Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thoughts Toward a Developmental Model of Masculine Identity, Part One

[This is Part One, an introduction to some stage models of racial identity development. Part Two will present some preliminary ideas on a model of masculine identity development. Part Three will introduce a new model.]

I am currently in a multicultural psychology course. One of the things we discussed in class last week was the variety of developmental models for racial identity. William E. Cross, Jr. developed the first black identity model in the sixties, and nearly all of the models that have been developed since then use his model as a guide.

While feminists have built models of feminine identity development (and here, just for starters), to my knowledge there has been no such model for masculine identity (we have Freudian, role theory, and social relations models, but nothing very comprehensive).

One might object to this idea on the premise that most of Western psychology is a model based on men, and you would have a point. But there really is not a healthy model for how men can develop to become mature individuals - devoted specifically to masculine identity. I hope to present some ideas in that direction in these two posts.

Here is a summary of Cross's Nigrescence model (1), and its subsequent revision.
Cross’s (1971; Hall, Freedle, & Cross, 1972) original nigrescence theory, articulated in the 1970s, described the development of African American identity from a pro-White assimilationist position to a pro-Black internalized stance. Since its conception, Cross’s nigrescence model has been revised (Cross, 1991, 1995) and expanded (see Cross & Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver, Cross, Worrell, & Fhagen-Smith, 2002; Vandiver & Worrell, 2001). The expanded nigrescence theory (NT-E) differs from the original and revised theories in several ways. Perhaps most important is the change from a developmental-stage theory to one that focuses on attitudes or social identities (Cross & Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver et al., 2002; Worrell, Cross, & Vandiver, 2001), which focus on recurring psychological themes in the social history of Black people (Cross et al., 1998). The theory highlights how Black attitudes are socialized across the life span (Cross & Fhagen-Smith, 2001) and conceptualizes the multiple ways that Black identities are transacted or enacted in everyday life (Cross, Smith, & Payne, 2002; Cross & Strauss, 1998). As such, racial identity attitudes are not developmental in the traditional sense—that is, an invariant sequence of qualitatively different stages—although they are influenced and changed by events and contexts across the life span.

NT-E also maintains the distinction between personal identity and reference-group orientation (Cross, 1991). In this conceptualization, it is possible to divide self-concept into two domains: a general personality, or personal identity domain, and a group identity, social identity, or reference group orientation domain (Cross, 1985; Spencer, 1982). NT-E focuses on reference-group orientation because it views each variant of Black identity as a form of group identity (Cross & Vandiver, 2001) rather than as a variable representing general personality characteristics.

NT-E groups racial identity attitudes into three thematic categories: preencounter, immersion-emersion, and internalization (Cross & Vandiver, 2001; Worrell et al., 2001). Preencounter themes refer to identities that accord low or even negative salience to race and Black culture. Consequently, in the face of a racial epiphany or encounter, these attitudes may be the focus of identity change. Preencounter attitudes include assimilation, which reflects low race salience, as well as miseducation and self-hatred, both forms of negative race salience.

Immersion-emersion themes indicate a state of limbo representing identity volatility and flux. The immersion-emersion attitudes—anti-White and intense Black involvement—connote intense pro-Black or anti-White fixations (immersing), or it can reflect a state of emersing when a person is moving from myopic attitudes to more nuanced views of the Black and White community. Internalization themes indicate a sense of reconciliation with being Black in a multicultural world, and all identities falling within this category accord moderate to high importance to race and Black cultural issues. Afrocentric, bicultural, and multicultural identities are the attitudes under internalization, and are symbolic of the types of identity attitudes where positive feelings about being Black do not preclude acknowledging other salient identities in self or others.

These multiple identity attitudes underscore a central theme of NT-E—that there is no one type of Black identity; rather, there are multiple Black identity attitudes (Cross & Vandiver, 2001), and individuals can manifest differing levels of the various attitudes at the same time, although one attitude or a particular theme (e.g., preencounter) may be more salient. The Cross Racial Identity Scale (CRIS; Vandiver, Cross, Fhagen-Smith, Worrell, Swim, & Caldwell, 2000; Worrell, Vandiver, & Cross, 2004) is a six-factor scale based on NT-E. Racial identity attitudes measured on the CRIS include preencounter assimilation, preencounter miseducation, preencounter self-hatred, immersion-emersion anti-White, internalization Afrocentric, and internalization multiculturalist inclusive (Vandiver & Worrell, 2001; Vandiver et al., 2002).
Here is a very basic summary of the model from Wikipedia:

Cross developed a 5 phase developmental theory of acquisition of Black identification. He called this theory Nigrescence, which is translated as: “the process of becoming Black." The five stages progress as follows:

  1. Pre-encounter
  2. Encounter
  3. Immersion
  4. Emersion
  5. Internalization

The first stage refers to the time in one’s life when he/she are unaware of his/her race or racial implications.

The second stage refers to the first occurrence of racial awareness. This stage takes place earlier in life among racial minorities than for the racial majority or the advantaged group (in terms of the definition of racism: the “superior” group). This is often the moment that a child remembers as the first time he/she was treated differently because of the color of his/her skin.

The third stage is a time when a person (often in response to racial encounter) takes on all the identifying elements of his/her race. One becomes very much involved in being a member of his/her group and embracing all the behaviors, characteristics and features that are associated with being a member of that race. From a social stand point, one will spend time with those in his/her own race to the exclusion of members of other races.

The fourth stage is the counterpart to the third stage. In the fourth stage one comes out of the absolute immersion and comes to find different behaviors, characteristics and features that they may want to take on from another race. Socially one begins to become more comfortable with and value relationships with members of other races.

The final stage is the reaching of a balance. The balance involves the summation of choices and experiences one has throughout his/her identification process. A successful attainment of this process and the arrival at this final stage could be described as a level of comfort with one’s own race as well as the race of those around them.

Throughout one’s life one may revisit different stages and repeat steps of this process and reformulate their racial identity and opinions. Repeating stages is not a regression but often a part of greater process of integrating new information and reevaluating ideas from a more mature standpoint.
Various models have been created for other ethnic groups. But one of the more interesting adaptations comes in the models of white identity development - mostly because one would not think that the dominant culture would need to worry about identity. However, the models of Janet Helms and Rita Hardiman seek to create models of healthy, non-racist white identity which, if you have done any work in this realm, is harder than it might sound.

Of the two models, the Helms model has been tested and verified more extensively, but I like the Hardiman model for its simpler identification of the stages and struggles of creating a healthy white racial identity.

The following is a long passage from my textbook (2) that summarizes the Hardiman model, but I want to post this whole model so that readers can get a sense of the complexity and challenges of the process.
The Hardiman White Racial Identity Development Model

One of the earliest integrative attempts at formulating a White racial identity development model is that of Rita Hardiman (1982). Intrigued with why certain White individuals exhibit a much more nonracist identity than do other White Americans, Hardiman studied the autobiographies of individuals who had attained a high level of racial consciousness. This led her to identify five White developmental stages: (1) naïveté—lack of social consciousness, (2) acceptance, (3) resistance, (4) redefinition, and (5) internalization.

1. The naïveté stage (lack of social consciousness) is characteristic of early childhood, when we are born into this world innocent, open, and unaware of racism and the importance of race. Curiosity and spontaneity in relating to race and racial differences tend to be the norm. A young White child who has almost no personal contact with African Americans, for example, may see a Black man in a supermarket and loudly comment on the darkness of his skin. Other than the embarrassment and apprehensions of adults around the child, there is little discomfort associated with this behavior for the youngster. In general, awareness and the meaning of race, racial differences, bias, and prejudice are either absent or minimal. Such an orientation becomes less characteristic of the child as the socialization process progresses. The negative reactions of parents, relatives, friends, and peers toward issues of race, however, begin to convey mixed signals to the child. This is reinforced by the educational system and mass media, which instill racial biases in the child and propel him or her into the acceptance stage.

2. The acceptance stage is marked by a conscious belief in the democratic ideal—that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed in a free society and that those who fail must bear the responsibility for their failure. White Euro-Americans become the social reference group, and the socialization process consistently instills messages of White superiority and 266 Identity Development in Multicultural Counseling and Therapy minority inferiority into the child. The underemployment, unemployment, and undereducation of marginalized groups in our society are seen as support that non-White groups are lesser than Whites. Because everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, the lack of success of minority groups is seen as evidence of some negative personal or group characteristic (low intelligence, inadequate motivation, or biological/cultural deficits). Victim blaming is strong as the existence of oppression, discrimination, and racism is denied. Hardiman believes that while the naïveté stage is brief in duration, the acceptance stage can last a lifetime.

3. Over time, the individual begins to challenge assumptions of White superiority and the denial of racism and discrimination. Moving from the acceptance stage to the resistance stage can prove to be a painful, conflicting, and uncomfortable transition. The White person’s denial system begins to crumble because of a monumental event or a series of events that not only challenge but also shatter the individual’s denial system. A White person may, for example, make friends with a minority coworker and discover that the images he or she has of “these
people” are untrue. They may have witnessed clear incidents of unfair discrimination toward persons of color and may now begin to question assumptions regarding racial inferiority. In any case, the racial realities of life in the United States can no longer be denied. The change from one stage to another might take considerable time, but once completed, the person becomes conscious of being White, is aware that he or she harbors racist attitudes, and begins to see the pervasiveness of oppression in our society. Feelings of anger, pain, hurt, rage, and frustration are present. In many cases, the White person may develop a negative reaction toward his or her own group or culture. While they may romanticize people of color, they cannot interact confidently with them because they fear that they will make racist mistakes. This discomfort is best exemplified in a passage by Sara Winter (1977, p. 1):

We avoid Black people because their presence brings painful questions to mind. Is it OK to talk about watermelons or mention “black coffee”? Should we use Black slang and tell racial jokes? How about talking about our experiences in Harlem, or mentioning our Black lovers? Should we conceal the fact that our mother still employs a Black cleaning lady? . . . We’re embarrassedly aware of trying to do our best but to “act natural” at the same time. No wonder we’re more comfortable in all-White situations where these dilemmas don’t arise.

According to Hardiman (1982), the discomfort in realizing that one is White and that one’s group has engaged in oppression of racial/ethnic minorities may propel the person into the next stage.

4. Asking the painful question of who one is in relation to one’s racial heritage, honestly confronting one’s biases and prejudices, and accepting responsibility for one’s Whiteness are the culminating marks of the redefinition stage. New ways of defining one’s social group and one’s membership in that group become important. The intense soul searching is most evident in Winter’s personal journey as she writes,

In this sense we Whites are the victims of racism. Our victimization is different from that of Blacks, but it is real. We have been programmed into the oppressor roles we play, without our informed consent in the process. Our unawareness is part of the programming: None of us could tolerate the oppressor position, if we lived with a day-to-day emotional awareness of the pain inflicted on other humans through the instrument of our behavior. . . . We Whites benefit in concrete ways, year in and year out, from the present racial arrangements. All my life in White neighborhoods, White schools, White jobs and dealing with White police (to name only a few), I have experienced advantages that are systematically not available to Black people. It does not make sense for me to blame myself for the advantages that have come my way by virtue of my Whiteness. But absolving myself from guilt does not imply forgetting about racial injustice or taking it lightly (as my guilt pushes me to do). (Winter, 1977, p. 2)

There is realization that Whiteness has been defined in opposition to people of color—namely, by standards of White supremacy. By being able to step out of this racist paradigm and redefine what her Whiteness meant to her, Winter is able to add meaning to developing a nonracist identity. The extremes of good/bad or positive/negative attachments to “White” and “people of color” begin to become more realistic. The person no longer denies being White, honestly confronts one’s racism, understands the concept of White privilege, and feels increased comfort in relating to persons of color.

5. The internalization stage is the result of forming a new social and personal identity. With the greater comfort in understanding oneself and the development of a nonracist White identity comes a commitment to social action as well. The individual accepts responsibility for effecting personal and social change without always relying on persons of color to lead the way. As Winter explains,

To end racism, Whites have to pay attention to it and continue to pay attention. Since avoidance is such a basic dynamic of racism, paying attention will not happen naturally. We Whites must learn how to hold racism realities in our attention. We must learn to take responsibility for this process ourselves, without waiting for Blacks’ actions to remind us that the problem exists, and without depending on Black people to reassure us and forgive us for our racist sins. In my 268 Identity Development in Multicultural Counseling and Therapy experience, the process is painful but it is a relief to shed the fears, stereotypes, immobilizing guilt we didn’t want in the first place. (1977, p. 2)

The racist-free identity, however, must be nurtured, validated, and supported in order to be sustained in a hostile environment. Such an individual is constantly bombarded by attempts to be resocialized into the oppressive society.

There are several potential limitations to the Hardiman (1982) model: (1) The select and limited sample that she uses to derive the stages and enumerate the characteristics makes potential generalization suspect; (2) the autobiographies of White Americans are not truly representative, and their experiences with racism may be bound by the era of the times; (3) the stages are tied to existing social identity development theories, and the model proposes a naïveté stage that for all practical purposes exists only in children ages 3 to 4 years (it appears tangential in her model and might better be conceptualized as part of the acceptance stage of socialization); and (4) there have been no direct empirical or other postmodern methods of exploration concerning the model to date. Despite these cautions and potential limitations, Hardiman has contributed greatly to our understanding of White identity development by focusing attention on racism as a central force in the socialization of White Americans. (p. 266-269)
The Helms model is slightly different - it has six stages, divided into two stages [emphasis added]:
[D]eveloping a healthy White identity requires movement through two phases: (1) abandonment of racism and (2) defining a nonracist White identity. Six specific racial identity statuses are distributed equally in the two phases: contact, disintegration, reintegration, pseudoindependence, immersion/emersion, and autonomy. (p. 269)
I want to combine the simpler stages of Hardiman and with the two-stage aspect of Helms to create a preliminary model of masculine identity development.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this project.

1 Worrell, FC, Vandiver, BJ, Schaefer, BA, Cross Jr., WE & Fhagen-Smith, PE. (2006) Generalizing Nigrescence Profiles: Cluster Analyses of Cross Racial Identity Scale (CRIS) Scores in Three Independent Samples. The Counseling Psychologist. Vol. 34 No. 4, July 2006 519-547. DOI: 10.1177/0011000005278281

2 Sue & Sue (2008). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice (5th Ed.) Wiley & Sons: New York.

No comments: