Adolescence is a critical phase in the process of self making both because it is a time during which youth create an outline of the self they will become as adults. And also because choices made during adolescence are likely to have important consequences for the future dropping out of school increases the likelihood of unemployment, delinquency and early, unwanted pregnancy; staying in school improves labor market participation and future earnings.
For African American youth, they answer to “Who Am I”, this question is likely to include both distinctive, unique features of the self one will become and also representations of oneself as a black person in America. That is, the self concept that is likely to contain both personal identity and also racial identity which is a sense of what it means to be both American and of African heritage.
In this way, racial identity deals with the dual membership of African Americans membership in a group with traditions, culture and inheritance that is collectivistic in focus and also as a membership in a post industrial, individualistically oriented society that has negative stereotypes about one’s racial group, particularly with regard to academics, the very domain critical to a successful transition to adulthood (Adelabu, 2008, p.347).
Research on African American or black identity has focused on its content with the premise that content of black identity is related to feelings of competence versus lack of efficacy. In fact, having a positive ethnic or racial identity has been related to feelings of competence and well being and feeling connected to the black community (Seller & Shelton, 2000, 49).
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The literature has focused primarily on sense of connectedness or common fate, a positive sense of heritage and history, and awareness of racism and negative stereotyping as identity components. In addition, earlier research focused on political consciousness and although work in this tradition continues, this line of research has not directly addressed issues of school persistence and academic achievement and has been focused primarily on adults.
Relevant, though not often integrated into this work, is the literature on the content of white stereotypes of blacks. A great deal of this research has looked at the ways in which larger society, Caucasians in particular, holds or may hold negative or racist views of African Americans.
This work can be termed a recluse view of stereotyping in that it process on the ways in which members of the out group view the in group. Some of the most promising recent work focuses on the ways in which identity may interplay with awareness of stereotyped views held by others about African Americans.
This work can be termed an insider’s view of stereotyping in that it focuses on ways in which members of the in group make sense of, deal with or respond to stereotyping. In this research work, it focuses on the insiders view, asking what is the experience of being African American for black youths. Our premise is that in urban centers black youths cannot choose to ignore or not take into account this social identity (Scott jr., 2003, p.524).
The reality of this identity is made salient in a number of ways. First, the majority of others in one's everyday life are likely to be black, and many in one’s age cohort do not stay in school. Beyond the peer group, poverty, under- and un- employment, crime and other indicators of social strain are almost certain to be high in one's own social niche.
Youths must make some sense of how it is that members of one's own group appear to be badly off. Social identity theory would suggest that this process makes intergroup boundaries outstanding and therefore results in construction of
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A social identity. The content of racial identity and the interplay between content of racial identity and academic achievement in the adolescent transition is the focus of this paper Identity.
The Understanding of Race and the Construction of African American Identity.
Identity development is a process by which an individual establishes a relationship with a reference group. Once this process is complete it has the potential to influence attitudes and behaviors through adoption of group values and goals.
Thus, it is important to understand the relationship between external social factors and interactions, and personal understandings that inform the identity. Social identity theory suggests that group identity development is a cognitive process that uses social categories to define self. Categories can be based on nationality, skin color, common history and oppression, and ancestry. Individuals vary in the degree to which they identify with a group.
Consequently, variance exists in the commitment to roles and behaviors associated with that identity. In this study we address the influence that racial categorization strategy has on racial identity salience and attitudes. Social identities are based on the emotional significance and importance of group memberships for self-definition and their relevance to world view. Racial group identity is only one of several possible social identities.
Not all African Americans place the same importance on racial identity (Leach & Moreland, 2001, 270). The historical realities of African American existence and individual efforts to cope and adjust result in numerous possibilities for African American identity, many of which have not been fully explored.
The history of African Americans in this country has been characterized as one of sustained oppression and discrimination. While slavery was initially
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justified on the basis of the need for cheap labor, a racist ideology developed to support the subjugation of people of African descent. Individuals of African descent were characterized as subhuman, irresponsible, lazy, and stupid. They were deprived of basic human rights, including the right of self-determination.
The reality of violent enforcement of slave status, and primary and secondary gains possible through submission, made internalization of this ideology a viable option for some slaves. Thus, self-labeling was hardly an option and acceptance of derogatory terminology was almost a certainty.
The emancipation of slaves brought only a brief period of relative freedom before people of African descent were again relegated to a system of oppression enforced by deprivation of political and human rights (Leach&Moreland, 2001, 269).
Rights were denied by law, a system of social norms, and terror tactics that included lynching. African American political and social efforts were thus directed toward political and social equality. There were only brief periods prior to the 1960s that directed community efforts toward African American self-image and pride, thus inhibiting discussions of group definition and identity focused on positive culture and image.
Researchers have recognized that the study of African American identity has been incomplete. The African American race has not fully addressed the complexity, multidimensionality, or factors affecting identification. Most efforts to address the inadequacies in the literature have focused on studying a broader range of phenomena related to racial identity.
These efforts have addressed the Africentric aspects of African American racial identity, as well as multidimensional components of the construct. Researchers have also addressed factors associated with the development of racial identity. The social experiences of the individual within the family and community affect social identity (Leach & Moreland, 2001, 268).