cWhat is Covering?
People hide their identity for all different reasons, when this happens it’s called covering. Yoshino defines covering as “To tone down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream,” (479). He also uses the terms True Self and False Self throughout the article in order to exhibit his ideas on covering and when it occurs. After reading his article, what came to my attention most are the two terms listed above, equality paradigm and liberty paradigm. These four terms are essential for answering the questions; In what kinds of circumstances would a person need to hide a part of their identity? What might hiding a part of their identity do to and for a person – both in those particular circumstances and over time? And what might a society gain and lose when a person covers a part of their identity over time?
A false self is when someone pretends to be something they’re not, which can happen for many reasons; popularity, legal issues or protection. In some circumstances they may hide only parts of their identity but other times they might hide who they are entirely. True self is when someone acts how they normally do and doesn’t pretend to be something they’re not, they may be in an environment where they feel completely comfortable to express who they are. However, in circumstances such as the Holocaust, Jewish people wanted to hide their identity to stay alive. A person also might try to hide their identity at a job interview or an event of significance to prevent them from getting in trouble or judged unfairly. Overtime if a person hides their identity they may lose track of who they are, whether it’s good or bad, or it can shape them into the person they’re hoping to be. Society is exceptional at making people hide their identity in order to fit the standards.
When someone who has a “different” personality hides their true self, society gains a dominant group of people looking and acting a certain way, everything is orderly and predictable. However when this happens it causes unique people to be lost and silenced, when the person could have benefitted a certain cause, we have a loss of potential. “In practice, I expect the liberty paradigm to protect the authentic self better than the equality paradigm. While it need not do so, the equality paradigm is prone to essentializing the identities it protects. Under an equality paradigm, if a woman who wore a lot of makeup were protected by a court because makeup is an “essential” part of being a woman, this could reinforce the stereotype that women wear makeup,” (485). In the article, Liberty Paradigm is defined as “to protect the authentic self” and Equality Paradigm is defined at “Essentializing the identities it protects,” (485). What this quote is saying is the liberty paradigm protects what people do to express themselves and that the equality paradigm protects how people chose to identify themselves, which is why the use of makeup is an example to explain this. Women are categorized into certain groups as are many other people who do things that may not be normal to certain people, however they’re not protected by law.
The Civil Rights law protects a citizen’s race, sex, orientation, religion and disabilities, which is one of Yoshino’s significant points throughout the article. If there is a law to protect these rights, then what about the groups that aren’t as accepted? “Law is also an incomplete solution to coerced assimilation because it has yet to recognize my raid groups subjected to covering demands outside traditional civil rights classifications like race, sex, orientation, religion, and disability. Whenever I speak about covering, I receive new instances of identities that can be covered. This is Winnicott’s point- each one of us has a False Self that hides a True one. The law may someday move to protect some of these identities. But it will never protect them all,” (486). This quote explains that there are many different groups outside of the typical norms, however a law can’t protect them all from harassment and judgement. These minority groups may feel they need to cover this identity to avoid certain situations from happening.
In society today it’s a shame people have to hide who they are because they are fearful of how others will act. Authority gets involved substantially with issues like these and most people depend on these people to defend their rights, which is explained in the quote, “For these reasons, I am troubled that Americans seem increasingly to turn toward the law to do the work of civil rights precisely when they should be turning away from it. The real solution lies in all of us as citizens, not in the tiny subset of us who are lawyers. People who are not lawyers should have reason-forcing conversations outside the law,” (487).
Covering is beneficial to learn about because we can understand our own actions and if we do in fact have a false self, or if we are trying to hide ourselves. We can discover who we are in certain settings and around certain people. Once we know these things about ourselves we can decide who we want in our lives so we can act as our true self all the time. It also brings attention to what civil rights laws have done for certain people of different classifications. Civil rights laws help minority groups feel protected from hate crimes and the overall image of what their identity stands for. These laws have also helped people feel proud of who they are. We encounter different identities every day we are on earth so it’s in our favor to learn about these things to gain a better understanding of the people around us.
Yoshino, Kenji. “Preface” and “The New Civil Rights.” Emerging: Contemporary Readings For Writers, edited by Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martins, 2010, pp. 479-488.