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The understanding self is critical to becoming a responsible member of society and our practices of equity.  Becoming an equity practitioner asks us to look at ourselves on a very deep and complex level. So, let’s begin with a vital question:

What’s your story?

We self-identify with several cultures in our society. Our cultural identities shape who we are. These identities also influence how we see others, influence our opinions, and dictate how we engage with other cultures within our society.

Beverly Daniel Tatum (Links to an external site.)

discusses the complexity of identity in

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

(Links to an external site.)

She depicts how identity is shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts (Tatum 99).  Tatum poses the question “Who Am I?” and offers the following response: “

The answer depends in large part on who the world around me says I am. Who do my parents say I am? Who do my peers say I am? What message is reflected back to me in the faces and voices of my teachers, my neighbors, store clerks. What do I learn from the media about myself? How am I represented in the cultural images around me? Or am I missing from the picture altogether?” (99).

Tatum argues that integrating one’s past, present, and future into a cohesive, unified sense of self is a complex task that begins in adolescence and continues for a lifetime (101).

The question of identity and the reshaping of self is explored in countless other works, as well. In her collection of writing, “Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity,” author Porochista Khakpour relates her relationship with identity as she shares, “I had tactics as a child: I hid inside the American costumes I wore – punk, cowgirl, starlet – and took on Persian only when I had to” (4). She continues, “Once in a while a baffled peer would ask: ‘But what’s Persian? Aren’t you from Iran? I’d spin the wheel in my brain and let the arrow land on the many somethings, anythings, I had cobbled…” (4).

The objective of this essay is to gain insight into how our cultural identities inform our experiences, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, and to better understand the diversity and connections within society.

Identifying Individual Culture(s): Dimensions of Diversity


primary dimensions

of age, race, gender, ethnicity, (dis)abilities, sexual identity, economic class (childhood), and religion (childhood) serve as core elements and shape our basic self-image and our fundamental view. They help form our core expectations of others in our personal and professional life.


secondary dimensions

of culture including education, income/economic status, religious beliefs (current), relationship/parental status, geographic location, and work background serve as independent influences on our self-esteem and self-definition. This influence varies with who we are, our stage of life, and changes we have experienced.

In this essay, you will explore the dimensions of identity and find 5 different dimensions that highlight your cultural/life identity. You need to pick a least one from primary and one from secondary. The other three can come from either category.

Please note:

You may use the same dimensions and the same writing from your discussion if you like! You may also change the information if you prefer.

Your choices could be those with which you have built confident relationships, or those that you are trying to comfortably unfold. Explain your relationship with those dimensions and why they are significant.

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