In the story Identities and Social Locations: Who Am I? Who Are My People?, Kirk and Okazawa-Rey talk about how people’s identities are formed. There are several levels on which people establish their identities, the first being at the individual level.
Internally, people are able to identify who they are. This level is the most easy to attain and understand because this comes directly from the individual. Above all, they are able to say, with confidence, exactly which “category” they feel they fit into. This is not stagnant, though. With every new life event comes a possibility of completely changing who we feel we are inside and out.
Outside of the individual, there are several levels that feed into our identity. The next level up, the meso level, is where people attempt to figure out if they are in the same “group” as you or not. Questions are asked to identify what makes you similar or different to them. This is the first level that makes identifying ourselves so much more difficult. This level is about identifying with certain groups of people that are similar to you.
Similarly, at a macro scale, there are groups that people are identified to be a part of. This time, people do not get to choose if they want to be in the group or not. There is a clear classification system in the world and it pits “us against them”. There are several ways in which this happens including stereotyping and cultural appropriation.
While there is an obvious problem of inequality caused by this, there is an underlying issue: many people have to choose one identity over the other in certain contexts. There may be a person who is a part of the “in group” in certain aspects of their life, but not others. At this point, context is key.
Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W. J., Castaneda, R., Hackman, H. W., Peters, M. L., & Zuniga, X. (2000). Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. Psychology Press.