As new generations come along, we hope the old beliefs mired in hate and separation will die out. The lines that once separated us continue to fade. We have evidence. Our society is more accepting now than it was decades ago of multiracial relationships, multiracial families and multiracial children. Blogger Pamela Cytrynbaum says the new generation is “rejecting the color lines” that once constrained them. The New York Times writer Susan Saulny poignantly describes the younger generation as having a “more fluid sense of identity.”
According to designer August de Los Reyes, it is because today’s society is more accepting of ambiguity. De Los Reyes gives a quirky, but relevant example: the vampire. This supernatural creature is ambiguous—in limbo somewhere between the world of the living and the dead. In the 20th century, vampires were thought of as monsters. Now, in the 21st century, vampires are viewed differently. They are intriguing and sympathetic beings as portrayed in True Blood, Twilight and Vampire Diaries. In these TV shows and books, the characters embrace ambiguity and find acceptance, happiness and love.
We don’t have to fit into a box. We can be transformed. We can enjoy our true sense of self.
How would our teaching differ if we were to keep in mind the current generation’s “more fluid sense of identity”? This is fertile ground to help our students breakdown stereotypes and continue to change society's views about identity. A girl can be both the prom queen and a brilliant mathematician. A young man can be both star athlete and lead actor in the school musical. It gives me hope that we can help our students be themselves, be more comfortable in their own skin.
To get your students talking about their own identities, try this activity.
Sansbury is a middle and high school English teacher in Georgia.