The Racial Identity Construction Theory

1173 Words5 Pages
The Racial Identity Construction Theory One’s racial identity is created through a gradual process of learning. Exposure plays a crucial factor in learning one’s race, and the interplay between and among races, cultural practices and differences, and varied treatments from one race to another determine how a child perceives his own race to be. Chen et al. (462) define racial identity as a psychological construct, which determines how people internally process their racial experiences based on how they categorized as a race. This paper will discuss a social science theory of race called the racial identity construction theory. The discussion of this theory will be based on how it is presented in Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. Tatum defines race and racial identity in the context of prejudice and racism (7). According to her, prejudice is a “system” that involves “cultural messages” and “institutional policies and practices, beliefs and actions of individuals” (Tatum 7). Racism and prejudice are interchangeable terms; the former is defined as one’s feeling of cultural and racial advantage over other cultures and races. In other words, one becomes a racist if he or she displays actions or live by ideologies out of the feeling of superiority. Whilst most people claim to be not racist, everyone is guilty of having been committed some forms of prejudice in one way or another. Helms has classified five statuses of racial identity construction model: conformity, dissonance, immersion-emersion, internalization, and integrative awareness (62). Conformity takes place when one sees his or her own race as inferior and learns to identify with the dominant and superior race, such as the White Americans. Dissonance happens when there are contradictory attitudes or feelings between one’s racial and cultural identity with that of the
Open Document