The Intertwining of Citizenship with Identity
Our citizenship plays a key role in our personal identity, whether we like it or not
The term identity can arguably belong to a category containing a plethora of words whose meanings can differ drastically depending on each person. The fact that the term identity, in its raw sense, refers to the unique traits, personality and characteristics of a single person, is actually fitting, as identity itself differs for each and every person, similar to how the meaning of the word can vary slightly for each and every person.
As such, identity can differ based on the way people around us view themselves and the world around them, and a person’s citizenship status further plays a role in their personal identity, which will be discussed later in the article.
As mentioned, the term identity diverges for each and ever person, but we can start to formulate a general idea of the term which can apply to everyone when we look at real-life examples. An ID, which can refer to an Identity Document, Identity card or Identifier, is a literal object used to prove that someone is someone, or belongs to something.
People in developed areas are required to show their ID, to show their identity, to complete certain tasks in life, such as flying or buying alcohol. Fraud aside, no person will have the same ID card or document, because no person on Earth will have the exact same identity.
The fact that we carry a physical card or document with us literally named and shaped after our identity proves that identity is a real aspect of our personal lives and in society which we cannot ignore. Numerous aspects of society, stereotypes included, shape us as people, and our identity is among one of them.
The ID card, then, may be thought of as a representation of a united humanity. Each state and country carries an ID card with a different appearance, similar to all of us who have different physical appearances. However, ID cards are created by people, for people, and any person in a developed nation can get one, regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity, or any other characteristic society often likes to group us into.
But identity goes much further than a piece of plastic with our name and picture on it. Identity is a personal aspect, a feeling, a state of mind, that is unique to us and only us. The way we view ourselves can, however, differ based on the above-mentioned characteristics, and almost certainly do. Members of one race will view themselves differently than those of other races, and even people of the same race will view themselves differently.
Race is but one example, with numerous other examples including class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and all other characteristics of this nature also being examples. The point, however, is not to judge people’s view of their identity, but to understand and embrace it.
When asked what identity is, people will most likely tell you that it’s the personal characteristics of a person, which it is. But what they may fail to mention is that fact that identity is not only the physical characteristics of a person, but the mental and spiritual qualities as well. To me, identity is how I view myself, based on both my actual self and those around me, and the situations I find myself in.
Identity can also be not only of the self, but of others as well. As a man of faith, I identify with God, and am constantly filled with His strength and guidance, which I am proud of. However, others may not be of faith and identify with God, and so their mental identity in that sense will differ. The same goes with the surroundings aspect I mentioned earlier — some people live in suburbs, or on farms, or are homeless. These qualities which are not part of themselves physically, but are around them, and thus are part of them mentally, will aid in their identity.
To reiterate, the definition of identity will largely remain the same across the board, and that is that it’s an identifier of a person. However, the identity itself of a person will always be different. It’s what makes a person a person, not just another human. Again, this view on identity will also vary for everyone, but this is just my view and understanding of it and my own identity.
It is important to realize that not everyone is like you — in fact, aside from some traits, no one is like you at all. Everyone is a victim of this, and it’s important for us as people to step out of our own shoes, and take a look at the display of shoes at the store: rows and rows of shoes and sneakers, all of different shapes, colors and sizes. This, but on an enormously larger scale, to me, is a rough but decent representation of identity.
The factor which we have yet to mention is citizenship, and it is a core element of our identity. The idea of citizenship may appear to be a simple one, but upon further analysis it can become increasingly complex. Citizenship is a core status possessed by most people in the world, whether it be from their birth nation, or a nation they moved to later on.
In a literal sense, citizenship is a signifier that you are a unique member of a country or nation. Citizenship is intriguing in that people who possess it also do not possess it at the same time; for example, an American citizen is a citizen of America, but not a citizen of any other country, unless they possess dual citizenship — thus, they are both a citizen and not a citizen at the same time. However, the idea of citizenship becomes increasingly complex as you drift away from its literal level.
As mentioned, citizenship on a literal basis refers to the fact that a person is a legal native of a specific country or nation. Citizenship can easily tie into identity, as a person’s citizenship can be an identifier, a unique trait, for that person. Often with citizenship comes a sense of patriotism, a feeling of being proud from belonging to a certain country; of course, though, many might not be proud to be a citizen of their country, for various reasons.
As this differs for each person and nation, it is yet another factor tying citizenship to identity; identity differs for everyone, and the feeling of being proud of your citizenship can also differ. Citizenship also contains elements that identity both does and doesn’t: all citizens of the same nation are, in fact, citizens of the same nation, and are bonded together by this. However, that doesn’t mean that they are all the same, because they all have a unique identity: different backgrounds, social situations, appearances, personalities, and the like.
With citizenship arises a challenge for numerous peoples. There are nations in which citizenship is fairly easy to acquire, but most are quite difficult for those seeking citizenship of the countries in question. Take the United States for example: according to them, any person is eligible for citizenship, but there are fine prints.
Only people who enter and apply legally, or those born here, are eligible for citizenship, but the process to become a citizen is normally arduous and chaotic. This is especially true for those who possess a social identity that was not particularly welcome in the past; this includes those who identify as members of a group perceived as minority, such as Black, Asian, LatinX, or other groups. Although even some white European immigrant groups were treated with this same hostility, this no longer seems to apply.
With this arises the question of whether or not the social identity of a person does play a monumental factor in their receiving of rights as a citizen, and may limit their access to the rights and protections associated with citizenship, and to this I say it indeed does. Culture, background and ethnicity play a monumental role in a person’s social identity, and this includes language. If a person’s native language is not English, they are automatically put at a severe disadvantage when it comes to applying for American citizenship, as the dominant language is English.
Additionally, there is a multitudinous amount of cultural variance in the United States, and certain customs which those raised in other backgrounds may not be familiar with, and may be rejected by society until they master them. Even then, they might still be looked at as “the outsider”. Thus, it is undeniable that one’s identity plays a crucial role in citizenship, and vice versa, with citizenship serving as one of the defining factors of a person’s identity.
Chris is a writer and publisher who travels America, and loves doing it. He also loves pizza, video games, and sports, and can tell you a thing or two about each. Follow him on Medium to be informed of new articles.