Cultural Identity
Chapter 7
 At some point in life, all Human Beings must confront
the question, “Who am I”
 Erik Erikson (1950/1963) stated that the development of
an identity is one of the major developmental tasks
 Although every individual must resolve conflicts with his
or her own identity, individuals of cultural minority
groups have a unique problem
 Those individuals of minority groups must also resolve
conflicts having to do with their minority status (based on
race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or some
other trait that makes them different from the “main
A Model of Personal
 Sue (2001) proposed a Tripartite Model of Personal Identity
 Illustrated as three concentric circles which describe the
individual, group, and universal levels of personal Identity
Individual: each person is unique in genetic makeup,
personality, and personal experience (individual differences set
us apart from other human beings and is integral in our
Group: focuses on the basic similarities and differences among
individuals (society divides us up into groups based on various
demographic characteristics, therefore a part of our identities
is based on our membership in these groups)
Universal: there are characteristics that we share with all other
human beings such as biological needs (food/water), physical
similarities (anatomical similarities), common life experiences
(birth/death), and common practices or behaviors (the use of
language for communication)
African American Identity
 Kenneth and Mamie Clark (1939) conducted an experiment
with African American children in which they asked them to
look at a white and black doll and describe each
comparatively (prettiest, smartest, dirtiest)
 Found that African American children attributed more positive
traits to the white dolls and more negative traits to the black
 Kenneth and Mamie Clark argued that this demonstrated low
self-esteem and negative self-image of black children and
attributed this to racism and discrimination experienced by
black children in white America
 Used as evidence in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case
leading to the decision that segregated schools are
African American Identity
 William Cross (1971) outlined the stages that African Americans go
through in order to move from self-hatred to self-acceptance (this
was the first Identity Development model)
Pre-encounter: at this stage individuals are programmed to think
of the world as non-Black or anti-Black (think or act in ways that
devalue being African American and idealize being White)
Encounter: at this stage individuals experience some significant or
startling event that forces a reevaluation of their previous ideas
about race (ex. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
Immersion/emersion: at this stage a reversal occurs wherein
people idealize blackness, totally surround themselves by “Black
Culture”, and completely shut out everything that is not ‘Black’
Internalization: at this stage people feel positive and secure in
about their “Black” identity but also exhibit increased comfort and
acceptance of other cultures (no longer completely shut out other
African American Identity
 Parham and Helms (1981) constructed the Racial Identity
Attitude Scale (RIAS) to measure Cross’s stages
 The RAIS has been used to explore the relationship between
racial identity and a wide variety of other variables, such as self
esteem (Parham & Helms, 1985a), demographic factors
(Parham & Williams, 1993), affective states (Parham & Helms,
1985b), and the counseling process (Helms, 1985)
 There are at least 11 other models for African Americans alone
(Cross, Parham, & Helms, 1991; Helms 1990) as well as models
specifically for Asian Americans (e.g., Kitano, 1982), Latinos
(e.g., Ruiz, 1990), and European Americans (e.g., Helms, 1984,
1990, 1995b) as well as for gender (e.g., Kohlberg, 1966), and
sexual orientation (e.g., Cass, 1979)
White Identity
 Just like Minorities, those belonging to the dominant
group also go through identity struggles specific to that
 Janet Helms (1984, 1990, 1995b) assumes that racist
attitudes are a central part of being European American
and that the development of a healthy White identity
requires the abandonment of racist ideas and the
definition of oneself as nonracist
 Sited 6 “statuses” (stages) that European Americans go
through in this process (uses the term “statuses” because an
individual can be in multiple of these at the same time)
White Identity
 Helms’ (1984, 1990, 1995b) 6 statuses
Contact: individuals in this stage hold two opposing beliefs – that
everything white is superior and everything minority inferior; and
that racial and cultural differences don’t matter (“I’m color blind”,
“We’re all the same under our skin”)
Disintegration: increased experience with people of color leads to
information that is incongruent with a person’s previously held
This contradiction causes cognitive dissonance (working with an
African American on a project and seeing them do well challenges the
belief that they are unintelligent, and seeing that same individual
passed over for promotions contradicts the idea of equal
Reintegration: whites resolve the conflict of disintegration by
retreating to to the comfort and acceptance of their own racial
group and, either passively or actively, supporting white superiority
White Identity
 Helms’ (1984, 1990, 1995b) 6 statuses
 Pseudoindependence: whites begin to acknowledge some
existence of racism but see the solution in changing Blacks, not
Whites (may reach out to Blacks but by imposing White
 Immersion/Emersion: Whites take time to explore their own
culture, learning what it means to be White in a diverse society
(no longer focus on changing Blacks but on changing Whites
and understand that a central part of White )
 Autonomy: whites feel good about their group but also find
contact with individuals from other groups mutually enriching
(expand their sensitivity beyond racism to include other forms
of oppression, acknowledge their privilege, and act as allies who
actively seek to combat discrimination)
Multiracial Identity
 In 1967 the Supreme Court declared laws that prevented
individuals of different races to be unconstitutional
 According to the US Census data, interracial marriages
increased from 149,000 in 1960 to 1,461,000 in 1990
 Surveys over the last 20 years has shown that Americans
show increased approval of interracial marriages (Root,
1996, 2001)
 Individuals from multiracial backgrounds face a more
complex identity process than do those from monoracial
backgrounds (Kerwin & Ponterro, 1995)
Multiracial Identity
 Individuals coming from two racial groups may face
discrimination from both of those groups because they
are not seen as full members of either one (Johnson,
1992; Sue & Sue, 2003)
 Because of this, multiracial individuals are sometimes
pressured to identify with one group over the other
 Often times society’s reactions are based on the person’s
appearance – which ever racial group the individual looks
 Many parents now encourage their children to identify
with both racial/ethnic groups (Smolow, 1993)
Multiracial Identity
 Poston (1990) introduced a five-stage model of biracial
identity development
 Personal Identity: the young child’s sense of self is
independent of his or her racial group
 Identity is instead based primarily on personal factors, such
as self-esteem , that develop within the context of family
 Choice of Group: the young person feels pressured to
choose one identity or the other
 That pressure may come from family members, peers,
physical appearance, or society (Hall, 1980, 1992)
 Enmeshment/denial: feelings of guilt and self-hatred
arise from choosing one group over another
Multiracial Identity
 Appreciation: this is the stage where a positive multiracial
identity begins to emerge when the person begins to broaden
his or her perspective and begins to explore the previously
rejected side of his or her racial heritage
 Integration: in this stage the individual sees the benefits
of embracing both identities
Multiracial Identity
 Root (1990) agrees that multiracial individuals need to
come to terms with both sides of their heritage but
describes four possible resolutions to this process
 Accept the identity society assigns
 Identify with both racial groups
 Identify with a single racial group
 Identify with a new “mixed-race” group
 Identify with the race considered as the one with the
lower-status culture in this country/higher-status culture
in this country
Racial and Cultural Identity
Development Model
 First created by Atkinson, Morton & Sue (1979, 1989,
1998), who called it the Minority Identity Development
Model (MID)
 MID was later revised by Sue and Sue (1990, 1999,
2003), who called it the Racial and Cultural Identity
Development Model (R/CID)
 Each stage in the R/CID addresses how the individual
feels about himself or herself, others of the same group,
others of another minority group, and members of the
majority or dominant group (Sue & Sue, 1003)
Racial and Cultural Identity
Development Model
 Stages of the R/CID
 Conformity: individuals show a strong preference for the
values, beliefs, and features of the dominant culture over their
The individual has strong negative attitudes toward the self, his
or her own group, and other minority groups (dominant
groups are admired)
 Dissonance: at some point, the individual encounters
information that contradicts his or her cultural values and
This happens slowly through a gradual breakdown of denial as
one questions his or her attitudes from the conformity stage
(person is in conflict between positive and negative vies of the
Racial and Cultural Identity
Development Model
 Stages of the R/CID cont.
 Resistance and Immersion: in this stage the person completely
embraces minority culture and rejects the dominant culture
The person feels guilt or shame about previously being a
“sellout” and contributing to the oppression of his or her
group resulting in anger, distrust, and dislike for the dominant
Person is inspired to find out more about his or her own
culture forming a stronger connection to his or her own group)
 Introspection: individual begins to let go of some of the intense
feelings of anger toward the dominant culture and redirects that
energy into greater understanding of himself or herself and his
or her own group
the person moves away from total immersion in his or her own
group and toward greater autonomy
Racial and Cultural Identity
Development Model
 Stages of the R/CID cont.
 Integrative Awareness: the person achieves an inner
sense of security and appreciates both the positive and
negative aspects of both his or her own culture and the
dominant culture
 There is a positive sense of group pride whilst still being
able to question group values
 Person now reaches out to members of other minority
groups to gain a greater understanding of their attitudes and
experiences and expresses support for all oppressed people
A Critique of Stage
 These types of models have made great contributions to
the field of multicultural psychology and to our
understanding of human behavior and our diverse
society, they are not without limitations
 Most models present a linear progression through the
stages, meaning that individuals start at the beginning
then move to the final stage
 In reality these are much more fluid (a person may reach
the final stage of internalization in Cross’s model, but
might experience something jumps them back to the
encounter or immersion-emersion stage) (Parham, 1989)
 Remember the reason why Helms (1995b) uses the term
“statuses” instead of “stages”
A Critique of Stage
 Not all minorities start their development through the
stages at the same point or in the same order
 Depending on the environment in which a minority child
is raised, that child could begin development in a stage
that takes more pride in his or her group rather than
idealizing Whiteness, and could experience negative
events later in live setting them back to the pre-encounter,
encounter, and/or immersion-emersion stages
A Critique of Stage
 These models assume one definition of mental health
(the final stage is the healthiest)
 In the final stage of most models the individual reaches
out to other groups and adopts dominant group aspects
into their identity, when in certain situations it could be
more beneficial for the individual to completely immerse
him or herself in his or her own culture
 It is important to be wary of the assumption that one
identity outcome is the healthiest for all members in a
particular group
Multiple Layering of
 Sometimes an individual will feel most strongly
connected to one group but also feels that they are more
than simply that group (e.g., a Latina Lesbian who most
strongly associates with being Lesbian, but feels she is
more than simply Lesbian)
 This individual must deal with being a homosexual
individual, an ethnic minority, as well as being a woman
Multiple Layering of
 All individuals belong to more than one group, but one
of those identities may be more important to us than the
 Characteristics of the person as well as the situation
interact to determine which identity is most salient at any
given time (Sellers et al., 1998)
 Racial salience: the significance of one’s race varies
across individuals and across situations
 Being the only African-American in a certain situation may
make race salient to one individual, but have little to no
effect on another individual of the same race in that same

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