- We all have many individual identities (personality, hobbies, etc.) and group identities (race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religious/political affiliations). Please reflect on a part of your identity that you are seeing or feeling in a different light.
One of the identities I hold which I’m realizing more and more, especially through working with international trafficking victims, is my class. I’ve never been unaware of my class. I’d consider myself lower-middle class. I grew up in a wealthy town, and I was always aware of things I lacked which others had. I consider myself lower-middle because I went to and go to a great school, which significantly impacts one’s socio-economic class. At Michigan, it’s much the same, as well. Many students who attend the UM come from wealthy places and families, and I notice my differences from them quite often.
I’m seeing another side of my class, however, through working with my clients. Despite what I initially believed, not all trafficking victims come from poor backgrounds. For instance, some clients we have now came to the U.S. for education, where they formerly had good education in their home countries. They ended up becoming survivors of human trafficking, but still have a certain understanding of live given their upbringing.
Seeing people in such a difficult state in their lives, after being found as trafficking survivors, who also have an outlook on life of upper-middle class citizens, it’s interesting to see how stereotypes and preconceptions about people are easily untrue. This also allows me to reflect on my class. Growing up my family did not have very much money, and I had four siblings. However, we went to a wealthy school, never wanted for food, I was able to get into a great college, and I’ve been able to travel more than most people in their lives. Having all of these parts of my class identity mesh together makes it hard to understand my place in the community.
However, my internship is also pushing me to become more introspective about these things.