The stages of microcultural identity development
While cultural identity development is something you may only learn about in multicultural psychology or communication courses, it is extremely relevant to the lives of anyone in a multiethnic society.
Microcultural identity development is that of any minority that comes in contact with a macroculture, or a group that serves as the majority. People of color are the microcultures in the United States. They develop their identities in reference to the macroculture, and in the following stages.
The first stage in unexamined identity. This is often when people are younger and don't really realize the differences between different races or cultures. They are also not terribly aware of their own backgrounds. This was like when I was a child and would play with my family, who of course knew I was different in race but never made reference to it.
In the next stage, the conformity stage, people internalize dominant group perspectives and attempt to be more like that group. The messages spread by the media, certain members of a population, and so on subjugate minorities and make them seem inferior compared to the dominant group. From macrocultures, minorities get the idea that they are inferior. These result in the emotions Banks observed: self-rejection and low self-esteem. They may also result in attempts at acculturation, to be more like the dominant group.
An example is Malcolm X in his young adult years. He internalized the negative stereotypes and messages about blacks, and as a result, he dyed his hair and immersed himself in European-American culture, such as dancing and being romantically involved with White women. It’s easy to fall into this process because one tends to believe what one hears, and is influenced by the people surrounding them. If they are friends with someone of a macroculture, it’s easy to be influenced by what they prescribe to, as they are likely to talk about it and make it seem logical.
I admit that I have fallen into this stage of the model as well. Growing up with a White family and with White friends, I have learned the ways they put on makeup and dress. My White friends have a crease over their eye. Most Asian people don't have this crease, so I'd always get confused as to how my friends would get the top of their eye to look dark it was easier for them to know where to put their eyeshadow because the crease was the place to stop applying it; I just had flat eyelids). Also, their eyelashes were longer than mine, and I always grew up thinking longer eyelashes are more beautiful (makeup commercials do the same thing). Therefore, I'd apply dark makeup to make it look like I have a crease above my eye, and longer eyelashes. I still do it because I've never learned any other way to apply makeup, and I try to go on websites to see the "Asian" way of applying eye makeup.
Stage 3 is resistance and separation. In this stage, individuals find difficulty in trying to understand their identities in the contexts of microculture and macroculture. People often look deeper into their own histories, and will emerge with more pride for their heritage. I feel I am in this stage now because after going to college, I am realizing what my race really means and how it really impacts me. I am trying to learn more about Korean culture, and deciding how much of an impact it really has on my life.
The fourth stage is integration. Individuals achieve an identity that they are comfortable with, not so much what others are comfortable with. They are much more aware of their backgrounds and cultures, as well as those of others.
Where are you in the development model?
- Self-Identity Development Model of Oppressed People: Inclusive Model for All?.
- The Identity Development of Multiracial Youth
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