24 January 2008

On Sports, Small Towns, and Stereotypes

The last of the student identification papers from last semester.


Identity is a part of everyone. It is what defines us, and makes us who we are. Our identity changes allowing people to behave differently with others. These behaviors can affect our lives. It is the way we look, live, and how we like ourselves. It determines how we treat people. Race and ethnicity have been a part of human history since the beginning of time. It depends on how each individual interprets race and ethnicity because it affects us overall. My identity developed in high school by having playing sports. Growing up is hard for everyone. A small town population can play a major role on how each person looks upon racial issues. It can determine if you believe there is a difference between the races and if you think there is a major diversity between different cultures. When you are growing up you are trying to find out what kind of person you want to become. At the same time, you have to try and fit in with other people in your school to be accepted and make friends. An individual’s identity is determined by many factors. A major influence that can change an identity is based on the environment a person grows and develops in which includes a large or small school district.

My identity is defined on how I see myself and how people view me. I consider myself to be an average Caucasian male. My ethnicity includes Irish, Dutch, and German. The blend of these nationalities only defines the way I look. I inherited light skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, fair color, and height, but I feel that I really am an American person. An American is what really defines me as well as a lot of other people who live in the United States. My identity, how I live my life, and the outlook of life is related to my family values. I was taught to always be open-minded and respectful of everyone regardless of education, race, or cultural backgrounds. It does not matter where they came from or what they look like, but how I felt about them. I value people who are kind and exhibit traits of goodness. I am drawn to people who share these values and promote these values. My identity comes from what I do and less from my nationality. Knowing more about other ethnicities can make you change how you feel about your own.

I am a very unique person in the fact that I like a lot different things. My choice of music that I listen to defines me. I like Xbox 360 and my choice of playing games with different opponents is a way of expressing who I am and my competitive side. I like to win. Since I was young, my older brother and I enjoyed gaming. Growing up in a small town, I have been extremely close with my family. I have a stronger relationship with my family and have established a strong bond with them which will last for my lifetime.

Family plays a huge role on how you identify yourself. Family members will encourage, support, educate, and give you ideas on how to socialize and behave in society. Parents can play a large role on how they introduce you to people when you are young. A lot of the ideas you have come initially from your parents and how you look at life. As an individual, you learn to select behaviors and replicate them from your parents, while at the same time decipher what you want to believe and what you do not want to. As the youngest child in the family, I have older brother and sister to look at in times of need so they can help me to decide on what actions to take when I am not sure of which decision to make. Older siblings have previous knowledge from experiences therefore are an asset to the younger sibling. There are advantages to having siblings because you have close ties with them but at the same time you can also go on your own road to be the person you want to be. Siblings all have similar foundation however each of us has encountered different experiences that identify who we are. For example, each sibling having the opportunity to attend different colleges and visiting one in other broadens your knowledge base. Each sibling has the opportunity of participating in different events. My sister had the opportunity of participating in the Walt Disney World College Program where she was able to meet people from all around the world. It enabled her as an individual to broaden her knowledge of people ethnicities but also become more open minded. My sister’s opportunity to participate in this program and share her experience with me has enriched me with new ideas about different places.

The media is also a factor on how you look and see your identity. These include the TV, newspaper, and the internet. Each of these plays a major role on how you see life. There are certain television shows that are considered to be reality and staged. However, many individuals become disappointed when they discover what is real and what is not real. It is presenting a false reality. Individuals will find certain shows that they will relate well to. The newspaper provides articles that teach you about situations and problems in the world. Each person has to decipher the viewpoints because they can be sensationalized to sell the papers. Majority of people use the Internet as a resource, which can teach you almost anything you want to know. For example, people can find out where you come from or facts about your ethnic background. This will contribute to ideas and teach you how to feel about yourself. It influences a person by finding out information about your genealogy by showing you new facts about your personal life that you did not know about.

My experiences with race and ethnicity have changed throughout my life. My experiences began when I started school and where I grew up. I live in a small town in the Finger Lakes Region called Penn Yan. The diversity of the town is really small. Most people are Caucasian and middle class. During high school, every school year a new person was introduced to the school from overseas and everyone in school would attempt to meet this new person. Through sports, I was able to socialize with the foreign exchange student and learn more about him. I feel I gained a lot of my social experience through playing basketball for a long time. When playing, I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. I was able to see a lot of different city/towns, which allowed me to view more than just living in one place. One social experience that I remember is when you would first observed the team. Often other players would stereotype people. For example, if the players were an all African American team, our less experienced team members would get scared and express their feelings that our team would lose because they are all African American. The inexperienced players on the team would articulate there believes that these African Americans players can jump higher and are faster athletes. I never let this non-essential stereotypes effect my mind set as a played during a basketball game.

My living environment in small town consisted of everyone knowing everyone. If something happened to someone everyone would know in less than a few hours. The size of my high school was about 150 students per class. I was identified as the tall basketball player. For everyone that has lived in a small town knows how much different it is compared to living in a large town with a large school. School size has a large impact based on a person becoming friends with many of their peers and how you are identified as being with whom. Small towns may make it more of a challenge to find the friends you want to be with because of the school population. In Penn Yan, if people do not fit in the stereotype of being a “normal” person you could have a hard time finding friends. Change rarely happens in Penn Yan. People become comfortable with their surroundings and tend to oppose change rather than embracing or trying anything new. Change could be a good because it can change the views of other people. With a limited about of change taking place, people may live a couple of generations in the small town and still having the same views from 30 years ago. These people become acquainted with their routines and living there for so long that they may have a hard time accepting anything new. These people may immediately reject new ideas/believes because they do not know anything better. People get set in their ways. Many people believe if it is not broken, then why fix it in regards to change. They feel that if people do not like the way they are than they should not come here and they can move elsewhere.

Basketball from now to when I was in high school has changed a lot. I came from a team of all Caucasian teammates to a team that has a more mix of African Americans. From my team in high school I was considered to be the best person on the team. I consider all my teammates to be my friends because we share social similarities and interests. The only difference between my teammates is our dialect. This is really not a problem with me. I feel as a team that everyone brings something to the table. You get a mixture of people on and off the court, but when you are on the court it does not matter what your race is because we are playing as a team.

There are many unrealistic beliefs or ideas that are not true also known as a stereotype. High schools have a lot of stereotypes. It can be from what color your hair is to the style of clothes you wear. People automatically think that if you are tall you must play basketball, which is not true. That if you short and play basketball you do not have a clear advantage. Another big stereotype is if you are African American, majority of them play basketball and not hockey. Only Caucasian players play hockey and African Americans do not participate. All of these stereotypes are not true and have been around for a long time.

School size in high school can play a role in your life. School size can be considered as a major part of establishing identity. It depends on how easy it is for an individual to find the friends that fit you the best based on living in a large town with larger school districts. Larger towns usually have more diversity among the school. Diversity in schools helps you find out who you are going to become from how you feel about other people and what you learn as well as think about them. There is a big difference of someone telling you about a different race compared to actually knowing them and observing how they really are. These experiences can help get rid of people articulating racist comments and people believing them just because you do not know for yourself. Overall, the role and views of ethnicity can change if you have a wide range of diversity in school which enables students to become knowledgeable rather than being ignorant. Schools play a huge role on how kids look at life and how they feel about other people because it is the foundation of their lives. They can come out of school with a wide range of background knowledge of other people and start their life knowing more about how people act and live their lives.

Now that I am attending college in Fredonia there is a larger population of diverse students. There are people from all over New York State that come here and also some that can be from all over the world. Majority of student attending Fredonia are Caucasian students, but have a wider ethnic background. People come with their diverse backgrounds and intermix with other students. I have observed students being able to find the friends they want to have based on similar interests and backgrounds. There is a wider range of people’s ethnicity in this school. Students have the opportunity to join groups and clubs to be able to meet other people. I have learned from my experiences at two different school settings that being at a larger school, people are very similar, but have different ideas on what they choose to do and what they consider to be enjoyable.

My future goal after attending Fredonia is to become a history teacher. As a history teacher I plan to incorporate a multitude of diversity into the classroom curriculum through texts, guest speakers, and technology. I hope to make a difference in a child's live through knowledge of the content as well as being a successful citizen. I would like to model an open minded goal so that each individual is equal and does not have preconceived notion about people before learning and getting to know them as an individual. An open minded environment will allow each individual to be comfortable and considered equal. Where the student will be able acknowledge his/her ethnicity and have a voice for who they are. Many teachers have preconceived believes that students who have a dialect or from another ethnicity are not intelligent because they do not speak proper English. These teachers are being ignorant because all students have the ability to learn. Each student has strengths and weaknesses. The teacher’s role is to address their weaknesses through differentiating learning while incorporating their strengths for success. With this it will help the students learn and become better people in the long run.

The concept of race and ethnicity is a mind-set. The fact is that when we stereotype people we are attributing certain behaviors and expectations of people in groups based on race and their ethnic background. The government had to change the past and present to accommodate basic needs of people, but also comprised group of people daily in the United States in order to provide social services, immigrations, laws, and order in our country. People throughout history have change their behavior and accepted ethnicity. In the past different cultures, nationalities, and races have been looked down upon, but now are more accepted in segments of the country than in the past. If we stop searching for something wrong and try to find the something that is good within everyone, than this simple value and behavior would help the world. It would then create change that is beneficial because positive views would be the focus, which would make society a lot different.

When people identify themselves as an individual in order to define who they are and what make them unique so they are different from everybody else. This can be considered both positive and negative. It is a way of identifying how a person is distinctive from another person. The race of a person is given, but the ethnicity can be altered based how the individual feels and believes about themselves. People can not choose where they live when they are young. It also does not mean that you will not be a good person if you live in a small or large town. Seeing people for who they are is the most important. It should not be viewed as if they are wrong if they look at life in a different view then you. People also need to learn about different views before they judge them. For example, “an individual puts themselves into somebody else’s shoes,” portrays how the person feels about their ethnicity as well as learning from their particular believes and viewpoints. Learning is the key to advancing who we are as people and determining what actions we take. Change also helps people learn new ways to think about life. Change also allows people to adapt because you are not always able to control your environment. The strength of your character and identity helps influence your decisions in positive ways to guide yourself as well as help others.

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