We all have multiple identities that come from our feelings of belonging to a variety of social groups: ethnic, religious, gender, professional, national, civic, etc. Each particular and concrete situation we find ourselves in makes particular identities more salient than others.
Why it is important in context of inclusive citizenship education?
Citizenship education is an important tool in forming our identity as citizens. We belong to civic society by accepting and following the civic values, attitudes and behaviour that are accepted as part of our civic society. Cultural, ethnic, linguistic and other identities normally co-exist with our civic identities, and in democratic diverse societies and states there are mechanisms to accommodate a range of different identities, as long as these have values that do not conflict basic human rights. Such stable civic identity can constitute an important element in maintaining the security of the state. Media, traditional and electronic, can play an important role in the construction and the undermining of such civic identity. Citizenship education plays an important part in challenging some media attempts to undermine civic identity.
Context, issues, processes
Each person’s range of identities co-exist in the individual, and different social and community contexts can make different elements more or less important. Balance and stability in this system can be challenged by social interaction. Each identity consists of a particular set of values, attitudes and behaviour. For example, being the only migrant in a group may, in some contexts, make ethnic identity particularly salient. If this persists across many social contexts, ethnic identity can become the most prominent, and result in widespread racism that is inconsistent with democratic societies that respect human rights. Similar situations may arise around, for example, gender identity or sexual orientation. Ethnic and gender identities may be fundamental to an individual, though they might not become salient until ethnic and gender rights are violated. Negative challenges to basic identities can sometimes lead to radicalization and extremism.
The protection of vulnerable groups’ rights around a range of identities is a common good in democratic and harmonious societies. Stereotyping of minorities, by organisations, society, community or the media significantly undermines social cohesion and harmony, challenges the rule of law, and is inequitable. Citizenship education should include ways to recognise and challenge stereotyping of all different identities to counter such challenges to democratic civic identity.