So let me get this straight:
Girls can't be who they are because of girls, boys, adults and society
Boys can't be who they are because of boys, girls, adults and society
Adolescents can't be who they are because of stages and development and schema, boys, girls, adults, and society
Anyone who has race can't be who they are because of others like and unlike them and stages and development and schema, and boys and girls, and society
There is really no such thing as race, but we live in a world that is racial, in fact "a fundamental organizing principle, a way of knowing and interpreting the social world."(121)
Is it any wonder that Nakkula and Toshalis describe the identities of the young people we work with as "performances" (121)?
We often discuss race and gender issues in my classroom, especially in the early part of the year and here is a link to a website my students and I discussed recently: Understanding Race
Whenever possible, we try to distinguish the language of race from culture in my classroom, as culture is generally associated with pride and family, and race is usually associated with racism. One of my students suggested today that we all check the "other" box when filling out demographic info, and write in "human" in the space provided. I thought this was an excellent suggestion, and was even happier when it led to a spirited classroom discussion. My favorite part was one student who steadfastly refused to consider that racism played a role in his life (white male) and while we never came to consensus as to why it might, neither did he eject or shut down from the conversation. I can't wait until tomorrow.
How can anyone be expected to demonstrate "authentic" when what is expected of them is in such conflict with anything individual and personal?
I think that probably the most important task of adolescence and the one that causes the most stress to the individual is discovering who they are authentically, and allowing that to drive decisions and be seen by others. I would contend that when young people pretend to be like others, act like the crowd, and it is not authentic to their true selves, that it causes massive internal conflict, which is apparent to others and the source for insecurity and beacons ridicule. This in turn, rather than influencing the adolescent toward more individual pursuits, causes them to refine their attempts to fit in, with a shut down period in between.
It is only when adolescents make honest attempts to share their authentic selves regardless of the reinforcement they get from peers, that they are seen as individual, and respected. This causes a conundrum for teens, the fear to be original leading to more adaptive behavior, which in turn leads to reinforcement of adaptive rather than individual behavior. Whether assimilating to gender, race, or other social stimulus, young adolescents trend toward and desire inclusion, when in fact, it is the authentic individual that will attract true friends and commandeer respect among them.
One area in which chapters 6 & 7 fail to give enough room for is the manifestations of gender and racial pressure, which often show themselves in sex, and drug and alcohol use.
When young people experience frustration with gender and race roles, they often turn to risky behaviors in an attempt to fit in. Adolescent boys as well as girls feel enormous pressure to engage in sexual relationships because of the stories and encouragement they feel from peers, often even more so than because of curiosity or raging hormones. Girls and boys both feel pressure from their peer groups to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and as much as we may want to separate this from gender and race study, they are intertwined.
We hear about Antwon listening to rap, and wearing counter culture clothing, but not of hanging out with his crew smoking weed? We discuss Lorena building muscle and flipping off classmates who question it, but not cries of "dyke"? Predators (socially, sexually, and racially) know about the incredible pressure sex-alcohol-drugs have on teens, especially those in conflict, and we as educators need to be realistic in our outlook as well, have open conversations, and build strong foundations within our young people in order for them to have the necessary tools to face these daily challenges with more than just hope. Building those skills is complex, and requires a strong sense of self, but also a flexible and open approach that is geared toward the individual.