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Stuart Hall Reading Response

To me this reading, Ethnicity: Identity and Difference, feels highly relevant to discourse today surrounding social justice, including racial inequality, feminism, LGBT rights, and trans rights in particular. Stuart Hall begins his talk by deconstructing the idea that identity is a fixed entity of absolute truth that runs deep in one’s personality. Instead, identity is fluid, it changes constantly as we grow and age. And while our sense of self is informed by a myriad of influences— historical, social and political—we should have the power to discover and define our identity for ourselves. Towards the end of this talk, Hall mentions the journey he knows his own son must take in forming and understanding his own identity; for example, as a bi-racial kid growing up in London, his sense of his ethnic identity will differ considerably from Hall’s who grew up in Jamaica and later moved to the UK. To me this discussion of a fluid identity and of working that identity out for oneself, is completely pertinent to the discourse surrounding “political correctness.” Those who rail against it seem to feel that being called out on using certain terms (on being politically incorrect) is overprotective, dramatic, or even anal. But a marginalized group’s ability to define themselves, to control how they wish to be referred to is important in establishing respect for this group as well as a degree of control of their experiences. For transgender individuals in particular, using a preferred pronoun and changing one’s birth name, for example, can be immensely important in solidifying their identity. To ignore those preferences or to deliberately misuse them is hateful and contributes to a transphobic environment and sentiment with dangerous consequences.

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