Personal Cultural Identity

Learning Action:   Personal Cultural Identity  

Please refer to Our PhilosophyLearning Actions, and Facilitator Principles

Framing the Learning Action

Co-cultures include race, ethnicity, culture, nation of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical/mental abilities, class and religion and so on. Your identity is shaped by the co-cultures you identify with and why. The co-cultures that are important in how you define yourself can changes over time. For example age may not be identified by a 25-year-old woman as something that shapes their identity, and yet when that woman begins to age they may identify age as an important part of their identity in that people relate to them differently. Similarily, white people may not identify race as important to their identity (see whiteness), while many racialized people affirm that their race shapes their daily lived experience and therefore is a large part of their identity.  Understanding your attitudes towards your personal culture is a part of the process of understanding how you are connected to racism.  See You in Anti-Racism.

Logistics - Things to Consider 

General Set-Up:

As with the other questionnaire/inventory learning actions this one can be adapted to be completed orally depending on cultural preference, ability, or individual facilitator preference. The time can be adapted through having participants complete the exercise outside of presentation time. Participants can work on some parts of this learning action in small groups to encourage open discusses between peers, or debriefing/discussions can be completed in a large group format.  

Minimum Time Required:

The time can be adapted through having participants complete the exercise outside of class time. 

Number of Participants:

This Learning Action is highly adaptable for small and large groups. Participants can work on some parts of this learning action in small groups to encourage open discussion between peers.  Debriefing/discussions can be completed in a large group format.  

Small Group Option
Invite participants to form small groups to discuss the questions below. If possible, groups should be as diverse as possible. Ask each group to chose one or two people to write and one or two people to report back to the large group. 

  • What are the advantages for being mostly the same as your friends? Your classmates? Your teachers? What are the disadvantages?

  • What are the advantages for being mostly different from your friends? Your classmates? Your teachers What are the disadvantages?

Age of Participants:

No information provided.


Ground Rules

Session ground rules

How the Facilitator Participates

Facilitator participation is necessary and as with the other learning actions in this section the facilitator is encouraged to complete the questionnaire before attempting to facilitate it. As the facilitator goes through their process with participants, they will provide examples of answers and should also be conscious of providing alternative suggestions. For example if a white instructor is discussing how privilege operates as am impact of racism they might also talk about the ways it doesn't - provide examples.

How Participants Contribute to the Group's Learning

Participants fill out the questionnaire honestly knowing that they will not have to share their process unless they choose to.

Facilitating this Learning Action:

Explain that the objective of this leaning action is to help participants understand their personal culture and what co-cultures influence it. Go through the handout, Cultural Influences  and explain based on your personal experience of working through it how you hope participants will complete it. Provide your personal descriptions of cultural influences and also ask for alternative suggestions. For example being my age, an older woman, means that I am not always taken seriously. What does age mean for younger women, or men? It is also important to note the intersections of cultures and co-cultures. For example what does it mean to be an older aboriginal woman versus white woman in mainstream society, and how is the perception different in some aboriginal cultures? This will come up in more detail in the debrief, but is worth mentioning at the beginning so participants will begin to make their own connections..


Depending on facilitator preference and time available, rather than in the small group, the questions above can be discussed in a large group format. The benefit to small group discussion, is that  the small group discussion and process can be examined in the large group discussion. For example did your group mostly agree on advantages and disadvantages or did group members have different opinions and why do you think similarities and differences occurred? This can be a valuable lead into a examination of power (see socially imbued power).

If you are using the small group format, have each group talk about the questions and their findings. What might come up in the participants' answers is that they will want to talk about similarities and  not differences. It will be important to encourage individuals to talk about the ways they are different, or ask participants why the differences are not coming up in the discussion.

Most often participants will want to discuss some co-culture influences but not go into race, ethnicity etc. Asking participants why they are not discussing race as an important part of their culture provides a way to begin. The reasons for not wanting to discuss race as important to culture are different for racialized individuals and white individuals and it is important to talk about why. For example asking why most white people don't think that race is an important part of culture for them will be a way to examine the concept of normalcy, privilege and internalized dominance.  Asking why most racialized individuals do not want to prioritize race might provoke a discussion of inclusion and exclusion [missing definitions], and internalized oppression etc.