Racial Identification - Essay Example

Published: 2024-01-01
Racial Identification - Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Literature Diversity
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1257 words
11 min read


There are people in life who struggle with identifying themselves with their ethnicity or racial orientation. The difficulty results from living in a society where there is inequality in the way races treat each other (Reece, 2019). Individuals who have a problem with self-identification align themselves with a group they see as superior, abandoning their heritage and culture in the process. Alice walker's story "Everyday Use" provides an example of how some people tend to forget their background to embrace the culture of others because they feel they do not belong. The paper examines the theme of racial identification and why some people find it hard to accept their identity as in society.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Racial Identification

The theme in the story "Everyday Use," the author presents to the reader, is racial identification among young African Americans. In the story, Mama's eldest child Dee finds it hard to accept her identity as an African American because her skin is lighter than that of the other people (Walker, 1973). Dee believes that because she light-skinned, her life expectations must not be as ordinary as that of other people of her race. "Lighter skinned black multiracial adolescents may be more likely to abandon their blackness altogether as they grow into adulthood by breaking with the one-drop rule and selecting a non-black single race category" (ButlerBarnes et al., 2018). Dee's rejection of her heritage, the quilts that her mother offered her before she goes to school, indicates how she feels she is above the others. Coming back, she still feels that she is improving her life while her mother and sister are still living in the past. Dee asks her sister Maggie to make something of herself because she believes the way she and their mother live; they will never know how to live better. "Light-skinned black people considered black people lazier and more unintelligent than their dark-skinned counterparts" (ButlerBarnes et al., 2018). Dee feels she is superior because she embraces a new culture after joining university; she changed her name and now wears clothes with African designs as a form showing her new identity.

Clear Understanding

On the other hand, Dee's mother has a clear understanding of her own identity, which she believes has been in the family for generations. She believes she could name all the relatives who had the name Dee up to the civil war (Walker, 1973). Despite her fantasy during the day of someone slim and light-skinned being interviewed by Jonny Carson, all this remains in her mind. She values her heritage and wants to pass them down to her daughter Maggie, who follows her footsteps. Mama believes that Maggie will make better use of the quilt than Wangero, who only wants the quilts because she wants to hang them to showcase her heritage (Walker, 1973). Mama realizes that her eldest daughter has lost her identity by changing her name and adopting a new way of life away from how she was raised in their humble home. She feels Maggie is the one who can be reliable to hold on to her roots despite being "slow" in her actions after the accident with the fire that burned the other house.

Wedge Between Individuals

The failure to accept one's identity results in problems among people in society as it creates a wedge between individuals. Mama's fantasy is the picture of Mama that Dee would like her mother to be in real life. "I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue" (Walker, 1973). Mama knows that she can never change form the way her parents and grandparents raise her. The difference creates some tension between mother and daughter as she waits for her eldest daughter to visit after going to university. Mama knows that Dee will not be pleased with the compound, the house, or even her little sister because her eldest daughter feels she is destined for much more. The need to protect her younger daughter makes Mama decide to stand up to Dee for the first time by denying her the two quilts she wants (Walker, 1973). Dee's way of speaking about Maggie shows how she sees herself as more superior to her younger sister; this adds more tension between Dee and her mother.

With education, people are given tie opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding of the society in which they belong. Education can help individuals realize their identity when faced with problems (Reece, 2019). Ever since Dee was young, she knew that education would help her achieve her ambition of having a better life than the one she has as she grows. However, because of the need to be different, Dee fails to accept her true identity choosing another culture that she sees as superior. The oppression that blacks go through before the era of civil rights plays a role in making many black Americans have identity issues. Dee's mother went to school until second grade, and they were never allowed to ask why they could not continue with their education (Walker, 1973). Education acts as a tool that can transform a person if they can use it in the correct way to better their lives.

Accepting one's identity can a better way of life for an individual full of fulfillment rather than wishing for more than one can achieve (Reece, 2019). In the story, the mother accepts her situation and strives to live her life to the maximum and full of contentment. Mama takes care of her humble compound and homestead, and her daughter Maggie who she believes is content with the little she has in life (Walker, 1973). Dee, on the other hand, is not satisfied with what she has in her life. Despite her name and culture change, her fixation with everything in her home during her visits reveals how much he wants to feel connected to her background. She touches the benches and the quilts she had no use in the past because she believes it represented a backward culture (Walker, 1973). Her failure to realize her heritage's value has stripped her of her roots, leaving her with superficial items she has no real connection with her life.


Inequality in social settings and discrimination based on race or social status can result in people having problems with their self-identification. Racial identification problems arise from the need to associate with a better/ superior race because of the privileges this race has in society. Severing one's connection with their roots leaves a person with nothing tangible to hold as a form of their identity. The knowledge education can help a person identify themselves with their roots, but it can also contribute to other people rejecting their identity. Contentment with one's roots helps people accept their identity in life and strive to improve their heritage for other generations.


ButlerBarnes, S. T., Leath, S., Williams, A., Byrd, C., Carter, R., & Chavous, T. M. (2018). Promoting resilience among African American girls: Racial Identity as a protective factor. Child Development, 89(6), e552-e571. Retrieved From: https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/am-pdf/10.1111/cdev.12995

Reece, R. L. (2019). Coloring racial fluidity: How skin tone shapes multiracial adolescents' racial identity changes. Race and Social Problems, 11(4), 290-298. Retrieved From:

Walker, Alice (1973). "Everyday Use".

Cite this page

Racial Identification - Essay Example. (2024, Jan 01). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/racial-identification-essay-example

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism