Monday, November 8, 2010

Helm's Model of White Identity Development Written By Jennifer Wozab

Overview of Theory
Helms introduced her psychosocial White Racial Identity Theory in 1990 to “raise the awareness of white people about their role in creating and maintaining a racist society and the need for them to act responsibly by dismantling it” (Helms, 1992, p. 61).  Helms developed the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale (WRIAS) inventory to measure identity development and determined that the “evolution of a positive White racial identity consists of two processes, the abandonment of racism and the development of a non-racist White identity” (Helms, 1990, p. 50).  
The White Racial Identity Model involves six sequential stages: 1) Contact, an obliviousness to own racial identity; 2) Disintegration, first acknowledgment of white identity; 3) Reintegration, accepts the belief that White is superior and non-White is inferior and questions own racial identity; 4) Psuedo-Independent, intellectualized acceptance of own and others’ race; 5) Immersion/Emmersion, an honest appraisal of racism and significance of Whiteness; and 6) Autonomy, internalizes a multi-cultural identity with non-racist Whiteness as its core.

As the development process moves through the first three stages, the individual moves from obliviousness to consciousness of his or her white race and has a greater acknowledgement for whiteness and its role in society. Moving through these first three stages, the individual moves towards the abandonment of racism. The final three stages the individual is developing a non-racist White identity and understands what it means to be white, to take ownership of racial power and privilege and how it affects others, and work towards abandoning white privilege. This is the development stages where individuals can be “white without also being bad, evil or racist” (Helms, 1992, p. 61).
Use in Higher Education
White privilege and power is an important social construct in higher education. It is white supremacy that has created many barriers to success for minority students at an institutional, cultural, and societal level. More training and discussion must occur on college campuses with faculty, administrators, staff and students on white racial identity development. White individuals aware of their race and privilege can use it in a positive way to advocate and support students of color, which can include easier access to education for underserved populations, recruiting more diverse faculty, and creating more equitable policies and practices.
Annotated Bibliography
Miville, M. L., Darlington, P., & Whitlock, B. (2005, March/‌April). Integrating identities: The relationships of racial, gender, and ego identities among white college students. Journal of College Student Development, 46(2), 157-175. doi:10.1353/‌csd.2005.0020

The authors examine quantitative data from 300 White students (175 women and 125 men) to propose that racial and gender identities are related to ego identities. Participants completed the White Identity Racial Attitude Scale, Womanist Identity Attitude Scale or Men’s Identity Attitude Scale, and the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status. The authors suggest that the stages of gender and racial identity can predict the stages of identity development. For men and women who have a positive self concept (Achievement) it can predict a positive relation of gender (Internalization) and racial (Autonomy) development.  Participants exploring gender identity conflicts (Disintegration/‌Reintegration or Diffusion) could predict an ego identity crisis (Moratorium). Interestingly, participants demonstrating no consciousness of race (Contact) still resulted in a positive ego identity (Achievement).

References
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Racial identity development. In Student development in college: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed., pp. 260-261). Jossey-Bass.

Helms, J. E. (1990). Toward a Model of White Racial Identity Development. In Black and white racial identity: Theory, research and practice (pp. 49-66). New York: Greenwood Press.

Helms, J. E. (1992). A race is a nice thing to have: A guide to being a white person or understanding the white persons in your life. Topeka, Kansas: Content Communications.

Miville, M. L., Darlington, P., & Whitlock, B. (2005, March/‌April). Integrating identities: The relationships of racial, gender, and ego identities among white college students. Journal of College Student Development, 46(2), 157-175. doi:10.1353/‌csd.2005.0020

12 comments:

  1. I enjoyed discussing this theory in class, because I think is so important for us as practitioners to think about the privilages that we bring with us when working with students. Moving through my work in student affairs I've become much more aware of my privilages and how I can use them to help those I am working with and how those privilages can, at time, alienate me from students and how I need to be aware to try and work beyond those.

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  2. I agree Kylee. There are so many interactions that could be improved as I become more aware of privilege and how I do or do not use it to help others. I also think that making a concerted effort to get out of my comfort zone to build rapport is also part of the process.

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  3. When I was in a high school religion class, I remember the subject of race came up, and one girl said that she was so ashamed to be white. I've often reflected upon that comment, because I believe that she was in the disintegration phase, and that she didn't want to accept who she was. There must be an awareness of who we are and our relationships with others. And if we only focus on the past, we are filled with guilt. However, moving past that, and taking it history into account, I believe there can be some positive changes that occur, even if people only acknowledge the differences.

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  4. When Jen first mentioned that Helms was Black, I was initially surprised. How could a Black professor make judgments and generalizations about another race? Then I thought about the theories we have learned about this semester. Haven't they all been written by White males to generalize ALL races?

    It is interesting to see how implicitly acceptable some social norms are when the contrast is shown.

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  5. It was interesting to learn that black people can identity themselves with White then maybe later identity with black culture. It's same with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing. I identity myself Deaf because I feel that I cannot hear or speak well enough to call myself Hard of Hearing or hearing.

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  6. What I appreciated from studying and presenting this theory is that white racial identity is a continual growth process. Since entering the ELP program, I've come to a conscious recognition of my white identity and the power and privileges that come with that identity. I remind myself that students of color have thought about their race every day of their lives; I've been consciously thinking about my race every day for only a few months. While the identity process can be difficult, scary, and unsure, I can't ever go back to the Contact stage so I must go forward.

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  7. I like the idea of recognizing and acknowledging white privilege and supremacy as the first step towards addressing issues and barriers faced by students/individuals of color. Once individuals can recognize the reality of that privilege, be it race, gender, socio-economic status, etc., they can more effectively work towards addressing the privilege gaps compared with the non-privileged. It's crucial to accurately recognizes barriers and privilege first, before we can adequately begin addressing such issues. I found this theory extremely interesting in that sense particularly.

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  8. This was a very interesting theory to learn. I think that it is very important to acknowledge and recognize our own privileges and then see how we can use it to help others. In this case, working with college students and helping them when it comes to questioning their racial identity. How do we approach them and be able to apply what we've learned to the reactions or situations students give us when they are encountered with questioning their racial identity. I definitely think it starts with the recognition of our own privileges.

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  9. It is nice to see this theory in book form and to discuss it in class is a privilege to have such conversation. In my early college years I learned the phrase "white privilege" and heard it a lot among various diversity dialogues. I personally think that "white privilege" is invisible many times meaning a lot of Caucasian individuals are not aware they have "white privilege". I still see it today but I also agree that we are in a growing phase to understand different privileges that people have and especially white privilege. I wonder if one has to encounter a life crisis until he or she learns that they have privileges

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  10. During this presentation, and since then I've reflected on my White Identity and when, in my own life, I moved throughout the 2 phases. This didn't happen for me until I came to college which makes me wonder, how many White people don't have opportunities to consider their race and privilege? As practitioners we need to allow white students opportunities to reflect on their race and move to and through Phase 2 in order to develop a non-racist white identity.

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  11. In response to Richel's comment, I, too, didn't realize my white privilege until it hit me quite forcefully my first year of college. I see many students who struggle with this issue, and I wonder if dialogues about race and identity were started in late high school, if students would have a greater awareness of their identity and how it affects others.

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  12. This theory really hit home when Jen talked about how some may deny their white identity by saying that they are Jewish or use labels. I am to blame for this as I will tell people that I am half Jewish and half Hispanic. While I have always been proud of my heritage I never saw this half as a position of power. It is sometimes difficult to remember that even though this population has been repressed at times, they still hold power in their white privilege.

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