Ethnic/Racial Idenity


I. Definitions

A. Race:

• A concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies (Omi & Winant)
• A socially constructed system of classifying individuals according to phenotypical characteristics that are genetically determined but not always consistent.

B. Ethnicity: A sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.

C. Culture: All the knowledge and values shared by a society (e.g., language, familial roles, communication patterns)

D. Identity: definition



II. Identity

A. Erickson: The crisis of adolescence: search for self (individual exercise: Who are you?)

B. Marcia's 4 stages of identity

C. Coming-of-age rituals (all about the group!)

1. Usually constructive building of identity (read more)

a. Apache ceremony
b. Bar Mitzva (Jews)
c. Shahada (Muslims)

2. Sometimes used to promote hate: burning the flag

3. Sometimes used as proof of commitment and loyalty

4. Benefits of group membership

a. Fills identity needs
b. Fills needs for social comparison (up and down)
c. Leads to increasingly extreme attitudes (individual exercise)



III. Cultural influences on identity


A. The very way we view "self" and "identity" (Who are you? revisited)

1. Socialization (cultural learning without intent)

a. Vertical transmission
b. Horizontal transmission
c. Oblique transmission

2. Enculturation (deliberate cultural learning)

3. Acculturation


B. Characteristics of an ethnic group

1. Sense of peoplehood

a. shared culture
b. shared experiences
c. s
hared grievances
d. essentialism, primordialism, and ascribed ethnicity
e. social constructionalism

2. Culture

3. Ethnocentrism (own way is central, best; others rated accordingly)

4. Territoriality


IV. Development of Racial/Ethnic identity

A. Dominant-Minority approach

1. Assumptions and definitions

a. Society assumed to consist of a dominant culture (group with power, privilege, and status), and one or more minority groups that see themselves as objects of collective oppression and discrimination

b. Racial/Ethnic identity is a developmental process in which individuals traverse from one stage to another as a result of experiences with either the mainstream culture (in the case of the minority groups) or with one or more of the minority groups (in the case of the white majority)

c. Four factors that influence strength of racial/ethnic identity: size, power, discrimination, and appearance (slide)

d. Majority group's traditional aim: Erase minority group consciousness (Why?)


2. Minority group identity stages (U.S. example, Cross et al.)

a. Preencounter: Characterized by Euro-American world views and a devaluation of Black culture

b. Encounter: Characterized by an emotional personal experience, which fosters need to change

c. Immersion-Emersion: Black culture becomes idealized, leading person to withdraw from mainstream culture, which is then denigrated (Pro-Palestinian cartoons)

d. Internalization: Person overcomes defensiveness and idealization and develops secure Black identity

e. Commitment: Some people become committed to Black affairs and improving the community


3. Majority group identity development (Helms)

a. Contact: Passive lack of awareness of the implications of race (e.g., privilege) or one's conformity to the racial status quo

b. Disintegration: Increased awareness of racial inequalities (usually due to interactions with members of minority group), which feel threatening and increase anxiety. People cope by adopting paternalistic attitude.

c. Reintegration: Idealization of whiteness and hostility towards minority group(s)

d. Pseudo-Independent: Intellectual enlightment about racism. Focus on helping minority group meet majority group standards for acceptability

e. Immersion-Emersion: An emotional search for a healthy identity with focus shifting from others to self

f. Autonomy: Internalization of healthy, positive, White identity. Actively seeks to learn from others.



2. Multicultural approach

a. Society is thought to consist of a number of different cultural groups, in which no single group is dominant in all regions or in all social spheres and smaller groups are engaged in complex patterns of involvement and mutual influences with the larger groups

b. Racial/ethnic identity is seen as a combination of personal attitudes and experiences with both majority and minority groups.



V. Identity Politics



"Sooner or later, all disputes issue propositions of the following sort: the central subject for understanding is the difference between X (e.g., women, people of color), and Y (e.g., white males). P is the case because my people, X, see it that way; if you don't agree with P, it is (or more mildly, is probably) because you are a member of Y. And further: Since X has been oppressed or silenced by Y -- typically white heterosexual males -- justice requires that members of X, preferably (though not necessarily) adherents of P, be hired and promoted; and in the student body, in the curriculum, on the reading list, and at the conference, distinctly represented." (Gitlin, Dissent, 1993).