“It Takes a Village”: Critical Role of the Social Environment on Identity Formation
Portions of this chapter were originally presented to the Sociological Practice Association, San Francisco, CA, August, 2004 If the family is not the sole entity involved in defining children’s sense of ethnic identity, who is? Karen’s father seemed to feel that racial differences were unimportant – no more important than “big ears.” However, the fact remains that there are many forces in society which do not agree that racial, religious, or nationality differences are unimportant. Strauss (1959: 26) even went so far as to say that classification and evaluation of its members are “…usually, if not predominantly, public concerns.” Hence children are likely to encounter comments in the larger community which remind them that they are indeed “different.” An African tradition says that it “takes a village to raise a child” (Clinton, 1996). Santorum (2005), on the other hand, insists that raising a child is a task for the family. This chapter will focus primarily on the “village” influence.