to endure, if they manage to make their true self shine through. Many go unrecognised most of the time.

Families are distabilized by identity battles. Children want to be their own person but their parents/guardians want them to be something else. Siblings compete with each other, and of course the brightest usually steals the show and the other(s) are almost forgotten. In schools teachers favor some for given attributes and forget the others. And those forgotten are teased/bullied so badly, sometimes they never recover from it. In workplaces we see superiors harrass their subordinates of out of insecurity. They fear their identity in the company will be overshadowed by those they lead, and so they feel threatened.

Identity is a broad and sensitive issue. It is encouraged though, to always give each individual an opportunity to identify themselves and decide what/who they want to be remembered as. It can be hard to accept others for who they truely are, but since we all need to be accepted or want to impose on others what they should be, it’s only fair that we let them be. It is easier to live with a happier person, regardless of their identity crisis.

What is identity? What identifies us?

The author of this piece is a member of FESYLF (Uganda). The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

You can follow him on twitter on this his handle @w_tusingwire

About Chris Nkwatsibwe

Chris is a young activist, so passionate about justice. His understanding of the fact that every decision that each and every individual makes, whenever or wherever, affects millions of people beyond thy spheres of influence has informed every decision he has made for his life and others.