Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cross and Fhagen-Smith's Model of Black Identity Development Summarized by Margaret (Meg) Larimer

Theory In My Own Words
Cross and Fhagen-Smith explain black identity development as “psychological nigrescence” or “the process of becoming black”.  They state three central concepts that help define black identity:  Personal Identity (PI), Reference Group Orientation (RGO) and Race Salience (salience meaning a state of being).  Cross and Fhagen-Smith recognized three patterns:  Nigrescence Pattern A, where individuals develop their black identity as a result of “formative socialization experiences” usually instilled by parents, family members and their community;  Nigrescence Pattern B develops when an individual has not been able to form a healthy black identity (mentioned in Pattern A) and now must undergo conversion, usually during adulthood; and finally Nigrescence Pattern C which continues black identity development throughout adulthood.  Three identity types will emerge: low race salience, high race salience or internalized racism.
 There are five stages: 1) Pre-Encounter, 2) Encounter, 3) Immersion-Emersion, 4) Internalization and 5) Internalization-Commitment.  An individual reaches Achieved Identity Status when their identity is based on one’s own personal self-concepts and beliefs and not on the beliefs of others.  It is at stage 5 (internalization-commitment) where the individual reaches a point where they can join others in their own community and try to solve struggles within that community as well as protect black history.  Black identity development can continue throughout adulthood.
Uses of Cross and Fhagen-Smith’s Theory in Higher Education
Kijana Crawford and Danielle Smith (2005) performed a study in which they researched the availability in Higher Education of mentors as role models to African American women. Cross and Fhagen-Smith state black identity develops as a result of positive socialization experiences within one’s family and community. Therefore, positive role models are essential for optimal growth.   However, according to Crawford and Smith, role models for African American women are severely lacking in higher education.  Per the study, women in Higher Education who have role models or mentors have increased opportunities to acquire knowledge, collaborate with other professionals, improve job performance and career satisfaction.  This study found that African American women in higher education do not have these role models or mentoring experiences.  It is Crawford and Smith’s belief that the women in the study were not given adequate opportunity to develop or capitalize on their talents.  While these women were well educated, they were not nurtured.  All of the respondents in the study believed they would have had more positive job satisfaction had they had role models and mentors to guide them.
Example Study:
Robinson, J., & Biran, M. (2006).  Discovering self: relationships between African identity and
academic achievement.  Journal of Black Studies, 37 (1), 46-68.

The authors at Miami University used a study of college students and determined a significant correlation between African American identity, specifically their sense of collective identity, and positive academic achievement.  They hypothesized that given the opportunity to develop African American self-consciousness; these students would then have the necessary foundation to achieve academic excellence.  Their study confirmed that women appeared to exert more effort towards academics and were more connected to their communities than African American men.  If students, researchers and scholars were to pair this study to Cross and Fhagen-Smith’s model of black identity development, a foundation could be laid for the justification of making black identity development an important aspect of the college experience.

REFERENCES

Crawford, K., & Smith, D. (2005).  The we and the us: mentoring African American Women.
  Journal of Black Studies, 36 (1), 52-67.

Cross, W. E., & Fhagen-Smith, P. (2001). In C. L. Wijeyesinghe, B. W. Jackson III. (Eds.), New
Perspectives on Racial Identity Development (1st ed.; pp. 243-268).  New York, NY: New York University Press.

Evans, N.J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patten, L. D., & Renn, K.A. (2001).  Student
development in college theory, research, and practice.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Robinson, J., & Biran, M. (2006).  Discovering self: relationships between African identity and
academic achievement.  Journal of Black Studies, 37 (1), 46-68.


8 comments:

  1. For our class assignment I read "Moo" and applied the Cross Model of Black Identity to the character Mary in the book. Mary's stories in the book provided "real-life" applications to the model as Mary transitioned through the Preencounter, Encounter, and Immersion/Emersion stages her freshman year of college. She dealt with internalizing feelings, romanticizing the black culture while alienating herself from white people, and eventually moving towards a healthy balance between accepting her black identity and the white identity of people around her (roommates). It was interesting to see through my application of another theory that Mary was was stuck in the Moratorium pathway of Josselson's theory which was causing an identity crisis in all aspects of her life. It is important to remember that racial identity development can play a large role in the overall identity development of students and would be something for practitioners to address if working students of color who may be struggling to succeed in college.

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  2. Meg did a fantastic job on her presentation. My previous lecture experiences never addressed the elephant in the room: How could we talk about a race if no representative of that race was present? The answer is that, although we have no right to jump to conclusions, we should begin an open discussion.

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  3. I read "A Hope in the Unseen" for our applying theory assignment and used this theory as one of the three. Cedric, the main character, makes observation comparing where he was raised compared to other African-American students environment and how their background helped prepare them more for college. It seems Cross and Fhagen-Smith's Model focuses on socialization experiences to explain the process of nigrescence. I would find it fascinating to find research that combines this theory and Urie Brofenbrenner's ecology model. The ecological theory focuses in on how interaction between a person and their environment effect change. A research question could be how various environments effect the process of nigrescence? Something to think about.

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  4. That is a very interesting observation Margaret. I wonder if we would have a more engaging discussion on every theory if every targeted population was present.

    I also read "A hope in the unseen" and I concluded that Cedric also did not develop nigrescence. He was still confused with the process of becoming black because he did not quite "fit-in" in his black community at home, and when he attended Brown College he missed his black community culture. It makes me think that the environment is a factor but most importantly one's own belief and/or self-authorship. When the individual reaches his or her internal foundation and trust to make decisions the individual is likely to discover a more comfortable identity whether it's race, gender, and others.

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  5. I read "Ain't Gonna be the Same Fool Twice" and I could see how the character in my book was trying to keep her black identity. When she moved to San Francisco, everyone asked her why she kept her afro and she would respond she was proud of her afro and didn't see why she should get rid of it. She does go to someone to get a cut but she is afraid the white girl doesn't know how black peoples hair works. In the end she loves what the hairdresser does for her. She already had the identity of being black and didn't want anyone to tell her not to be who she was.

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  6. Yeah I agree with Margaret I would like to hear more stories about black identity development and saliance. I understand everyone needs role model to learn to have high saliance but not everyone has access to it so when they arrive to college, they are faced with their identity. We have to use multipe theories to see the whole picture and guide students. I would love to hear any experiences if any?

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  7. I also read "Ain't Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice" and many of the characters were struggling with other areas of their identities (gender, sexual orientation, etc.) which seemed to overshadow their black identity development. In the application assignment, I pointed out that the main character may have dropped out of the stage because she had “established a comfortable sense of blackness and felt compelled to move on and examine other pressing matters in life (Evans et al., p. 259)”. The book was a good lens to see how different characters moved through the encounter stage, as some did so more successfully than others.

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