Monday, November 8, 2010

Rowe, Bennett, and Atkinson's White Racial Consciousness Model Written by Tom Hurtado

Summary of Theory
Rowe, Bennett, and Atkinson had 4 concerns with Helm’s White Racial Identity Theory. First, they felt identity does not occur in parallel with Whites but develops differently for all groups.  Second, Helm’s concept of linear identity progression was problematic.  Third, Helm’s theory was misnamed because the focus was racial awareness not identity development.  Finally, Helm’s theoretical basis was limited to a Black and White framework.
Proposing an alternative White racial consciousness model, Rowe et. al focus on understanding Whiteness and the resulting implications on other racial groups.  Various attitudes are explored in two categories: unachieved and achieved racial consciousness.  The authors propose that using attitude types increases understanding of development processes and improves assessment. 
Unachieved racial consciousness consists of three attitude types.  The avoidant type dismisses race.  The dependent type relies on others to formulate racial opinions. Lastly, the dissonant type is in a state of confusion about race.
Achieved white racial consciousness consists of four attitude types.  The dominative manifests racial superiority.  The conflictive objects to outright racism but opposes any action used to minimize acts of discrimination.  Third, the reactive type acknowledges that other groups have been the recipients of injustice in society and responds to these inequities.  Lastly, the integrative type uses an understanding approach to the intricacies of racial issues while fostering practical social change.
Rowe et. al emphasize mobility between attitude types includes dissonance and resolve.  They also claim the model is not linear but an ongoing process occurring experience by experience never reaching self-actualization.  
Application to Higher Education
As discussed by Mueller and Pope, there is a lack of diversity in higher education administration and a need for student affairs professionals to do more than intellectualize racial issues.  White racial consciousness promotes commitment to an internal and ongoing process of racial/ethnic awareness.   At the heart of this discussion is developing the ability to incorporate an internal process of awareness in conjunction with external efforts.  By committing to this process, we can better assess and improve our interactions with each student as well as enhance their development process. 
Annotated Bibliography
Mueller, J. A., & Pope, R. L. (2001, March). The relationship between multicultural competence and white racial consciousness among student affairs practitioners. Journal of College Student Development , 42(2), 133-144.
Mueller and Pope conducted research to find a correlation between multicultural awareness and White racial consciousness.  The authors used two self-reported measures to assess multicultural competence and white racial consciousness.  534 White student affairs practitioners with various backgrounds from 60 institutions across the US were sampled.  The data indicates that there is a correlation between White racial consciousness attitude types and multicultural awareness.  The authors concluded that although there is a lack of diversity in the student affairs profession, increasing multicultural awareness framed in White racial consciousness can make professional s more effective. 
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory research and practice (2nd ed., pp. 252-270). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mueller, J. A., & Pope, R. L. (2001, March). The relationship between multicultural competence and white racial consciousness among student affairs practitioners. Journal of College Student Development , 42(2), 133-144.
Rowe, W., Bennett, S. K., & Atkinson, D. R. (1994, January). White racial identity models: a critique and alternative proposal. The Counseling Psychologist , 22(1), 129-146.


  1. Tom's circles are beautiful! I really enjoyed the circular nature of this theory though it might come off as linear. The fact that dissonance must be overcome in order to move through the stages. The other thing I like about it is that within the circular model it looks far less judgmental than a linear model, there is no reflection on the individual for being stuck in one area of diversity understanding rather than taking in to consideration the development and dynamics of understanding one's own multicultural identity as well as how that falls within the relationship of others.

  2. As much as the theorists claim that this is not a linear model and visually present it as circular, the theory still shows varying degrees of development which increase from infantile to mature. In achieved white racial consciousness, the linear progress goes from dominative (ethnocentric) to conflictive, to reactive, to integrative. Each phase shows a greater acceptance of racial differences, societal injustice, and more concrete contributions to overcoming racist barriers. Honestly, the whole concept of "development" is that one progresses from a lower level to a higher level. One "grows", and growth is sequential. Compare college student development to biological development. Fact: a fetus becomes a newborn becomes a toddler, child, adolescent, and then adult. Sure, we can put them into a circular pattern of life and death (like the circle of life), but in reality, this development is still on a linear basis. It seems to me that the integrative phase is clearly more complex and advanced then reactive, which is more established than conflictive....Just saying. I'm Skeptical. but wonderful job on the presentation, Tom! :)

  3. I agree with both of you. Alex, the circular concept is certainly less-linear than other theories we have studied and Amy "development" that shows progressively more acceptance and understanding of racial differences is linear in nature. However, the concept that most appeals to me is that each experience should be considered a unique process. Unlike Helms, Rowe et al do not support the idea of self actualization meaning each experience is meant to stand on its own following a unique process of racial consciousness. Thank you for the kind words!

  4. Studying the circle once again as it is nicely done! I agreed with Amy's description of this model being linear, as one experience starting from dominative and eventually getting to integrative. For me it is almost like a one whole "awareness experience” because at the end there is no actual self mastery of a white racial consciousness let alone a white racial identity development. There is definitely a need to expand on this theory and to examine how individuals react on each attitude types whether they become aware and can act upon it, feel stuck and/or simply develop more consciousness?