Race and Gender in Identity Salience: the car I drive and the signs I hold

moeFeminism is really something that Dr. EW has taught me.  Most of my life I’ve been too busy assuming that “It’s because I’m Black” to ever consider that “It’s because I’m a woman”.  The only time being a woman really came into play for me was the “Angry Black Woman” (whoever she is) that I am always being compared to when I show any type of assertiveness or show any type of negative emotion.  The real eye opening moment for me was just two years ago when Dr. EW and I met the same man at the same time and at the end of the day she experienced him as being sexist and that had never crossed my mind, I had just assumed “It’s because I’m Black”.  I guess being a double minority really makes you prioritize what is salient.  I sometimes forget how women have had to fight and continue to fight for equality in several aspects of life.  Society has showed me some places where I need to think about my gender and in those places being a woman is definitely more salient.  For example, the car dealership, which I have visited a few times with my father, is a place of female minority salience.  My dad brings his wallet and his negotiation skills but I bring all the facts and figures about the car.  My dad required that I do my research and be completely familiar with the specs of the car I intend him to gift me!  At the dealership we are met by some eager salesman (not a microaggression, it’s always been a man) who is ready to help my dad buy a nice new shiny ride.  I can probably count on both hands and toes how many times my dad has to tell the salesman, “It’s her car, I’m just here to write the check”.  The salesman talks to me for point two seconds and then is back to trying to convince my dad how great this new model is.  Dad, who has looked over my facts and specs before we even step onto the dealership floor, is really not concerned with what I choose (as long as it’s in budget) because he knows I’ve researched the car and have made the best decision for my needs. Dad, who has also given me the budget and insured I’ve done the math on the price after tax, title and license, doesn’t care if we buy a car on that day, from that dealership or really at all.  So he would be more than willing to go play golf if I am not satisfied with the vehicle.  Someone should really tell the salesman these things!  Tell him that the Woman in this picture is the person making the decision.  She is the one that knows about the car.  That she . . . I am actually the customer!  But I am fairly young, at that time much younger and also Black so again I forget to factor in that I’m a woman. 

Dr. EW started making connections with successful women at our workplace.  And being excited by her passion I followed suit.  However, being a woman in the workplace driven by men I recognized that I couldn’t leave my Black behind.  Because being a Black woman in the workplace driven by White men means both things are salient.  Sitting at the feet of successful Black woman I realized that they too found the struggle of being Black and being a Woman very intertwined.  I wondered why I can never for a second let my color not be the focus or the reason.  This made me think about circumstances in which being a woman is the most salient.  To me this only comes into play when I am among only African Americans, because then my Blackness is no longer salient. 

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The Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identities shows that we have several roles and depending on the circumstances or situation different things become more salient to us.  I love this diagram because it’s a true depiction of how I feel at times; my roles are always in motion as a reaction to the situation.  I’m always MB at the core but depending on the context I might be Dr. MB Christian Black Woman (please say this in a superhero voice and visualize me in a cape)!


Needless to say I am far behind Dr. EW who can clearly articulate her journey in Feminism.  I am learning to recognize when the atom is shifting and gender is closer to the core.  Ironically in the diagram Race is closest to the core so I feel comforted that I’m not the only person still working on this! Being around other women who are farther along in the journey like, Dr. EW, has been a tremendous help to me.  It’s also been refreshing to feel free to put down the “It’s Because I’m Black” sign that I carry around all the time. That thing gets heavy on the soul.  However, I’ve also learned that this does not mean that I have to replace that sign with the “It’s because I’m a Woman” sign.  I can just be MB and pick up a sign to picket when it’s time to, when the atom has shifted in that direction, or the next time I’m at a car dealership (which my dad has assured next time will be without him and his wallet). 


Jones, S. R., & McEwen, M. K. (2000, July/August). A Conceptual Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity. Journal of College Student Development, 41(4), 405-414.


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