Our identity is such an integral part of who we are as individuals that we can take it for granted, without question. As a female of the primate species homo sapiens (wise man), I share the same identity with an estimated 3.905 billion female humans, representing 49.58 percent of the total human population on Planet Earth in 2021 (UN World Population Prospect 2019). The similarity of our identities end there. They are as diverse and complex as the technologically advanced societies we humans have created on Earth.
My identity was forged during a period of great geopolitical upheaval. The economic power of the British Empire had taken a direct hit during World War II, bringing my small world in then British Guiana under the control of the emergent dominance of the United States of America. Descendants of African slaves and indentured laborers from China, Madrid (Portugal), and India, we were inferior beings in the eyes of the dominant white male governing class. My skin color and social status as a member of the working-class became defining elements of my identity.
Following the birth of our independent nation of Guyana in 1966, we forged a new identity as a multiracial, multiethnic country of six peoples—African, Indian, Chinese, European, and Amerindian—united under the motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.” Breaking free from old ways of being does not come easy. Just look at what is happening today to the members of our human family in Ukraine, a former Soviet Socialist Republic, as they seek to forge a new identity as a democratic nation, realigned to Western Europe.
Forging a new national identity comes at a high price. During the violent upheaval in pre- and post-independent Guyana, thousands of Guyanese fled north, first to the Mother Country (UK), and then later to Canada, the United States, and other English-speaking countries worldwide. When my time came to leave for Brazil in 1987, I identified as a light-skinned, middle-class, multiracial, Christian, and cooperative socialist.
Forced migration takes a toll on one’s identity, especially when one starts anew from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. My university education and job experience meant little to Brazilians when I could not communicate in their native language. I was no longer regarded as the more favorable light-skinned (morena clara) person enjoyed in my native land, but rather brown-skinned (morena moderada). Without private property and other trappings of middle-class Brazilians, I disappeared among the majority working poor.
When I left Brazil in 2003 to reunite with my family in the United States, I identified as a Brazilian of the heart (brasileira de coração), and a democratic socialist with no religious affiliation. I was a new woman.
Once again, my identity took a tumble. Once again, I began the work of reconstructing a new identity in America as a non-white, female immigrant from the Caribbean Region. Living among people from all parts of the world, I am at home as a member of my multicultural, collective, American family. Nevertheless, I have not been spared from micro-aggression as a non-white person. Our last government under America’s 45th president (Jan/2017 to Jan/2021) was the most difficult period for a person of my identity and origin. I felt threatened.
My fourteen-year experience in international trade in Brazil did not impress American import/export companies. Working in the retail sector was a humbling experience for a former import/export manager. I have learned firsthand the everyday challenges of working-class Americans. I identify with their struggle.
Mother Earth, our home that sustains us, cares not about our gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, social status, economic-political ideology, and whatever else defines us as individuals. In identifying as gods, with power over humans and non-humans, we have carved a path towards our own self-destruction. Our day of reckoning has come.
My identity is not carved in marble. It is constantly evolving. Today, I identify as a child of Mother Earth. I consider myself neither superior nor inferior to other human beings. I have a long way to go yet in developing a sense of oneness with the non-human beings with whom we share this beautiful planet. Sometimes, I will fail.