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RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays
 

RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays

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RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays

RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays

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    RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays RBG Communiversity Concepts in African-Centered Psychology, Two Pivotal Essays Document Transcript

    • RBG CommuniversityConcepts in African-Centered Psychology Theories of African American Personality: Classification, Basic Constructs and Empirical Predictions/Assessment by Kobi K.K. Kambon, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Florida A & M University & Terra Bowen-Reid, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Morgan State University Through the Prism of Black Psychology: A Critical Review of Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Africology as Seen Through the Paradigmatic Lens of Black Psychology by DeReef F. Jamison North Carolina A & T State University A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ON THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGY Prepared by the APA Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs
    • Theories of African American Personality: Classification, Basic Constructs and Empirical Predictions/Assessment by Kobi K.K. Kambon, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Florida A & M University & Terra Bowen-Reid, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Morgan State UniversityKobi Kambon (kambon@aol.com) is a widely recognized expert in the field of AfricanPsychology emphasizing personality and cultural oppression. He is currently a Professor ofPsychology in the Department of Psychology at Florida A & M University, where he also hasheld the positions of Department Chair & Program Director of the Community PsychologyGraduate Program. He has authored over 60 scholarly publications, including some five booksand several widely used Black personality and mental health assessment instruments. He is aformer National President of The Association of Black Psychologists and holds the Ph.D. inPersonality and Social Psychology from the University of Colorado in Boulder.Terra Bowen-Reid (terra.bowenreid@morgan.edu) is an Associate Professor in the Departmentof Psychology at Morgan State University. Her research interests are in the areas of AfricanAmerican mental health, race-related stress, spirituality and cancer prevention. Dr. Bowen-Reid’s most recent publications have appeared in the Handbook of African AmericanPsychology, Journal of Black Psychology, Journal of Urban Health and the Western Journal ofBlack Studies. 83 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Abstract: This article represents a brief overview and review of the state of contemporarytheories of African American personality. A slight modification of an earlier scheme put forthby Kambon (1992, 1998) provides the organizational framework for the analysis. The schemecomprises three classifications of such theories: Eurocentric Approaches, TransitionalAfricentric Approaches and Africentric Approaches. The addition of the Transitional AfricentricApproach is designed to better capture approaches that represent more or less a hybrid or diffuseversion including basic aspects of both the Eurocentric and Africentric approaches, yet reflectingat the same time a slowly but definite movement away from the Eurocentric toward theAfricentric approach (“Transitioning”). A more or less composite of the Eurocentric Approachis presented, while the William Cross model of Nigrescence is discussed as representative of theTransitional Africentric Approach. Much of the discussion of the Africentric approach is takenfrom previous manuscripts by the authors (Kambon, 1998; Kambon & Bowen-Reid, 2009) andemphasizes Kambon’s African Self-Consciousness model as representative. The major thrust ofthe article emphasizes what are the key-central constructs of the representative models (both coreand peripheral), as well as the changes that have occurred in these models over the past quarterof a century or more since their introduction, and the general status of the research that isassociated with the main paradigms involved. Finally, we give some limited consideration tosome of the seemingly pressing issues in the short-term future outlook for the field.I. Introduction Perhaps no other area of African/Black Psychology has such a legacy of controversy andstrident intellectual debate than the area of Theories of African American (AA) personality(Belgrave & Allison, 2006; Cross, 1991; Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2006; Thomas & Sillen, 1972;Wilcox, 1971). This has not only been because of the legacy of the notorious contentiousness ofthe literature on AA intelligence, but also the subsequent literature on AA self-concept/racialidentity and self-esteem, as well as the focus on AA motivation (i.e., achievement motivation)and antisocial behaviors such as drug abuse, delinquency, violence and criminality (Belgrave &Allison, 2006; Cross, 1991; Jones, 1972, 1980, 1991, 2004; Kambon, 1992, 1998; Pettigrew,1964; Wilson, 1993). Each of these areas of the psychological study of AA personality hasbrought to the table their own set of controversial theoretical models, methodologies, data bases,analyses and conclusions. Through the years and as a result of the accumulation of a relativelylarge amount of research data and theoretical constructs, a distinct area of study called AAPersonality has emerged within the African-centered psychological literature (Baldwin, 1976;Kambon, 1992, 1998) that commands serious consideration in any social policies respectful ofcultural diversity that focus on truly improving the lives of all of the population. Thus, thegrowing body of psychological literature focused on African American personality will bediscussed in this article in terms of the following considerations: (1) Classification of BasicTheoretical Paradigms, (2) Core Constructs and Empirical Predictions and Assessments, and (3)Future Directions of this important area of focus in African-Centered Psychology. 84 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • II. Classification of Theories of African American Personality: BasicTheoretical ParadigmsWhat then have emerged as the basic theoretical paradigms in this area of study and knowledge?Azibo (1990) has used such classifications as Positivists versus Negativist-Pejorativists tocategorize these paradigms, whereas Kambon (1992, 1998) has proposed the categories ofAfricentric versus Non-Africentric as more appropriate to capture the distinguishing features ofthese paradigms. Kambon’s (1992, 1998) work has been the primary guide in the developmentof classification schemes relevant to this area.More similar to Kambon, but incorporating many features from Azibo’s scheme as well, wepropose that three distinct approaches or paradigms seem to have emerged and have come tocharacterize contemporary work in this area. They might best be designated as (1) EurocentricModels, (2) Transitional Africentric Models, and (3) Africentric Models. This schematic issummarized in Table 1. 85 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Table 1. Contrasting Africentric and Non-Africentric Approaches to African AmericanPersonality Theories_____________________________________________________________________________ African Personality Paradigms: Modification of Kobi Kambon’s SchematicPARAMETERS AFRICENTRIC THEORIES NON-AFRICENTRIC THEORIESWorldview/Cultural Framework African Worldview European WorldviewMotivation/Psychic Proactive - Reactive -Energy Positive Energy Negative Energy Assumption AssumptionStandard of Strengths, Normality, Weakness, Abnormality,Referent Naturalness/Positive- Defensiveness in adaptiveness of behavior & functioning behavior & functioningSubtypes or Africentric a. Pure EurocentricVariants (African Worldview emphasis) (European Worldview emphasis) b. Pseudo Africentric (Diffuse/Predominant EWV emphasis) c. Transitional Africentric (movement toward AWV emphasis)Goal/Outcome Africentric Orientation 1) Eurocentric Orientation 2) Transracial/Diffuse: Universalism emphasis 3) Some Pro-Black with Diversity & Universalism emphasisOptimal Fulfilling the African Fulfilling the EuropeanFunctioning Survival Thrust Survival Thrust______________________________________________________________________________Adapted from Kambon, 1998. 86 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • A. Eurocentric and Pseudo-Africentric Models Following Kambon’s (1992, 1998) earlier scheme, theories whose racial-ethnic andphilosophical orientation is of European/European-American descent and thus asserts theEuropean Worldview (EWV)-cultural reality are classified as “Pure Eurocentric” because of itsCaucasian authorship and exclusive emphasis on the EWV as the conceptual framework (i.e., theabsence of the African Worldview). And in a related vein, we define the Pseudo-AfricentricModels as those theories whose ethnic- philosophical orientation is of AA descent, yet asserts theEuropean Worldview-cultural reality as the conceptual framework of analysis (Kambon, 1992,1998). In the case of the Pure Eurocentric Approach, it, of course, has represented one of theoldest traditions in Eurocentric social sciences concerned with such theoretical formulations ofAA personality (Kambon, 2006). These theories therefore are distinguished philosophically andideologically from other approaches by their imposition of the European Worldview (being theirnatural cultural orientation) as the appropriate conceptual framework for explaining AApersonality or some important aspects of it. While no independent models in the Eurocentrictradition have ever been proposed as a definitive model of African American personality(Kambon, 1998, 2006; Thomas & Sillen, 1972), a variety of seemingly highly eclectic theoreticalperspectives derived from Eurocentric speculations and stereotypes about Blacks drawing frompsychological, bio-physiological and medical, sociological and anthropological knowledge bases(Ferguson, 1916; Kardiner & Ovesey, 1951; Pettigrew, 1964), came to represent a kind ofgeneral-eclectic paradigm. This paradigm, as articulated by Kambon (1998), posits a generallynegative psychological picture forming the AA personality profile. The negative constructs ofAA self-hatred, low or exaggeratedly high self-esteem, negative reference group identification,low intelligence and low-achievement motivation, low frustration-stress tolerance (inability todelay gratification) and faulty coping skills, high anger, aggression and hostility, anti-social andcriminally bent behaviors, low sense of personal causation/fate-control (high externality), amongmany others, have all been articulated either separately or in combinations as the core contentemphasis of such theories (Dreger & Miller, 1968, 1972; Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2006; Pettigrew,1964; Thomas & Sillen, 1972). The Pseudo-Africentric Models, on the other hand, represent those theories of AApersonality developed by AAs and others of African descent (Fanon, 1967) who manifest aseemingly unwitting allegiance to the basic paradigms of Eurocentric Psychology and behavioralscience as their basis for interpreting the self-concept, identity and motivation of Black people(Azibo, 1990; Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2006). This group has been led in large part by suchnotables as Kenneth B. Clark (1965), Frantz Fanon (1967), Alvin Poussaint (1972), JamesComer (Comer & Poussaint, 1982, 1995),William Cross’ (1971, 1991) earlier works on Blackracial identity, Janet Helms (1985), and a host of others (Azibo, 1990; Kambon, 1998, 2006).This paradigm, as articulated by Kambon (1992, 1998), also posits a generally negative cultural-psychological picture of the AA personality profile. 87 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • For example, they fail by and large to address African cultural reality as a positive presence(protective factor) in the psychology of AAs. Rather, they accept the monolithic culturalparadigm of Eurocentric psychology and thus see AA personality as driven by the sameEurocentric motivational forces as White Americans, such as achievement driven, individualism,materialism and power-dominance driven, assertiveness-aggression as optimal motivation, alongwith an emphasis on differences, competitiveness, violence, victory-driven, conflict, strife,anxiety avoidance, shame and guilt all as critical psychological elements in normal personalityoperation (Azibo, 1990; Kambon, 1992, 1998). As a result, such theories assert great emphasison attempting to explain negative constructs of African American personality like self-hatred,low or exaggeratedly high self-esteem, negative reference group identification, low intelligenceperformance and low-achievement motivation, low frustration-stress tolerance (inability to delaygratification) and faulty coping skills, high anger, aggression and hostility, anti-social andcriminally bent behaviors, low sense of personal causation/fate-control (high externality), etc.(Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2006).1. Common Theoretical Components of Eurocentric and Pseudo-AfricentricModels Some of the major emphasis and key constructs articulated in this approach are thefollowing:Core Elements/Factors/Psychological Infrastructure (Structural and Motivation-FunctionalEmphasis): Chief among the Core factors emphasized in the Eurocentric models are Negativeracial identity (Negative Personal and Reference Group -racial/ethnic- identity) - Black self-hatred, Envy of Whites/White Preference, low self-esteem and/or exaggerated (compensatory)high self-esteem, and a host of other anti-Black values and beliefs, and pathology-leaningpsychological and emotional traits.Peripheral Elements/Factors (Attitudinal and behavior patterns resulting from response tooppression or European American cultural reality forces): The Peripheral factors, or thosebehavioral factors presumably generated by or emanating from the Core factors, represent acomposite theme of “Anti-Black” attitudes and behaviors among other dysfunctional-maladaptive, anti-social and ineffective behaviors.Psychological Dynamics: The primary motivational emphasis associated with these theoriesstress psychodynamics reflecting a psychological dissonance over negative racial identity/status(negative social status) in American society. It emphasizes tension reduction/being driventoward achieving emotional-psychological comfort with self-identity (personal identity) byrejecting Black racial-cultural identity (reference group) and by identifying with/adopting WhiteIdentity, or at least a Non-Racial/Universal – Human Identity, as normal-natural AfricanAmerican identity/personality (Kardiner & Ovesey, 1951; Penn, Gaines & Phillips, 1993;Thomas & Sillen, 1972). 88 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Developmental Issues: The primary developmental emphasis of these models has focused onpsychologically transitioning from an Anti-Black to Non-Black – racially neutral or Universal -Human identity. Other constructs like Individualism/Individual Human Identity (achieving anIndividual identity independent of race and culture) have been emphasized and are generallythrust toward the need to transcend racial identity to achieve an optimal individual-personalhuman identity within the framework of European/European American cultural reality.Outcome Emphasis: Optimal African American personality development and functioning,according to these models, is viewed as synonymous to achieving a personal identityindistinguishable from normative (if not “optimal”) European/European American personality.The individual level adaptation/internalization of a European American racial-cultural identity-self-concept, as opposed to a Black/African-centered racial-cultural identity/self-concept, etc., isemphasized as the desired outcome-expression of normal African American personalitydevelopment (Kambon, 1992, 1998).Empirical Predictions and Assessment Based on Pure Eurocentric Models: As has been noted elsewhere (Kambon, 1998), these theories have virtually made a livingoff of the infamous “Black self-hatred” research model known rather generally as the racialpreference and various racial comparative research literature spanning the mid-1930s through1970s (Kambon, 1998, 2006). In general, the Eurocentric approach and its various constructshave predicted a myriad of behavioral anomalies and negative mental health outcomes amongAAs, many of which were alluded to earlier. This list encompasses such notorious findings asidentity confusion and negative personal and reference group identities, negative racial groupperception and stereotyping among AAs; also lower self-esteem and negative self-conceptamong AAs compared to Caucasian Americans, both children and adults, lowerintelligence/mental capacity/capabilities compared to Caucasians, white skin preferenceexpressed in a variety of ways, lower achievement aspirations and less competitiveness thanWhites, more criminally-prone (higher arrest and incarceration rates) than Whites, lower highschool graduation rates, lower college enrollment and graduation rates and higher unemploymentrates than Whites, higher truancy and school drop-out rates, delinquency, teenage parenting, andso on and so forth (Farley, 2002). Of course a proliferation of culturally biased researchinstruments and questionable methodologies have been developed and utilized in this overalleffort, and a notorious collection of contestable findings, including those listed, have beenpresented (Kambon, 1998). 89 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • B. Pseudo-Africentric and Transitional Models The second group of theories, the Transitional Models, are to a large extent a derivationof the “Pseudo-Africentric or Diffuse approaches.” As noted, they represent those theories underAfrican/AA authorship that superimpose the European worldview as the conceptual framework,even though they focus on explaining AA personality or some important aspects of it. Thesetheories have represented the oldest tradition among Black psychological and social sciencetheorists in the general field of Black or Africana Studies, from the early works of Martin Delany(1856), W. E. B. DuBois (1902) and others of their era, to the more contemporary psychologicalworks of Herman G. Canady in his 1946 manuscript entitled “The Psychology of the Negro”(Guthrie, 1998) and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1965), and the current studies ofWilliam Cross, Jr. (1991, 1995) and his associates (Cross, Parham & Helms, 1998; Cross &Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver, Cross, Worrell & Fhagen-Smith, 2002). Azibo (1990) has observedthat while some of these theories emphasize a predominance of negative traits as the basis ofportraying, characterizing and explaining normal and natural AA personality, others emphasizemore positive and perhaps more surface-transient psychological traits/states, dispositions andbehavioral patterns all defined within the European-American cultural context of experience.These models pay little or no attention to the role/forces of traditional African cultural reality andphilosophy (values, beliefs, behavioral norms, etc.) in driving AA cultural reality in thecontemporary psychosocial dynamics of AA personality (Kambon, 1992, 1998). Rather, theyemphasize coping with and adapting to the European-American cultural reality as the soledeterminant of core AA personality functioning in terms of racial identity and perhaps an AfricanAmerican personal-social identity void of any substantive African “cultural” infrastructure-underpinnings. Their motivational emphasis is therefore focused on “reactivity” to the forces ofEuropean American socio-cultural reality and the coping and assimilation demands it places onAfrican American’s adaptive responses. Although this area of theory in relatively recent timeshas been dominated mainly by William Cross’ (1971, 1991, 1995) ideas about AA personality,other theorists like Charles Thomas (1971), and Ivory Toldson and Alfred Pastuer (1976; Pastuer& Toldson, 1982), among others (Myers, 1993; Myers, et al., 1991; Myers, et al., 1996; Sellers etal., 1997) have also contributed to the general Transitional paradigm. While some of theseapproaches do recognize and give some limited emphasis to traditional African philosophy andculture in contemporary AA personality, at least as a conceptual starting point (Myers, 1985,1993; Pastuer and Toldson, 1982; White & Parham, 1990), they nevertheless emphasize reactionand adaptation to an European American cultural reality, or, in some instances, adopting a moremulti-cultural and universalistic philosophy (in interpreting Traditional African philosophy) asforming the basic psychological core of AA personality dynamics and functioning. 90 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • In general, these theories in many respects seem to place a predominate emphasis on theDuBois (1902) theme of “Bi-culturalism,” in the sense of racial and social status conflicts amongBlack individuals, and perhaps Fanon’s (1967) complex theme of Existential Universalism(Bulhan, 1985; Kambon, 1998), rather than on African cultural infrastructure as forming thepsychological core of AA personality (Kambon, 1992).1. Common Theoretical Components Among the major emphasis and key constructs articulated in this approach are thefollowing:Core Elements/Factors/Psychological Infrastructure: Racial/Ethnic Identity at both the Personalidentity and Reference Group identity levels (i.e., positive or negative Personal identity versuspositive or negative Reference Group/Racial identity) seems to represent the core emphasis inthese theories. The idea of multiple identities encompassing individual uniqueness void of raceor social emphasis, racial identity with all of the usual racial content emphasis, as well as othersocial identities then are seen as forming the core factors of AA personality (Sellers et al., 1997).Peripheral Elements/Factors: The Peripheral factors emphasized in these models represent thosebehavior patterns resulting from the “Response to Oppression” or European American culturalreality/forces, most of which are negative, maladaptive, or are Eurocentric culturally slanted(representing assimilationist and bi-cultural identities).Dynamics/Functional Aspects: The primary motivational emphasis associated with thesetheories represents a kind of psychological dissonance over racial identity conflicts (negativesocial status in American society). It emphasizes tension reduction-driven functioning focusedon achieving emotional/psychological comfort between personal/self-identity as Bi-cultural/Multi-cultural and Reference Group identity.Developmental Issues: The primary developmental emphasis of this approach has focused on anormal progression of psychological transitioning from anti-Black to pro-Black to Multi-culturalIdentity, or a broadly applied “Human Identity,” or an all-inclusive “Universal Cultural/HumanIdentity.”Outcome Emphasis: Optimal AA personality development and functioning is generally viewedin its final form to represent a race neutral or transracial/transethnic/transcultural humanidentity (or a “universal human identity”), often comprising a mixture of individualism withstrong existential aspects, along with a strong achievement orientation and a “healthy” altruisticemphasis in one’s behavior, suggesting the ultimate achievement of self-acceptance/self-satisfaction or psychological comfort with oneself as a human being in a community of otherhuman/universal beings. 91 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • 2. William Cross’ Theory of Nigrescence As noted, the most well-known and fully developed of the various models comprisingthis group is the theory of “Nigrescence” proposed by William E. Cross, Jr., and his associates(Cross, 1989, 1991, 1995; Cross, Strauss and Fhaghan-Smith, 1999; Cross & Valdiver, 2001;Helms, 1989; Parham, 1989). Succinctly, in its original formulation, Cross’ theory (Cross, 1971,1989) proposes that AA personality is a dynamic psychological/cognitive-emotional process ofsystematic stages and/or phases consisting of some five presumably distinct cognitive-emotional(attitudinal) states in transition from an Anti-Blackness and Pro-White orientation to a consciousmulti-cultural/pro-diversity/”transracial”/inclusively humanistic orientation at its mature-optimallevel of expression. The five stages are identified as (1) Pre-Encounter Stage (Anti-Blackness/Pro-Whiteness orientation), (2) Encounter Stage (a purely transitioning processmoving away from the Pre-Encounter state provoked by contradicting experience), (3)Immersion-Emersion Stage (immersing into a pro-Blackness/anti-Whiteness orientation followedby contradicting experiences provoking an emersion to a more balanced pro-Blackness/pro-Whiteness orientation), and (4) Internalization Stage (reflecting a post-race nationalism orracially transcendent orientation - an appreciation of diversity/multi-culturalism and Global-Third World sensitivity. A fifth stage is possible by transforming the new psychologicalorientation of Stage 4 into social action on behalf of all people, regardless of race. Stage 4 is themore common level reached by most people who successfully negotiate the Nigrescence process,and thus represents optimal Black personality for the average AA (Cross, 1971, 1978, 1991,1995). It is noteworthy that Cross’ basic model has enjoyed wide appeal for almost two decadesbefore any meaningful attempts at modification were put forth. Its broad appeal was no doubtderived in part from it being widely viewed as best capturing the psycho-social dynamics of theAfrican American racial consciousness movement from the pre-1960s Jim Crow era - throughthe 1960s “Black Power” movement, to the post-60s Racial Integration era (Kambon, 1998). Apart of its strong appeal also no doubt derived from it representing for almost a decade the onlyfairly well developed model with at least what appeared to be some positive features aboutBlacks that had been put forth by an African American psychological theorist along with itsdirect appeal to the popular conception of Black identity formation (as a “Bi-cultural”phenomenon). 92 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Revisions and Extensions of Cross’ Model During the mid 1980s, Thomas Parham (1985, 1989) and Janice Helms (1989) proposedexpansions of the basic model. Parham emphasized the recycling of Nigrescence throughout theindividual lifecycle from around mid-adolescence (Cross et al., 1999). Helms, on the other hand,emphasized the important motivational role of social interaction forces (Interactive Themes)characterizing different periods of life undergirding Nigrescence, such as Cognitive Dissonance-Consistency motivation and Transitional Cognitive States, as significant additions in articulating(interpreting-explaining) the Nigrescence process. Parham and Helms (1981, 1985) alsodeveloped the RIAS-B as one of the earliest instruments designed to empirically assess theNigrescence Model (Burlew & Smith, 1991). Although this instrument has received mixedsuccess as a valid and reliable assessment of the model, it also has seemed to raise morequestions about the theoretical clarity and logical consistency within the original model (Akbar,1989; Cross, 1991; Kambon, 1998; Kambon & Hopkins, 1993; Nobles, 1989) as it did indemonstrating the predictive efficacy of the Nigrescence paradigm. In his subsequent revisions of the model, Cross (1991, 1995) emphasized the importanceof drawing a clear distinction between Personal Identity (PI) and Racial Group Orientation(RGO) in relation to the Black Self-Concept within the framework of the Nigresence Model. PIrefers to an individual’s sense of personal uniqueness, whereas RGO refers to one’s attitude andvalues associated with her/his social group affiliation and preference. A person can have manyRGOs, such as race, gender, religion, etc. Thus, Cross argues that one’s RGO has little to norelationship to their PI because their PI does not have to take RGO into considerationwhatsoever. Cross also dropped the Fifth stage (Internalization Commitment Stage) in therevised Nigrescence Model (Cross, 1991, 1995; Cross & Vandiver, 2001). More recent revisions of the model have resulted from the development of the CrossRacial Identity Scale (CRIS) and the extensive and rigorous psychometric analysis it hasundergone (Cross & Vandiver, 2001), led primarily by his chief collaborator Beverly Vandiver(2001). Their work has resulted in further revisions in the Nigrescence paradigm, mainly interms of a revamping of the stages as “states/traits of AA personality” – racial/ethnic identity-consciousness. The Pre-Encounter Stage has been revamped into three distinct states; theEmersion Stage remains relatively unchanged as a transitional process; the Immersion-Emersionstage expanded into two distinct (yet related) states; and the Internalization Stage has beenrevised into three distinct states, making a total of nine states/traits of Nigresence (Cross &Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver et al., 2002). The revised states/traits are as follows: 93 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Cross’ Revised Nigrescence Model1) Pre-Encounter (PE) States/Traits1a. PE Assimilation State – Emphasis on pursuit of American-cultural identity1b. PE Miseducation State – Emphasis on internalization of Eurocentric stereotypes about Blacks(RGO)1c. PE Self-Hatred State – Internalized White supremacy or Anti-Blackness at personal level (PI)2) The Encounter StageThe process of reexamining one’s RGO – It is not a State/Trait (Attitude) as are the others.3) Immersion-Emersion (IE) States/Traits3a. IE Anti-White State – (Intense anti-Whiteness/anti-White hostility)3b. IE Black Nationalism State - (Intense Black Involvement)4) Internalization (I) States/Traits4a. I-Afrocentrism (Black Self-Determination emphasis, more other-exclusive)4b. I-Multicultural Inclusive (Humanistic-Universalist/totally inclusive - give equal emphasis toothers)4c. I-Multicultural Racial (Black Core Emphasis but diversity inclusive - (Bi-culturalist))All have in common the “pro-Black” element, according to Cross et al., but shift in terms ofother racial-ethnic exclusiveness-inclusiveness. As shown, while the revised model consists of all of the states from the original, theyhave all been recast, except for the Encounter Stage, as more or less distinct PsychologicalOrientations/states or traits (as opposed to stages) of Black personality/Identity. Even with theseadditions, however, the basic core of the theory remains unchanged (Cross & Vandiver, 2001;Kambon, 1998; Vandiver et al., 2002). This observation notwithstanding, it is noteworthy nevertheless to recognize thatphilosophically, the revised model allows for the existence of a “Pro-Black” (Black self-affirming/ self-determining) psychological orientation (i.e., the Afrocentrism State/Trait) as anoptimal Black mentally healthy state without the involvement of a Non-Black emphasis, and thusas sufficient for healthy psychological functioning or Black identity expression (Akbar, 1989;Kambon & Hopkins, 1993). This aspect alone seems to shift (or rehabilitate) the Nigrescencemodel in our view from a strict “Pseudo-Africentric” approach, as it was initially classified,(Kambon, 1992, 1998), to perhaps a more “Transitional Africentric” emphasis. 94 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • While the model still does not in the strictest sense address the worldview or cultural realitydifferences factor, which no doubt limits its Africentric value (Akbar, 1989; Kambon, 1998;Nobles, 1989), this apparent philosophical shift seems to open up the conceptual possibility of analternative reality referent for valuating AA psychological functioning and behavior to that of thedominant/mainstream Eurocentric American reality (Kambon, 1998, 2004, 2006).Empirical Predictions and Assessment Based on Cross’ Model: It has been in the area of empirical assessment of the predictions of Cross’ Nigrescencemodel that it has undergone most of its contemporary activity driving the more recent revisions -expansions. Heuristically speaking, the core predictions emanating from Cross’ model suggestthat contemporary AAs can be found to differ individually in their psychologicalstates/orientations related to racial-identity/consciousness along the 8-9 dimensions/states ortraits of the Nigrescence process, and certain racially-focused behaviors should be predictablefrom (correlated with) them. Led by the extensive psychometric work of Vandiver (2001) inparticular, recent findings have prompted many of the latest revisions and expansions of Cross’model. Most of this research has been associated with the development and testing of the CrossRacial Identity Scale (CRIS) that was developed by Cross, Vandiver and colleagues (Cross &Vandiver, 2001; Vandiver et al., 2002). The main findings to date have been that: (1) The CRIShas been shown to constitute a multifactored assessment instrument; (2) it has good reliabilityand construct validity (convergent, divergent and discriminant validity) for the most part, and itsfindings to date, at least for 6 of the 8-9 Nigrescence traits, appear to be theoretically consistent.There does, however, appear to be some conceptual and empirical issues related to theformulation of the Immersion-Emersion, Intense Black Involvement (Black Nationalism) andInternalization Multicultural Racial orientation subscales of the CRIS (Vandiver, Cross, Worrell& Fhagen-Smith, 2002). This research is ongoing, and appears to be looking at the broaderapplication of the paradigm to contemporary African American psychological functioning andbehaviors (Holler, 2005; Vandiver et al., 2002).C. Africentric Models The last group of theories, called the Africentric Models, represent those theories underAfrican/AA authorship, that utilize the African worldview as the conceptual framework forportraying, characterizing and explaining AA personality or some important aspects of it. Theyutilize traditional African philosophical-cultural values, beliefs and behavioral norms forformulating/constructing the psychological traits, dispositions and behavioral patterns that areused to represent normal and natural AA personality as distinguished from maladaptive,abnormal and dysfunctional AA personality (Kambon, 1998; Kambon & Bowen-Reid, 2009). 95 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • These theories represent the most recent-contemporary approach, even though the basic ideas arequite old in the thinking of African-descent scholars, both in Africa as well as throughout theDiaspora (Akbar, 2004; Bynum, 1999; Kambon, 1992, 1998; Nobles, 2006; Oshodi, 2004).While Wade Nobles’ (2006) early and seminal work on the continuing influence of traditionalAfrican philosophy and cultural reality in the behavior and basic functioning of Africansthroughout the Diaspora had some influence on the development of Africentric theories of AApersonality (Kambon, 1998), paradigms constructed by Na’im Akbar (1975, 1976, 1979, 2004),Robert Williams (1981), and Kobi Kambon (1992,1998, 2003, 2006) in particular represent themore fully developed models to emerge in this literature. These models, while both similar anddifferent in some important respects, seem to combine a structural, dynamic and functionalemphasis framed on the African cultural reality within the American socio-cultural context.Some of their overlapping emphases are as follows:(a) emphasis on traditional African culture in terms of values, beliefs and behavioral practicesthat have persisted in the AA psychological makeup forming the psychological infrastructurecore of normal-natural AA personality;(b) emphasis on the structure, organization and dynamics of the core in thrusting AA behaviorand functioning toward collective/cultural-affirming outcomes;(c) emphasis on the psychosocial nature, dynamics and outcome of the interaction between thisnormal-natural African-centered thrust or striving and the European American cultural reality inwhich the historic and contemporary AA personality finds itself. These theories then clearlymake a positive and proactive assumption about the basic energy driving the African/AApersonality system in its interaction (conflict, adaptations to, and coping) with the imposing,ever-present and hostile European American cultural reality (Kambon, 1998, 2003; Kambon &Bowen-Reid, 2009).1. Common Theoretical ComponentsCore Elements/Factors/Psychological Infrastructure: In these theories, Racial-Cultural Identity(Personal and Reference Group Racial-Cultural Identity) is viewed as serving the core functionof Racial-Cultural self-affirmation.Peripheral Elements/Factors: The Peripheral factors that are emphasized in these theories focuson the Cultural Behavior/response patterns, individually and collectively, that operate in adaptingto one’s environment as reflecting normal-natural AA Personality Traits – i.e., the Basic Traits ofAA personality. Aberrations/Abnormality/Maladaptation in the basic traits modified byoppression (i.e., European American cultural reality) forces are also articulated at this level ofthe Africentric theories. 96 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Dynamics/Functional Aspects: The psycho-dynamic aspects of AA personality in Africentrictheories emphasize in one way or another the Natural (inherent) Racial-Cultural Self-Actualization/Affirmation/Empowerment striving (i.e., the proactive thrust or striving) inherentin normal/healthy AA personality functioning.Developmental Issues: Where psychological development is concerned, Africentric theoriesseem to emphasize the critical importance of ongoing psychological (inclusive of spirituality)growth/development/transformations toward a mature and fuller expression of Africanitythroughout the lifecycle of the individual. The vital role and function of African-centeredsocialization occurring in African-centered institutions and the specific socio-culturalinfrastructure of African-centered societal-cultural institutions are emphasized as essential to thenormal-natural developmental process of AA personality. Thus, there is a general emphasis inthese theories on the processes involved in transitioning (cognitive and behavioral transitioning)from lower/weaker to higher/stronger levels (and expressions) of Conscious Africanity oversystematic stages or transitioning phases of development covering the entire life cycle.Outcome Emphasis: Optimal AA personality development and functioning in the African-Centered theories emphasizes a congruent pattern of Africentric psychological dispositions (i.e.,a core nexus of pro-Black/African values, beliefs and attitudes) and behaviors reflecting thenormal-natural African Survival Thrust of the AA personality system.2. Kobi K. K. Kambon’s Theory as Representative Although the works of Na’im Akbar (1975, 1976, 1979; 2004) and Robert Williams(1981; Kambon, 2006) have made significant statements of their own in these areas, the mostwidely known and fully developed model representing this approach is that of Kobi Kambon(1992, 2003, 2006). Succinctly, Kambon’s model emphasizes two key heuristic constructs inarticulating the structure, dynamics, and behavioral outcomes related to a cultural-centeredunderstanding of AA psycho-logical functioning and behavior: African Self-Consciousness(ASC) and Cultural Misorientation (CM). According to the model, African personality consistsof a core system called the African Self-Extension Orientation (ASEO) and African Self-Consciousness (ASC), and a number of basic traits emanating from the core. ASEO is thefoundation of the Black personality. It is the organizing principle and energy source of the entiresystem. It is innate (biogenetically based), unconscious, and operationally defined by theconstruct of "Spirituality" - a dynamic communal energy which allows the Self to merge (extend)into the totality of phenomenal experience. It is also immutable (unchanging in its thrust) anddeeply rooted in the African psychical system. The ASEO manifests in terms of a set of basicpsychological and behavioral traits, or “Africanisms,” expressive of the African spiritualitydynamic (Kambon, 1992). ASC derives from the ASEO and, except for its conscious nature andideological content/thrust, is essentially an "undifferentiated process" from the ASEO undernormal-natural conditions. 97 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • That is, a part of the ASEO differentiates into a conscious structure called ASC throughdevelopmental progression under normal-natural conditions. ASC is therefore partly biogenetic,but because consciousness evolves in large part through experience, it is also partlyenvironmental-experientially based as well. ASC directs and guides the personality systemtoward Africentric goals and objectives; that is, it directs/focuses the “African Survival Thrust”inherent in the ASEO. Thus, the ASEO defines and energizes the African personality system,while ASC cognitively directs or focuses the system toward the fulfillment and maintenance ofAfrican survival, affirmation-empowerment (Kambon, 1992).The ASC Model The ASC core is defined operationally by four basic components or competencies(cognitive-attitudinal and behavioral competencies). They are as follows:a. Awareness-recognition of ones collective African identity.b. Priority value placed on African survival, racial-cultural self-knowledge and positivedevelopment.c. Participation in African cultural institutions and their perpetuation.d. Practice of resolute resistance against all “anti-African" forces.Combined, these competencies define the self-affirming, self-determining and self-fortificationthrust of the AA personality’s basic striving for collective self-empowerment. We can see then that given the ASC’s core more basic dependence on experientialdevelopment (environmental forces), it is susceptible to change/modification under certain socio-cultural conditions. Thus, the directional thrust and strength of ASC can vary radically from itsnatural tendency under certain unnatural-abnormal experiential conditions. For example,variability in the actual strength of the manifestation of ASC (in terms of intensity andpervasiveness or dominance) is explained in terms of experiential variability among individualBlacks (different racial-cultural psycho-histories, and especially concentrated, long-termdevelopmental Eurocentric experiences). The strength of ASC then depends on the extent towhich early socialization experiences and/or significant institutional processes actively nurtureand reinforce it (Kambon, 1992, 2003). In a heterogeneous racial-cultural context whereAfrican-centered forces are not dominant (i.e., where an "alien/European worldview" dominatesthe socio-cultural reality of AAs), the natural socialization processes undergirding ASC may beweakened and distorted (Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2003). 98 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • On the other hand, a strengthening-reinforcing effect would be expected in a homogeneous(natural) racial-cultural context where African-centered socio-cultural forces are more dominant(Kambon, 1992). Of course, a variety of psychological modifications and/or indoctrinatingcircumstances of an institutional nature may also interact with and, in some cases, overrideambiguous individual socialization conditions where racial-cultural identity can be blurred or de-emphasized, such as in a racially integrated social context where a mixture of some African-centered and some European-centered socialization experiences occur (Kambon, 2003). Hence, ASC can function at different intensities/levels (from Weak to Strong ASC),depending on the dominant socio-cultural, institutional experiences characterizing thedevelopmental context of a young AA personality. Moderate-to-Strong ASC thus representsmovement toward the optimal pole of the African mental health continuum more so than doesthe condition of Weak ASC, and particularly Severely Weak ASC (Kambon, 1992, 2003). Hence, there are many circumstances that can interfere with or distort normal Blackpersonality functioning in terms of the strength of ASC. These circumstances, where they dooccur, are usually socio-cultural in nature and typically involve the operation of institutionalizedanti-African forces, as in cultural oppression (Kambon, 1998, 2003, 2006). In the unnaturalsocio-culturally oppressive context of American society, where ASC is superimposed upon by analien and anti-African reality structure, it (ASC) is subject to severe weakening, modification ordistortion from the overriding influence of the alien/anti-African European worldview (Kambon,2002, 2003, 2006).The CM Model Kambon’s model further proposes that the severe weakening of ASC constitutes (in manyinstances) the onset of a basic disorder in the AA personality that is called CulturalMisorientation/CM (Kambon, 2003). The CM model thus proposes that chronic and severelyweaken ASC can under some circumstances bring about a shift in the core psychologicalorientation of AA personality, prompting a process of transitioning (in content) from degradedAfrican worldview content to the adopting/internalization of European worldview content. Insuch an instance, severely degraded ASC qualities (such as a weak African worldviewidentification) are no longer adequate, appropriate and applicable to describe and explain thepsychodynamic condition of the AA personality. The psychological parameters of CM thusbecome necessary as the more appropriate interpretative framework under these circumstancesfor describing and explaining the transformation in the AA personality. Hence, the occurrence ofchronic-severely weakened ASC represents the psychological crossroads whereby the AApersonality undergoes its paradoxical transition from an African-centered to a European-centeredsurvival thrust or cultural reality framework in its core conscious level functioning (or from anASC to a CM psychodynamic). The model thus proposes that only under the severely weakenedASC condition do the psychological preconditions come about for the transitioning from ASCdominance to CM dominance to occur. 99 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Kambon therefore defines Cultural Misorientation (CM) as a psychological orientation inAAs resulting from European cultural oppression reflecting a European Survival Thrust,reflecting the basic components or content dimensions of a materialistic, individualistic, alienand anti-self, self-destructive and racial integration emphasis in one’s thoughts, attitudes andbehaviors (Kambon, 2003, pp. 72-73).These six components of CM are described as follows:Materialism Orientation: reflects a physical-material objectification emphasis in life (emphasison physical characteristics, clothes, money, things, etc).Individualism Orientation: reflects an I/Me emphasis in life.Alien-Self Orientation: reflects a general Eurocentric values emphasis in one’s self-concept andgeneral approach to life.Anti-Self Orientation: reflects the Alien-Self emphasis along with negativity and hostilitytoward Blackness/Africanity.Self-Destructive Orientation: reflects an emphasis on self-group injurious and anti-social and/orcriminal thoughts and behaviors.Integration Orientation: reflects a dominant emphasis on the inclusion/involvement of non-Blacks (namely Whites) in one’s life. CM, according to Kambon (2003), thus represents a Eurocentric - “Anti-African” self-consciousness among AAs which the European American societal-worldview context (i.e.,American cultural institutions) allows to masquerade as a normal-natural (mentally healthy) andfunctionally effective psychological-cultural orientation among AAs as a consequence ofinstitutional reinforcement (i.e. socialization, assimilation and societal indoctrination processes).In other words, CM content is consistent with, and thereby supported and reinforced byEuropean American culture itself (Kambon, 1998, 2003). The CM Model further proposes some three levels of intensity –severity - that can rangefrom a minimal degree of the disorder to a moderate degree, to a severe degree of the disorder.Minimal CM represents the weakest level of identification with or internalization of theEuropean Worldview of the three levels, while Moderate CM represents a much strongerEurocentric consciousness than the minimal CM level, but less than the severe CM level, andSevere CM reflects the strongest and most pervasive European self-consciousness, i.e., anoverwhelming predominance of internalized Eurocentric/anti-African cultural values, beliefs,attitudes and behaviors, of the three levels (Kambon, 2003). 100 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • As indicated earlier, within the psychosocial context of cultural oppression, the acquisitionof CM can follow a developmental pattern similar to ASC, only emphasizing the oppositecultural (Eurocentric over Africentric) content. Thus, depending on the levels of Eurocentricemphasis/exposure, the resulting CM condition can reflect from minimal to severe CM levels(Kambon, 2003).The ASC and CM Prediction Models Kambon’s (1992, 2003) models also propose a systematic set of propositions related toboth ASC and CM. The focus of these propositions, where ASC is concerned, emphasizepsychological correlates of ASC that involve general psychological dispositions (self-esteem,personal causation, achievement motivation, etc.), behavioral predictions of ASC that involveself- affirming (pro-Black) behaviors and opposition to anti-African/anti-Black forces, as well asbackground predictors of ASC indicative of Africentric socialization experiences (Kambon,1992). On the other hand, the opposite predictions, for the most part, emanate from the CMConstruct. In this case, the focus of the propositions suggest that positive relationships would beexpected to occur between CM and such psychological functions and behaviors as poor or sub-optimal mental health states like low self-esteem, apathy, low motivation, high anxiety, lowstress tolerance, problems in anger control, etc., and such Eurocentric measures of psychologicaldisorder/mental illness like depression, psychosomatic disorders, schizophrenia and psychopathicstates, paranoia, etc. (Kambon, 2003; Kambon and Rackley, 2005). Some Eurocentric measuresof psychological health/positive-optimal mental health within the European worldview contextwould also be expected to correlate positively with CM, such as an internal locus of controlorientation, high need for achievement, competitiveness and aggressiveness. Positive correlationsmay also be expected between CM and other African-centered measures of personality disordersor poor AA mental health (Kambon, 1998, 2003), such as anti-Black attitudes and behaviors,pro-White attitudes and behaviors, and measures of racial neutrality or a so-called humanisticorientation. At the same time, however, negative relationships would be expected to occurbetween CM and such psychological functions and behaviors as African-centered measures ofhealthy/optimal personality such as ASC and an African worldview orientation and pro-Blackattitudes and behaviors (Kambon, 2003; Kambon and Rackley, 2005). Accordingly, apsychologically healthy AA, as noted earlier, manifests conscious functioning and behaviorreflective of the affirmation and perpetuation of an African/AA Survival Thrust (Kambon, 1992,1998). Again, African Self-Consciousness is reflective of healthy AA personality in Kambon’smodel while Cultural Misorientation is reflective of unhealthy AA personality or personalitydisorder (Kambon, 1992, 2003). Hence, the ASC and CM constructs represent those aspects ofthe AA personality system that have good heuristic value, and thus assessed through systematicempirical examination (Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2003). The assessment of ASC and CM istherefore critical, according to Kambon (1992, 2003; Kambon & Rackley, 2005), to a substantiveand comprehensive evaluation of contemporary AA behavior and mental health. 101 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • In order to assess the ASC and CM Constructs, the African Self-Consciousness Scale(ASCS) and the Cultural Misorientation Scale (CMS), respectively, were developed by Kambonand his associates (see Kambon, 1992, 1996, 2003, 2005). The ASCS and CMS have beenutilized in various research studies involving variables such as personal causation (Kambon,1992), psychological well-being (Pierre and Mahalik, 2005), health promoting behaviors(Thompson and Chambers, 2000), anti-Black behavior (Kambon, 2003; Kambon & Rackley,2005), career decision making (McCowan and Alston, 1998), and male-female relationships(Bell, Bouie and Baldwin, 1990), among others (Kambon, 1992, 2003; Kambon & Rackley,2005, in press).Empirical Assessment Based on Kambon’s Model Empirical research has been conducted on Kambon’s model utilizing the ASCS since theearly 1980s (Kambon, 1992, 1998). From these findings: 1) the ASCS has been shown to be avalid and reliable multi-factored measure of the ASC Construct; 2) its four empirical factors areconsistent with its four conceptual factors; ASCS-F1: Sense of Collective African Identity andSelf-Fortification, ASCS-F2: Resistance/Defense against anti-African Forces, ASCS-F3: Valuefor Africentric Institutions and Cultural Expressions, and ASCS-F4: Value for African Culture;3) it has been shown to be a reliable predictor of both general psychological health factors (self-esteem, sense of personal causation, etc.) and African-centered psychological health factors andbehavior (pro-Black functioning) across diverse demographics of African-descent populations;and 4) it has also been shown to be associated with certain background profiles, as well asdemonstrate some effective use in the assessment of clinical interventions with both individualsand groups of adult AAs (Kambon, 1992, 1998, 2003; Kambon & Rackley, 2005, in progress). The CMS, on the other hand, has enjoyed a much shorter period of research activitygiven its briefer history (Kambon, 1997; 2003; Kambon & Rackley, 2005). Since itsdevelopment in the mid-1990s (Kambon, 1997), the CMS has been shown to represent a validand reliable multi-factored measure of the CM Construct (Kambon, 2003; Kambon & Rackley,2005; Kwate, 2001) across diverse African-descent demographic profiles. It has also beenshown to be a reliable predictor of general maladaptive and psychologically disorderedfunctioning (depression, anti-social drug use, violence), as well as more cultural specific basedmaladaptive behaviors, such as N-word usage, light skin preference, preference for anti-Blackrap music, etc., among young adult African-Americans in diverse social settings. This researchis also ongoing and shows great promise toward bringing more clarity to the psychologicalanalysis of AA behavior and mental health. 102 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Conclusions In concluding this brief review, several key questions beg for consideration in projectingthe future status of this vital area of psychological theory and research. What future issues andconcerns will we be confronted as this area of focus continues to unfold and expand itsconceptual and contextual boundaries? One apparent critical issue appears to be the need for ourmodels to accommodate more of the variety of developmental and socialization circumstancesthat the contemporary AA personality might experience (e.g., predominantly Black versuspredominantly White or racially-culturally integrated, or Africentric versus Eurocentricworldview dominated socialization, or bi-racialism, etc.). There seems to be a continual need tocall for a greater emphasis on the role of cultural reality forces in forming the conceptualframework and content of our theories, and the importance of including in some systematic waysthe widest possible diversity in the sample populations that we study in our investigations. Wealso welcome the addition of more creative and innovative methodologies and instrumentation inour investigations, as well as encourage the development of both molar (Kambon, 1992, 2003)and molecular (Sellers et al., 1997) models in these explorations of the AA personality.ReferencesAkbar, N. (2004). Akbar’s Readings in African Psychology. Tallahassee, FL: MindProductions.Akbar, N. (1989). Nigrescence and identity: Some limitations. The Counseling Psychologist,17(2), 258-263.Akbar, N. (1979). African roots of Black personality. In W. D. Smith et al. (Eds.). Reflectionson Black Psychology. Washington, DC: University Press of America.Akbar, N. (1976). Rhythmic patterns in Black personality. In L. M. King et al. (Eds.), AfricanPhilosophy: Assumptions and Paradigms for Research on Black Persons. Los Angeles: FanonR & D Center.Akbar, N. (1975). The rhythm of Black personality. Southern Exposure, 3, 14-19.Azibo, D. A. (1990). Advances in Black personality theories. Imhotep: An Afrocentric Review,2(1), 22-46. 103 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
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    • Penn, M. L., Gaines, S. O. & Phillips, L. (1993). On the desirability of own-group preference.Journal of Black Psychology, 19(3), 303-321.Pettigrew, T. F. (1964). A Profile of the Negro American. Princeton, NJ: D.Van NostrandReinhold Pubs.Pierre, M. & Mahalik, J. (2005). Examining African self-consciousness and Black racialidentity as predictors of Black men’s psychological well-being. Cultural Diversity and EthnicMinority Psychology, 11(1), 28-40.Sellers, R. M., Rowley, S. A., Chavous, T. M., Shelton, J. N. & Smith, M. (1997). Multidimen-sional Inventory of Black Identity: Preliminary investigation of reliability and construct validity.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 73, 805-815.Thomas, A. & Sillen, S. (1972). Racism and Psychiatry. Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press.Thomas, C. (Ed.), (1971). Boys No More: A Black Psychologist’s View of Community. SanDiego, CA: McGraw Hill.Thompson, S. & Chambers, J. (2000). African self-consciousness and health promotingbehaviors among African American college students. Journal of Black Psychology, 26(3), 330-345.Toldson, I. & Pastuer, A. B. (1976). Therapeutic dimensions of the Black aesthetic. Journal ofNon-White Concerns, 4(3), 105-117.Vandiver, B.J. (2001). Psychological Nigrescence revisited: Introduction and overview.Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 29, 165-173.Vandiver, B., Cross, W., Worrell, F. & Fhagen-Smith, P. ( 2002). Validating the Cross RacialIdentity Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 71-85.White, J. L. & Parham, T. (1990). The Psychology of Blacks: An African AmericanPerspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Publishers.Wilcox, R. C. (1971). The Psychological Consequences of Being a Black American: ACollection of Research by Black Psychologists. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Williams, R. L. (1981). The Collective Black Mind: An Afrocentric Theory of BlackPersonality. St. Louis: Williams & Associates. 108 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010
    • Through the Prism of Black Psychology: A Critical Review of Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Africology as Seen Through the Paradigmatic Lens of Black Psychology by DeReef F. Jamison North Carolina A & T State University dfjamiso@ncat.eduDeReef Jamison (dfjamiso@ncat.edu) is an Assistant Professor of the African AmericanExperience in the Division of University Studies at North Carolina A & T State University. Hisresearch interests are African-American cultural and gender identity, community activism amongBlack psychologists, the psychological aspects of oppression and liberation, and the intellectualhistory and diasporic connections of Africana Psychology. He has taught courses such as: ThePsychology of the African American Experience, The Psychology of Prejudice and Racism in theAfrican Diaspora, African American Social Science, Africa, African Americans and PanAfricanism, and Introduction to African American Studies. Dr. Jamison has previously publishedarticles in the Journal of African American Studies and The Griot.AbstractThis paper attempts to address the invisibility of Africana psychological theory, research,and methodology in Africology by synthesizing the competing definitions, schools ofthought, and research agendas in Black Psychology. Attention will be given to thevarious ways in which Black psychologists have attempted to deconstruct and reconstructtraditional psychological thought as well as construct new definitions, theories,measurements, and conceptual frameworks for understanding and interpreting thepsychological experiences of people of African descent. Although psychology wasidentified by Karenga as one of the core components in the emerging discipline ofAfrican-American Studies, very few of the existing institutes, programs, and departmentsof African-American Studies include psychology as a major part of their curriculum. Asa psycho-historical endeavor, a primary concern of Africana Psychology is withunderstanding how the historical experiences of being an African in America haveimpacted African-American psyches. Thus, it is argued that if the discipline ofAfricology is attempting to fully understand Africana experiences, Africology must re-examine the importance of psychology and its role in aiding Africana scholars interpretand understand the experiences of people of African descent in the Americas andthroughout the diaspora. 96 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Although Black [African, Africana and/or African American] psychology wasidentified by Maulana Karenga (1992) as one of the core components in the emergingdiscipline of Africology [African American, Black, Africana and/or Afro-AmericanStudies], very few of the existing institutes, programs, and departments of Africologyinclude Black psychology as a major part of their curriculum. As a psycho-historicalendeavor, a primary concern of Black Psychology is to understand how the historicalexperiences of being an African in America have impacted African-American psyches.Thus, it is argued here that if the discipline of Africology is attempting to fullyunderstand African American experiences, Africology programs must re-examine theimportance of Black psychology and its role in aiding scholars interpret and understandthe experiences of people of African descent in America. This paper attempts to addressthe invisibility of Black psychological theory, research, and practice in Africology by: (1)providing a brief history of the intellectual antecedents to the field of Black Psychology;(2) identifying the social and political context in which Black psychological theory,research and practice emerged; (3) synthesizing the competing definitions, schools ofthought, and research agendas in Black Psychology; and (4) demonstrating the relevanceand applicability of Black Psychology to the future of Africology in particular, and to theAfricana life-world in general. Black Psychology is composed of various schools of thought that reflect theparticular theoretical orientations of its practitioners. However, it should be kept in mindthat although the compartmentalization of these various schools of thought is useful forconceptualization purposes, there is also much overlapping between the various schools.Karenga (1992) has identified the schools of thought among Black Psychologists as thetraditional school, the reformist school and the radical school. According to Karenga(1992), the traditional school is characterized by: (1) its defensive and/or reactiveposture; (2) its lack of concern about the existence of and subsequently the developmentof a Black Psychology as evidenced by its continued support of “traditional”(Eurocentric) psychological models with minor changes; (3) its concern with changingwhite attitudes; and (4) its being critical without offering alternatives for correctingproblems. One of the leading figures in the traditional school as identified by Karenga(1992) is Kenneth Clark who was the first and only black to be president of APA and incollaboration with his wife Mamie Phipps-Clark co-authored the famous doll study thatinfluenced the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Other influential scholars wereWilliam Grier and Price Cobbs with their classic text “Black Rage” (1968) and AlvinPoussaint’s “Why Blacks Kill Blacks” (1972). 97 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • In spite of the negative connotations explicit in many of the critiques of thetraditional school (Karenga, 1992; Kambon, 1998), these scholars seem to havecontributed significantly to the development of conceptual and methodological issues inBlack Psychology. For example, the Clark study brought attention to the psychologicalprocesses involved in education (particularly issues of identity, self-hatred and self-esteem) of children of African descent, which in turn had a major impact on how theeducational process was understood and perceived. Most importantly, the Clarks’ studiesdemonstrated how social science research could play a role in not only influencing butalso changing social policy. Grier and Cobbs (1968) work illustrated the manner in which traditional(Eurocentric) scholarship could be applied to the conditions facing people of Africandescent. They argued that the causes of Black rage may be found in: (1) Blacksunderstandable and necessary cultural paranoia; (2) Blacks cultural depression andcultural masochism reflecting a general “sadness and intimacy with misery”, i.e. CornellWest’s (1993) concept of Black Nihilism and (3) Blacks cultural anti-socialism, i.e.disrespect for American laws which are designed to protect whites not Blacks (Karenga,1992). While very Freudian in their approach, they do begin the process of defining theclinical issues of what constitutes the complexity and diversity of “psychopathology”among people of African descent. It must also be acknowledged that Poussaint (1972) was among the first Blackpsychologists to address the issue of Black on Black violence. Nonetheless, Africologistsshould be critical of the fundamental assumptions underlying his question “Why BlacksKill Blacks”, since the title can be interpreted as meaning that Blacks are solelyresponsible for the violence in their community, and therefore observers may fail toacknowledge the social and political conditions that contribute to the violence seen inthese Black communities (Wilson, 1998). However, Poussaint does put forth theargument that there are perhaps four reasons why Blacks kill blacks, which include: (1)the American cultural experience that teaches ‘crime and violence as a way to successand manhood; (2) the fact that ‘Americans respect violence and often will not respond tojust demand except through violence’ as with the revolts by people of African descent;(3) the sense of power violence gives the oppressed and (4) the dehumanizingtransformation in incarceration which perpetuates the cycle of violence (Karenga, 1992).Thus, Poussaint’s research raised the issue of Black social scientists investigating socialand political issues that impact the quality of life experienced by Black people. 98 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • The reformist school shares with the traditional school the concern for whiteattitudes, but tends to place more emphasis on confronting public policies that maintainand support institutional racism, according to Karenga, (1992). Black psychologists inthe reformist school “tend to emphasize the American slavery legacies of the continuingoppression of Blacks and the subsequent creation of a relatively distinct reactive patternof adaptation among Blacks in America” (Kambon, 1998, p. 231). Major theorists in thereformist school were identified as Charles Thomas, Joseph White and William Cross(Karenga, 1992). These theorists began “to advocate an Afro-centric psychology but stillcombine it with traditional focus on appeal for change that would ostensibly benefitBlacks and whites and thus U.S. society” (Karenga, 1992, p. 325). Thus, members of thisschool of thought “stand as bridges between the traditional and radical schools,attempting a synthesis of the social and discipline criticism of the traditional school andthe demands for and development of new models and professional engagement from theradical school” (Karenga, 1992, p. 329). Similar to the declarations made by Black Psychologists such as Green (1974) andSmith (1974), Thomas (1979) emphasized the social responsibility of psychologists. Heargued that Black social scientists are responsible for “defining, defending anddeveloping information systems that will give Blacks increased socio-political power” (p.7). In addition, Thomas contributes to the re-conceptualization process ofEurocentric/Western psychology within Black Psychology by critiquing the universalismembedded in Eurocentric psychology. Thomas reforms the conceptualizations of Merton(1967), Horney (1945), and Pettigrew (1964), who posited that humans may respond invarious ways to the social, cultural and political conditions they encounter with primaryresponses consisting of turning against, turning towards, and turning away. Similarly,Thomas suggests that the oppression of people of African descent created social roles thatwere designed to sustain and maintain oppressive conditions, such as: (1) hybrid or badniggers; (2) conformists or good Negroes; (3) marginalists or white middle class Negroesand (4) rebels or Black militants (Thomas, 1974; Karenga, 1992). Therefore, he takes theposition that “if Blackness came into existence as a healthy support state, it cannot belogically used as a symptomatology of maladaptive behavior” (Thomas, 1978. pp. 21-22).Thus, Thomas argues that the psychology of people of African descent not be viewed assubstandard to the European-American experience, pathological, or culturally deficient,but as a culturally specific psychology that is valuable in and of itself. Joseph White (1980) continues this questioning of the conceptual framework aswell as the value of Eurocentric theory and methodology. He asserts that “not alltraditional elite psychological theory is useless” (p. 8). In urging the development of aBlack psychology, White challenges Black social scientists “to come up with moreaccurate and comprehensive explanations” (White, 1980, p. 8) in order to gain a betterunderstanding of the African American life world. 99 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Thus, he warns that we should approach Eurocentric psychology with caution anddetermine the extent to which it is relevant and can be modified and made applicable tothe life experiences of people of African descent (Thomas, 1980; Karenga, 1992). William Cross (1971) took an innovative approach to the study of thedevelopment of Black consciousness for Africans in the United States. He is best knownfor his conceptualization of the various stages of Black identity. Building on Erickson’s(1978) stages of child development that emphasized the contradictions and difficultiesexperienced when individuals or groups of people attempted to transition from one stageto the next stage of personal development, Cross established a theory of Blackpsychological development called “Nigrsecence”. The Nigrescence model attempted toaccount “for the progression of African Americans through sequential stages to arrive at ahealthy racial identity” (Bellgrave & Allison, 2006, p. 20). The stages in the process ofNigrescence were identified as: (1) Pre-encounter; (2) Dissonance/Encounter; (3)Immersion-emersion; (4) Internalization and (5) Internalization-Commitment. Accordingto the theory, “each stage is characterized by certain affective, cognitive, and behavioralreactions” (Bellgrave & Allison, 2006, p. 21). Whether scholars were conductingresearch that sought to affirm and validate the theory, expanding the theoreticalparameters of the theory, appropriating the theory for use with different diasporicpopulations, or countering the claims of the theory by offering alternative interpretations,a substantial amount of the literature on cultural identity in Black psychology hasresponded in some shape, form or fashion to Cross’ theory of Nigrescence (Akbar, 1981;Azibo, 1988; Banks, 1976; Baldwin, 1979; Cross, Parham, & Helms, 1998). While the reform school’s analysis begins with the enslavement period up untilcontemporary times, the radical school argues that an authentic psychology of Black folkmust go beyond the shores of the “New World” to discover the African roots of thisAmerican fruit (Nobles, 1974.) The defining characteristic of most of the radical schoolof thought is their emphasizing that an African worldview analysis is essential tounderstanding the psychology of people of African descent. Major figures within theradical school that contributed to the development of an African worldview analysis areNobles,(1974), Akbar (1994), and Kambon (1998). Nobles’ (1980) article “AfricanPhilosophy: Foundation for Black Psychology” was one of the first articles to articulatean African philosophical basis for understanding the psychology of people of Africandescent. 100 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Compared to Black psychologists from the reformist school that focuses on thepsychological consequences of being Black, Nobles argued that: Black psychology is something more than the psychology of the so-called underprivileged peoples, more than the experience of living in ghettoes or having been forced into the dehumanizing condition of slavery. It is more than the ‘darker dimension’ of general psychology. Its unique status is derived not from the negative aspects of being black in America, but rather from the positive features of basic African philosophy that dictate the values, customs, attitudes, and behaviors of Africans in Africa and the New World. (Nobles, 1980, p. 23) Akbar (1994) posits that traditional Eurocentric psychology distorted the Africandefinition of psychology from the study of the soul to the study of behavior. Theconsequences of this transubstanstive error (Nobles, 1986; Akbar, 1994) is that the focusof Eurocentric Psychology shifted from the focus of psychology from spiritual aspects toWestern Psychology’s focus on materialism: (1) emphasizing objectification as the onlymethod of studying; (2) quantifying as the only accepted measure of reality; (3)essentializing man as only material manifestation, i.e. body and behavior; (4) believingthat there is no superior power or purpose in man; (5) believing that human behavior iswhat it is with no significant meaning beyond what is actually observed; (6) viewinginvisible or intangible phenomena as irrelevant; (7) viewing life and consciousness asidentical with physical processes; (8) ignoring the individuality of the person and theelement of transparent awareness; (9) maintaining that humans are a product of biologicaldetermination, personal experiences, and chances; and (10) characterizing the death ofthe mind as the death of the body, and that one does not attend to life before or afterdeath. Furthermore, Akbar suggests that Black social scientists re-examine scientificparadigms as they relate to psychological methodology (Akbar, 1994), the psychologicallegacy of slavery (Akbar, 1990), and the diagnosis of mental illness (Akbar, 1981) amongpeople of African descent from an African philosophical perspective. Baldwin (1980), Kambon, (1992) and Myers (1988) have further articulated theconceptualization of an African worldview. Kambon argues that an individual’sdefinitional system is determined by their particular cultural reality and our worldview“determine[s] how we experience (perceive and respond to) the various phenomena of theongoing process of everyday existence” (Baldwin, 1980, p. 96). He argues that people ofAfrican decent have a worldview that is culturally specific to their experiences.Furthermore, he asserts that an African cultural consciousness develops out of theAfrican worldview at a conscious and unconscious level. However, under conditions ofwhite supremacy domination and control the African worldview can be distorted andexperience cultural misorientation, which is the internalization of the Europeanworldview by people of African descent (Kambon, 2003). 101 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Myers’ theory (1988) is similar to Kambon’s in her worldview focus. Theprimary difference in their views is that while Kambon’s worldview analysis is race-specific, Myers views the African worldview paradigm as having “the cultural andhistorical capacity to unite all humanity” (Myers, 1999, xvi). Hence, if Africans are theoriginal human beings and have historically developed certain cultural traits andpersonalities based on their environment (Diop, 1991, Wobogo; 1989), then thebehavioral patterns found among other cultural groups are logical extensions and/ordeviations from the original African archetype (Jung, 1959). Following this reasoning,Myers (1988) asserts that the African worldview is not only “optimal” for people ofAfrican descent, but for all of humanity, since this humanistic worldview began withAfricans, and based on a result of biological and cultural evolution, extended to all thosewho descended from and followed after the African prototype for humanity (Jung, 1959;Bynum, 1999). According to Myers (1988), an optimal worldview consists of: (1)viewing the spiritual and material as one, (2) knowing self through symbolic imagery andrhythm, (3) valuing positive interpersonal relationships among people, (4) emphasizingthe union of opposites, (5) processing the interrelatedness of human and spiritualnetworks, (6) identifying the extended self and the multidimensionality of self, (7)assuming self-worth is intrinsic in being, (8) valuing spiritualism, oneness with natureand communalism, (9) being positively consistent despite appearances due to relationshipwith the source, and (10) having a life space that is infinite and unlimited. A major difference between the reform and radical schools is that in contrast tothe traditional school, the radical school does not focus on changing white attitudes aboutBlack people (Karenga, 1992) and for the most part the radical school emphasizesAfrican culture and philosophy as the foundation for Black Psychology (Kambon, 1998).However, a closer examination of the radical school demonstrates that the radical schoolis not monolithic and may be in need of critical re-conceptualization. In theirgroundbreaking article “Voodoo or IQ: An introduction to African Psychology” (Clark,McGee, Nobles, & Weems 1975), which was one of the first articles to attempt to defineand introduce the content emphasis of African Psychology, it was argued that Blackpsychology was a “radical discipline”. Let us reconsider the particular type of radicalismthey were suggesting. They stated that African psychology was “radical, not in a politicalsense per se, but in a scientific and philosophical sense” (Clark, McGee, Nobles, &Weems, 1975, p. 13). Interestingly, a distinction is proposed between political radicalismand scientific/philosophical radicalism. Thus, the articulations of the worldviewparadigm by Akbar (1994), Nobles (1972; 1986) and Myers (1988) who have emphasizedthe philosophical foundations and dimensions of Black psychology are radical, but not inthe same sense as other black psychologists in the radical school such as Welsing (1970),Wright (1984), and Wilson (1990; 1993; 1998). 102
    • This latter group seems to imply a political radicalism that includes critiquingwhite supremacy behavior and its influence on people of African descent, as well aschallenging the social and political structures that impact the quality of life experiencedby people of African descent. It is important to note that both philosophical and politicalradicalism are important aspects in Black psychology (Kambon, 1998). However, suchdistinctions are can be helpful if we are to gain a better understanding and appreciation ofthe intricacies involved in Black psychological theory. Both Welsing (1970) and Wright (1984) are psychologists from the radicalschool that contribute to the deconstruction of Eurocentric psychology’s claim touniversalism. Welsing and Wright do not argue that European psychological theories areirrelevant. What they argue is that to the extent that major psychological theories werestandardized and normalized on European people, then these theories are moreappropriately viewed as culturally specific to people of European descent. In contrast tothe “Black Rage” (1975) analysis where Grier and Cobbs use standard Europeanpsychological principles to understand Black behavior, Welsing and Wright turnEuropean psychology on its’ head and apply established Eurocentric theories tospecifically understanding European thought and behavior (Ani, 1994). When Welsing(1970) uses a psychoanalytical approach to examine the cultural logic underlying whitesupremacy, and Wright (1984) uses the Eurocentric criteria of the Diagnostic StatisticalManual to explain the behaviors of people of European descent in relation to Africanpeople, they are combining reformist school methods with African-centered sensibilitiesto form their own unique version of radicalism. Inspired by the work of Neely Fuller (1969), who posited that “If you do notunderstand White Supremacy (Racism)- what it is, and how it works-everything else thatyou understand … will only confuse you” (p. 1), Welsing developed “The Cress Theoryof Color-Confrontation and Racism, i.e. White Supremacy” (1970) as a guide to assistpeople of African descent to interpret and understand global White supremacy. Thefoundation of Welsing’s theory is based on genetic and social factors. The genetic factorstates that: (1) skin pigmentation has many adaptive functions which lack of pigmentationdoes not have (i.e. protection from disease, ultraviolet radiation, etc.) and thus theabsence of color (low melanin concentration) represents a genetic deficiency; (2) themajority of the world’s population are people of color, and are thus highly melanatedpeople and are the norm among human beings; and (3) since people of African descentgenerally have the highest concentration of melanin among the races in the world, thenthey represent the group most despised and feared by whites (Kambon, 1998; Barnes,1988; Welsing, 1970). Based on the underlying assumptions posited in the genetic factor,the social factor states that: 103 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • (1) since the majority of the world’s peoples have more color/pigmentation than Whitepeople, then Whites are the numerical minority among the world’s population andBlacks, of all the colored races of the world, therefore represent the greatest threat toWhite genetic survival (Kambon, 1998; Welsing, 1970); (2) White supremacy hostilityand aggression against people of African descent manifests as psychological defensemechanisms that mask feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, fear, and envy toward peopleof color (Kambon, 1998; Welsing, 1970). In accordance with the genetic and socialfactors, Welsing puts forth three Freudian defense mechanisms (repression, reactionformation, and projection) that people of European descent use to oppress people ofcolor, and especially African descent groups. These defense mechanisms consist of: (1)repressing their feelings of inferiority by denying them, (2) discrediting and despisingpeople of color, (3) sun-tanning, using make-up, enlarging breasts, buttocks, and lips toacquire the physical characteristics of people of color, (4) elaborating myths about whitegenetic superiority, (5) projecting their hate and sexual desires on people of color, whilehypocritically maintaining that it is people of color that lust and desire white people, (6)obsessing, focusing, and alienating the physical body from sex, (7) dividing andseparating people of color by classifying them as minorities, and (8) imposing birthcontrol on people of color in order to neutralize/marginalize the reality that people ofcolor are collectively in the majority of the world’s population (Karenga, 1992; Welsing,1970). Similarly, Wright (1984) argues that because, “Blacks are now a threat and aliability to the White race… As a consequence, the major research that White scientistsare involved with today is genocidal in nature, e.g., nuclear warfare, population control,medication control, genetic engineering, psychosurgery, electrical stimulation of the brainand the highly complex behavioral technology” (p.1). Wright’s theory applies toEurocentric psychological criteria to understanding the behaviors characteristic of whitesupremacy directed toward peoples of African descent. Wright differentiates between thepsychological functioning of the neurotic, psychotic, and the psychopathic based on thedefinition provided by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) InternationalClassification of Mental Diseases. To rationalize his use of Eurocentric theory, Wrightstates WHO’s argument that theories are functionally relevant, “if they (theories) haveconcrete reality, i.e. they can be retained if they are useful in understanding and treatingdisease” (p. 5). According to the WHO’s classification, Wright posits that the neurotic “isa person who suffers a great deal over problems that are handled fairly routinely by a welladjusted personality ...they are characterized by an inordinate amount of anxiety”(Wright, 1984, p. 4). In contrast the psychotic has an understanding of contact withreality. Thus, she/he has “a very good reality contact” (Kambon, 1998; Wright, 1984).Finally, the psychotic “has sever malfunctioning and many times has to hospitalized forlong periods of time” (Wright, 1984, p. 4). As if anticipating the basic tenets of Ani’s(1994) critical analysis of European thought and behavior, Wright identified the basicconcepts of psychopathology in Whites as: 104 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • (1) an engaging personality; (2) an above average intelligence; (3) a high competence ineveryday/normal functioning; (4) an appearance of honesty and humanness; (5) rejectingand ignoring of constituted authority and discipline; (6) a limiting capacity for closerelationships; (7) a sexual inadequacy; (8) behavior that is totally selfish; and (9) having alow level moral and ethical development (Kambon, 1998, Wright, 1984). Wrightconcludes that these behavioral characteristics are manifested among people of Europeandescent in their behaviors and attitudes toward people of African descent in essentialareas of life such as religious practices, law and legal practices, sexualattitudes/behaviors, and attitudes/behaviors pertaining to health care and civil/humanrights, while at the same time maintaining a rhetorical ethic that promotes Christianity,civilization, democracy and progress among others (Ani, 1994; Wright, 1984). The late Amos Wilson (1998) promotes the most political focus of the radicalBlack psychologists in his emphasis on the social structure. He develops his focusaround psycho-social analysis that seeks not only to interpret, critique and understandAfricana realities under Western oppression, but to ultimately change them. Theevolution of his work and the ideas and agendas expressed in them represent the type of“Africana Social Theory” that Bobby Wright spoke about when he stated that “BlackSocial Theory will not only tell us where we are going, but will also explain what toexpect once we achieve our goal”(Wright, 1984, p. 22). In similar fashion, Wilsonexpressed the role Africana psychology must play in social theory that leads to socialaction and change when he asserted: At the center of African-centered psychology…is a psychology of power. It does not merely describe the traditional nature of African people, or the orientations of African people based on traditional African culture. It is a psychology that is prescriptive as well as descriptive. It is a psychology of liberation. (Wilson, 1998, p. 7) CRITICAL APPROACHES IN BLACK PSYCHOLOGY According to Marable, “the concept of African American Studies [Africology] isessentially the black intellectual tradition” (2000, p. 1). Marable contends that this blackintellectual tradition which encompasses Africology is descriptive, corrective andprescriptive. The discipline of Africology is descriptive in that it presents “the reality ofblack life and experiences from the point of view of black people themselves” (Marable,2000, p.1). He contends that Africology has been corrective because it has “attempted tochallenge and to critique the racism and stereotypes that have been ever present in themainstream discourse of white academic institutions” (Marable, 2000, p. 2). And finally,Marable (2000) argues that Africology has also been prescriptive since scholars in thediscipline “who have theorized from the black experience have often proposed practicalsteps for the empowerment of black people [thus] there is a practical connection betweenscholarship and struggle, between social analysis and social transformation” (p. 2). 105 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Black Psychology follows in the tradition of the role and function of Africologyas outlined by Marable. In close conjunction with the three schools of thought amongBlack psychologists, are three critical methodological approaches. These criticalmethodological approaches in Black Psychology are a microcosm of the conceptual crisisfound in the discipline of Africology and serve as a lens for examining and exploring thevarious manifestations of debates concerning methods in Africology. The criticalapproaches or methods are conceptually different from schools of thought in that schoolsof thought explicitly express theoretical/ideological orientations (i.e. integration,assimilation, Black Nationalism, African-centeredness etc.). Kambon (1998) posits that“the fundamental issue separating African psychologists is that of ideology orsociopolitical philosophy” (p. 232). These ideological differences are characterized as:(1) racial integrationists /cultural assimilationists; (2) African American nationalists; and(3) Pan-African cultural nationalists (Kambon, 1998). Harrell (1999) agrees withKambon and suggests that not only are the schools of thought in Black psychologyideological, but the ideological differences are similar to those differences found amongAfrican philosophers and historical social movements. Although critical approaches mayimply associations with a particular ideological orientation, they are more representativeof research agendas rather than schools of thought since they describe the intentunderlying the purpose of the research being conducted. Similar to the schools ofthought in Black Psychology, there is also overlap between the three critical approaches. Banks (1982) identified the critical approaches or methods as deconstructive,reconstructive, and constructive. According to Guthrie (1998), during the first half of thetwentieth century, the process of deconstructing myths about the psychological inferiorityof people of African descent dominated the research agendas of early BlackPsychologists. The deconstructionist approach “attempts to expose the error andweaknesses found in general psychology” (Nobles, 1986, p. 75). This is done byemploying traditional methods to “expose the weaknesses found in general psychology”(Nobles, 1986, p. 75) and to “debunk and falsify the claims advanced about black peoplein the standard journals of the discipline” (Harrell, 1999, p. 63). Research done by Blackpsychologists such as Hilliard (1981), Thomas (1971), Jackson (1979), Cross (1971), andBanks (1976) are historically representative of the deconstructive approach. Black psychologists who take the reconstructionist approach also focus oncorrecting errors, misinterpretations, and distortions of data found in the psychologicalliterature concerning Black people. However, unlike the deconstructionist approach thatstops at exposing weak science, reconstructionists attempt to modify and reconstructthese models into a more culturally relevant model for Blacks (Nobles, 1986; Kambon,1998). 106 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • The reconstructionists take the position that there are techniques in traditionalmethods that have heuristic value and should still be used by Black psychologists andthus, in the Black psychologists’ critique of traditional methods, it would be unwise todiscard sound empirical methods just because some psychologists have misused certainmethods to rationalize and justify Black inferiority (Boykin, 1979). Thereconstructionists approach has been taken on by scholars such as White (1980), Hayes(1991) Savage and Adair (1977), and Boykin (1979). The deconstructionist and reconstructionist approaches are in contrast with theconstructionist approach. Although, they do not totally discard empirical methods, theconstructionist approach uses them cautiously while questioning the belief thatempiricism is the only valid way of knowing (Harrell, 1999; Kambon, 1992, 1998). Theconstructionists’ places emphasize not only on exposing weak science or modifyingtraditional psychological theories to fit the needs of Black people, but also it focuses itsresearch on creating new paradigms and methodologies that stem from “an organic,authentically African epistemological and ontological base” (Harrell, 1999, p.45).Constructionists are represented by such scholars as Akbar (1981), Nobles (1973, 1986),Kambon (1992) and Wilson (1978, 1991), Pasteur and Toldson (1982), Azibo (1996) andMyers (1988). Nobles asserts: The ability to reveal or expose the truth of African reality will determine which of these apparent camps has more utility of continuing the advancement of the discipline…the reader is cautioned against placing the contributions of Black thinkers (Black psychologists) into artificial and premature divisions. The author (Nobles) has done so only in order to highlight the development of the developmental response. (Nobles, 1986, pp. 87-88)He further posits that as Black Psychology begins to develop, there will be moreagreement within these often overlapping schools of thought and critical approaches.However, at the present moment, “each approach is equally important, complimentaryand necessary” (Nobles, 1986, p.87). Crucial to any discussion of schools of thought, ideological orientations and/orcritical approaches within the field of Black psychology is the question of methods. Thedebate over whether logical positivism, materialism, empiricism or spirituality is the mostconducive approach has been a very intense discourse among Black psychologists(Akbar, 1985; Azibo, 1989; Boykin, 1979; Banks, 1982). Questions have arisenconcerning the extent to which empirical methods can measure the various manifestationsand nuances of the experiences of people of African descent. Specifically, the questioningcenters on the issue of whether or not empiricism can measure and interpret the spiritualdimensions of the experiences of people of African descent. 107 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • While it has been argued that empirical methods are not inherently abusive (Boykin,1979), Banks (1999) countered this argument by suggesting that empirical methods areoften viewed as “just good doctrines put to ill purpose, when they may be no less than illdoctrines put to degenerate purposes” (p. 4). According to Banks (1999), the two majorcriticisms put forth by Black psychologists since the emergence of Black Psychology as afield of study have been: (1) that science is ideology, and (2) that empirical research isinherently destined to prove pernicious claims about people of African descent. Headdressed the relationship between the theoretical and the empirical when he posited thatthe most critical considerations for developing theory are: (1) what methodologicalprograms it is capable of justifying, and (2) what methodological framework does itsprotection and preservation demand. Thus, “criticism has at once formed the foundationof Black Psychology and the methodological perspective that guides its researchpractices,” according to Banks (1982, p. 6). At the center of Banks articulation of the dialectics between the theoretical andempirical is the concept of “empirical falsification”. Empirical falsification implies that atthe root of psychological theory and method is the attempt to deconstruct previousresearch by demonstrating the fallacies in the research and attempting to advance newtheory that is more suitable to addressing the research questions at hand. Additionally,Banks (1999) asserts that “Theory does not advance ideas as the positivists…wouldbelieve; theory justifies ideas. Empirical methodology is not a tool of revelation andverification as the positivists believed in the early part of the century, but a tool ofrefutation and a shield of obstruction behind which those ideas which theory justifies areoperationalized as programs” (p. 5). In Banks’ (1999) analysis, the schools of thought in Black psychology areintertwined with critical approaches and methods. He describes the two schools ofthought as characterizing how Black psychologists have dealt with the differencesbetween ideology and methodology. The schools of thought identified are: (1) theAfricanist and (2) Empiricist schools. The Africanist school has “a deep appreciation ofthe role of theory in the justification of ideological program, with only the barestattention to the protective demands of theory for a methodological framework” (Banks,1999, p. 6). He maintains that “the role of method within the Africanist framework mustbe to protect theory and program, not contribute to them. But if the demands are formethodological practices that obstruct rather than defend the ideological program, thetheories (by implication) demand revision (Banks, 1999, p. 6). In contrast, the empiricist school, according to Banks, has attempted to establish“impeccable methodological credentials for whatever theoretical constructs those(scholars) might defend” (Banks,1999, p. 6). Thus, for Banks (1999), “this school seeksthe human core which lies beneath the African American peoples veneer and the Whiteveneer of European peoples” (p. 6). 108 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • Both schools, in Banks view, are similar in their shortcomings in that “TheAfricanists have simply rejected a conventional methodology which would clearly notserve to verify and confirm its claims, but has failed to provide a comprehensivealternative, or come to terms with the essentially negative role it must play in knowledgegrowth…while the empiricists have made methodological integrity their foremostpreoccupation, believing in its ability to lead systematically to a knowledge base fromwhich theory and ideological programs can spring” (Banks, 1999, p. 7). Therefore, inorder for Black psychologists to manifest the power to define as well as change thereality of Black life it is important that they are able to interpret and understand the lifeexperiences of people of African descent, which requires “a contingent of Blackresearchers making a contribution” (Boykin, Franklin and Yates, 1979, p.18). Banks(1999) predicted that the contributions made by Black psychologists to the field of Blackpsychology are “likely to prosper in direct proportion to its [their] ability to deconstructconventional falsehood, and its [their] ability to construct particularistic theory that standsin contrast to relativism, and a methodology of the absolute rather than the comparative”(p.8). A DISCUSSION OF MAJOR ISSUES, CONCEPTS AND THEMES IN AFRICOLOGY AS MANIFESTED IN BLACK PSYCHOLOGY One of the primary concerns in conducting scholarly research revolves around theissue of conceptualization. Questions such as what concepts are relevant to the issue(s)being studied? How do scholars’ particular theoretical orientations influence their choiceof subjects and the type of research questions being asked? Answers to these questionssuch as these factor into determining the conceptual model from which researchers willapproach their projects. For Black psychologists, the issue of conceptualization has beenparamount in their efforts to produce meaningful scholarship that is culturally relevant.At times this has meant having to come to terms with the reality that many of the theoriesand concepts they were taught in their graduate training do not apply wholesale to peopleof African descent. Two major thrusts in African American social scientists critiques of concepts usedin psychological research are that: (1) the accumulating literature on the individualAfrican American person, family, and community reflects the common practice oflooking within the African American community and African Americans themselves forthe sources of social disadvantage effecting their personal and collective destinies and (2)the tendency to describe the psychological functioning of African Americans in negativeterms (Jenkins, 1995). Related to these concerns, Nobles (1982) argues that psychology“has become the single most powerful tool of oppression, and its single most effectivetechnique has been to place itself, its conceptions and formulations, as the standard bywhich all people of the world are to be understood” (p. 100). 109 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • The placing of European-American conceptions and formulas as the universalstandard can conceptually incarcerate Black psychologists as they seek to study AfricanAmerican life experiences. According to Nobles: In this case “conceptual incarceration”, the knower is given a set of pre- determined ‘concepts’ and definitions to utilize in the ‘process of knowing’. The alien or incorrect concepts themselves, however, inhibit the process of these alien ‘ideas’. The notion of conceptual incarceration allows us to understand the delimiting quality of faulty or erroneous concepts provided in the process of scientific understanding. (1986, pp. 19-20)It is in this vein that Lerone Bennett (1970) asserted “it is necessary for us to develop anew frame of reference which transcends the limits of white concepts. It is necessary forus to develop and maintain a total intellectual offensive against the false universality ofwhite concepts…We must abandon the partial frame of reference of our oppressors andcreate new concepts which will release our reality” ( p. 7). EMPIRCAL AND THEORETICAL RELEVANCE TO AFRICOLOGY After all the data has been collected and analyzed, the question becomes what isthe relevance of Black psychology and what does it contribute to expanding the body ofliterature within Africology? Empirically, Black psychology demonstrates the importanceof being evidence-based in one’s work. In many Africology departments, some studentsare learning that others should accept their arguments simply because they make sense, orworse, because they speak with passion. Perhaps, the empirical component of Blackpsychology can serve as an example of the importance of presenting evidence, even whenwhat you say makes sense without it. By utilizing different types of methods in theirresearch agendas, Black psychology may help to disabuse many students of the notionthat methods will not make a difference in the quality of contributions they can make toAfricology. Thus, Black psychology demonstrates the importance of knowing andutilizing a variety of methods in order to make scholarly contributions and shows the typeof skills needed to improve upon these scholarly contributions. Theoretically, Black psychology is not a marginalized field of study to beperceived as simply peripheral to “traditional” psychology and/or Africology but an areaof serious critical inquiry that systematically studies the psychological experiences ofpeople of African descent (Harper-Browne, 1996). Black psychology’s emphasis onrecognizing and understanding culturally specific psychological issues that are particularto the historical and social experiences of people of African descent enhances the breadthand depth of Africology. By exploring the various ways that Black psychologists haveexamined Black experiences, Black psychology reflects the diversity and complexity ofthought in Africology. 110 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
    • CONCLUSION On a surface level, it could be argued that Black psychology has not substantivelycontributed anything novel to Africology. For example, before there was a formalconceptualization of a Black psychology in the psychological literature, social scientistsof various ethnicities and theoretical orientations had already articulated the idea thatpeople have particular ways of expressing themselves that stem from their cultural andsocial experiences. Academics in disciplines such as anthropology, political science,sociology and psychology had already acknowledged that race and culture wereimportant social variables to consider when studying human experiences. In fact, thetheoretical domains discussed during the evolution of Black psychology such as identity,education, language, methods, community, marriage and family, health disparities,sexuality and gender, clinical psychology, developmental issues and disciplineconstruction are very similar to, if not the same, as the theoretical domains studied inother areas of Africology. So what makes the contributions of Black psychologists within the field ofAfricology unique? In what ways do Black psychologists enhance the discipline ofAfricology and our understanding of the lived experiences of Black people? Thescholarship in Black psychology does not necessarily introduce scholars in Africology tonew phenomena to which they are totally unfamiliar. However, through the criticalapproaches of deconstruction, reconstruction and construction, scholarship in Blackpsychology does introduce new concepts and themes that are used as tools forinterpreting old and new phenomena relevant to Africana experiences. The value ofBlack psychology relative to Africology is found in its ability to construct paradigms thatserve as conceptual maps that assist Black people in navigating their cultural terrain andmaking sense out of their experiences. Black psychology also parallels Africology in its attempt to establish itself as aninstrument of social transformation. It appears that Black psychologists are at thecrossroads in the development of a Black psychology that is relevant and functional topeople of African descent. Now that the theoretical and methodological foundations forBlack psychology have been articulated, a major issue becomes where does Blackpsychology go from here? The future direction of the social impact of Blackpsychological theory, research and practice within the discipline of Africology willdepend on the extent to which contemporary Black psychologists view themselves associal scientists and social agents involved in a psychology of liberation that actualizesthe lofty goals and standards prescribed for them in the literature. 111 The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.2, no.2, March 2008
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    • A Selected Bibliography on the History of African American PsychologyRichards, G. (1997). ‘Race’, racism and psychology: Towards a reflexive history. New York: Routledge.Riessman, F. (1962). The culturally deprived child. New York: Harper and Row.Rogers, M., Ponterotto, K., Conoley, J., & Wiese, M. (1992). Multicultural training in school psychology: A national survey. School Psychology Review, 21, 603-616.Russo, N.F., Olmedo, E.L., Strapp, J., & Fulcher, R. (1981). Women and minorities in psychology. American Psychologist, 36(11), 1315-1363.Street, W.R. (1994). A chronology of noteworthy events in American psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.Valentine, C. (1971). Deficit, difference and bicultural models of Afro-American behavior. Harvard Educational Review, 41, 137-157.Washington, V. (1988). Historical and contemporary linkages between black child development and social policy. In D.T. Slaughter (Ed.), New directions for child development (No.24): Black children and poverty: A developmental perspective (pp. 93-105). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Williams, R. (1974). A history of the Association of BlackPsychologists: Early formation and development. Journal ofBlack Psychology, 1(91), 9-24.Wispe, L., Awkard, J., Hoffman, M., Ash, P., Hicks, L.H., & Porter, J. (1969). The Negro psychologist in America. American Psychologist, 24(2), 142-150.Wyche, K.F., & Graves, S.B.(1992). Minority women in academia: Access and barriers to professional participation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16(4), 429-437. 3