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Components of Our Identity by Tatum

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Tatum rationalises that one’s identity is moulded by many components in one’s life and falls back on how one is perceived by others. Tatum explains that each component of our identity differentiate us because we are constantly identified through our race, ethnicity, gender, and more. All of our identities has each form of oppression and we are both dominant and subordinate simultaneously. Tatum then describes what subordinates face when compared to dominants.

Oppression occurs in each classification and seems to correspond to subordination mostly. For the dominant group, they are oppressors which equates them to enjoying privileges, earned or unearned. Tatum articulates that we would discover ourselves being dominate and targeted simultaneously in our multiple identities, or rather, multiple allegiances. For example, Singaporean Chinese can be classified as the dominant, as the mother tongue policy has systematically provide them with more working opportunities. However, Chinese from other countries, such as China, may not have the same privileges. In another case, a Singaporean Malay may not share as much work opportunities compared to a Singaporean Chinese, though they both enjoy the same citizenship privilege.

Tatum states that those who are in the dominant group usually overlook the part of their identity and takes it for granted. For instance, we tend to take being able-bodied for granted and not mention about being able-bodied to someone. Also, in a dominant-subordinate relationship, the subordinate will often be classified as flawed, or inadequate. A typical case would be women in the military, where we rarely see women in the frontline. This is because men are generally stronger than women, so women might be assigned light duties if they are in the military because women are viewed as weaker in strength. If a women gets offered career opportunities, she might doubt her ability to take up the position.

As Tatum states, targeted group internalise the idea that the dominants demonstrates to them, and may find it hard to believe in their capacity to perform. These oppressions are much influenced by stereotypes that the society has. Another instance would be foreign workers giving up their seats to Singaporeans while taking public transport, the act of them giving up their seats to Singaporeans shows that they have internalised that they are not of equal standing as Singaporeans. In addition, Tatum also explains that when subordinates tend to dominant group closely, they focus little on themselves and in this case, foreign workers are focused on giving up their seats for Singaporeans that they fail to realise that they are also human beings who have the dignity and honour, and are equally entitled to the seats on public transports.

Tatum also mentions that when dominants deny the presence of inequality, some may think that they share similarities and sometimes, a collective experience. However, the dominants will never be able to experience how subordinates are oppressed. For example, a born rich child cannot experience how a poor child may be fretting over on how to scrimp and save, or having to think twice when buying a pen. A Singaporean may correlate to foreign workers experience of taking public transport in Singapore but they do not experience challenges foreign workers have to face.

To conclude, all these oppressions of sorts occurs everyday in the society. But with our multiple allegiances that makes us both dominate and subordinate simultaneously, it is necessary that we understand our identities fully. This way, we can recognise the oppression in others, and make efforts to play our part to make the society we live in a better one, by overcoming oppression faced by others as well as ourselves.

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Components of Our Identity by Tatum. (2020, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from
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