What is an identity? Each person that is asked that question may assume different things such as, a legal identity, a personality, or what they think of themselves. Kwame Appiah’s “Why identity is a lie we can’t live without” and John Gravois’s “A Toast Story” helps us answer three general questions about identities, What is an identity? What do they do for us? Why do they matter?
In Gravois’s “A Toast Story,” he leads the conversation by talking about the start of the popularity of toast in San Francisco. He then begins talking about Giulietta Carrelli and her schizophrenic condition. She has episodes where she will forget where she is and won’t know what’s going on. When she opened trouble she began talking to every person that walked in the door to create a network of people who know who she is and can recognize her. She wears the same clothes everyday so people will see her and identify her as the owner of Trouble. This is the first key concept that starts to answer the three key questions.
To Guilettia, her identity does matter immensely because she depends on people to recognize her on the streets when she’s having an episode. To other people, Carelli’s identity lets other people who know her, help her. It also gives them the opportunity to start a conversation with her when someone sees her because she will always be known as the owner or trouble and whether or not people know her personally or from a news article, it allows people to get to know and understand her identity. “Trouble is a tool for keeping her alive. I’m trying to stay connected to the self, she says. Like one of her old notebooks, the shop has become an externalized set of reference points, an index of Carrelli’s identity. It is her greatest source of dependable routine and her most powerful means of expanding her network of friends and acquaintances, which extends now to the shop’s entire clientele.”
In Appiah’s “Why an identity is a lie we can’t live without” he interviews Sean Illing about identities. They talk about all the different kinds of identities have. First being political, people will always assume your choices are based on what side your on, which is inescapable. They also talk about people’s sexual preference as an identity. People can identify as any way they want to but people will also think of this when they speak of you, this topic is also inescapable. The whole point of the interview is to find out why an identity is a lie we can’t live without. An identity can be a lie because no one person has only one identity, everyone has different identities to different people and in different places. Also, people can assume your identity based on what people have heard, which is also a lie because then that person doesn’t know the real you.
People will also categorize someone by their race/ ethnicity, “If you allow your identity to be totally shaped by your opposition to a dominant culture, as many racial group have done because of the history of racism and xenophobia, you can become locked into that minority status. The first time a group becomes conscious of itself as an important social group, it is because they realize that they’re all being subjected to something.” Ultimately, classifying other people shows your true identity and what you think about them.
When Illing was asked why he called an identity a lie in the lie his response was, “There’s something misleading or mistaken about the pictures that underlie these identities and yet they bind us together in spite of that. They do bring people together, as well as divide people, and i think that the lies, the untruths, are often a very important part of how they work. They’re important to how people are held together. What he means by this is everyone will categorize people into what they think, or what they know you are; It’s second nature to do this.
Both of these articles provide necessary information to answer the three most important questions. Once we can understand ourselves and other people, then do we really get to understand someone’s true identity to you and to other people. Reading these articles were helpful to understand how we answer the questions and how we think about ourselves and other people around us. It shows us why then matter and how other people can be affected by what our identities are.