The common theme in the Humanities is that nothing stands on its own. Any artifact, historical record, or work of literature always has a lens that implicitly alters the viewer’s perception. In writing for example, there are bibliographic codes. The way the words are arranged on a page or how they’re presented can drasically change the meaning of identical texts. In our first unit in the Humanities, Martin Luther King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was published in several different newspapers that we got to see in the archives room. By simple layout, font, and title changes, the whole text’s meaning could change. In some papers MLK seemed more like a radical, while in others he seemed more prophetic. Thus, even though the underlying subject has not been altered, the critical lens which we approach it with will invariably shape our conclusions. I have come to realize this with my own identity as well.
I grew up as an expatriate in China. Although I am half-Chinese and have Chinese family, I spent the early part of my life in the States and grew up in an English speaking home and school. In China, I have always been considered at least mixed, or even white. My accented Chinese didn’t help. Hence I have always considered myself more American at heart.
Yet at Davidson, I have come to realize how i’m not truly American nor Chinese. I still have to jump through the social hoops of : “Wow your english is so good” or “Where are you actually from”. I always try and respond by mentioning that I’m half-white, as if my whiteness is equivalent to being American.
I realize now that I have to overcome the initial lens of people perceiving me as a foreign Other. However, I understand that these are only trivial barriers as opposed to the ones many other people face day after day. Hence, I’m glad to have realized that my identity and how people see me are not always the same. By being an outsider of two cultures, I hope that I can better understand my own biases and cultural schemas that occupy how I perceive others.