Social Group Membership
Multicultural Issues in Student Affairs
Instructor: Dr. Lee A. Brossoit
Social Identity according to Jones and McEwen’s theory (2007) is contextual,
constructed, cognitive, affective, and relational. According to Wijeyesinghe and Jackson,
Identity is a result of internal processes as a person encounters external influences. I am partial
to the definition of Jackson and Wijeyesinghe. Identity is a concept or philosophical beliefs that
an individual develops based on certain outside experiences they have been exposed too
throughout their life. The situations and occurrencesthat can contribute to a person’s make up
can be negative and positive.
Racial Identification is very prominent in the United States. Society uses this tool to
identify and distinguish between the many nationalities that currently exist in our country today.
The concept and practice of identifying certain people was originally brought over by the
Europeans to North America to prevent the mixing of races, and to confirm separation from
certain groups. Language and physical appearance was another way to single out and categorize
different individuals not associated with the majority-white population. Although I think the
initial intentions for this system were meant to be positive to a certain degree, somewhere in the
process there was a shift among the hierarchy in terms of ideology.
Multiculturalism (or ethnic diversity) relates to communities containing multiple
cultures. As a normative term, it refers to ideologies or policies that promote diversity and
equality. Shared values, beliefs, expectations, symbols, worldviews and behaviors of a group that
provides its people with rules and norms for living socially is known as a culture. In this sense,
multiculturalism is a society “at ease with the rich tapestry of human life and the desire amongst
people to express their own identity in the manner they see fit.” Interactions of cultures provide
opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to create multiculturalism.
Individuals that share a common origin and a unique social and cultural heritage is known as
shared ethnicity. In my humble opinion, this is where the system fundamentally broke down for
the people in the United States.
In terms of racial identity development, suggestions have been made to further get a
better understanding of individuals and as groups we must continue to examine how we interact
with one another. The subject of identity focuses on understanding self-awareness, the nature of
mankind, and inter-cultural similarities and differences. Once insight and knowledge is gained,
an individual can begin to understand the life and needs of others.
The identity I identify and associate with is the Black Identity. The development of
African Americans or Black people in this country is a unique experience. Black people were
brought to this country by force, and brutally enslaved by white people, for several hundreds of
years. Africans were stripped of their culture, traditions, and customs and forced to learn another
culture or suffer horrific consequences. The family structure was totally destroyed by separation,
and men in particular were not able to lead and guide their families as they wished, but were
forced to accept a lifestyle that was considered less than human. This oppression and abuse had
a devastating and crippling effect on the Black Race and culture. The psychological and
emotional toll of slavery still plagues the development of black people to this day. In my
opinion, the United States and several other social ethnic groups are still suffering consciously
from the inhuman mentality slavery has left behind.
In terms of Black Identity Development, my personal experience was a little different
from Jackson’s theory, but in some ways similar.
Stage one, referred to as the Naïve stage for me was similar. However, I would not label
this as being naïve, but more as an Innocent stage. I view or relate this time period to a place in
my life where color did not matter to me when I was in the company of another youngster
playing. During this time, physical differences were not important to me or my group of peers. I
can remember vividly during the years of my early childhood as far back as the first grade and
pre-school, many of my classmates were from different ethnic groups and nationalities. My
closest friend and classmate was Irish. My classroom was made up of a mixture of many
different ethnicities. I can honestly say that racism was not an issue then. Fear, hostility,
superiority, or inferiority was virtually non-existent during this time in my life.
According to Jackson, stage two, the Acceptance Stage, where an individual may be
seeking a sense of self-worth or maybe some form of outside approval was just the opposite for
me. I agree with labeling this category Acceptance, but for me, accepting my identity was
different. I accepted who I was joyfully. I was not seeking outside approval from any other
particular group of people. I was proud to be who and what God created me to be. I was not a
confused young man wondering among society trying to fit in with a certain type of social group.
I think growing up in the 80’s may have contributed to my world views pertaining to my Black
Identity Development. I think my opinion may have been different if I spent my late teen years
and early twenties during the 1960’s.
Stage three, the Resistance stage I agree to a certain extent. I agree with Jackson in terms
of an individual becoming painfully aware of how racism impacts them on a daily basis. I can
also sympathize with other people particularly African Americans in terms of their background,
level of education and family income, how they may view society from an entirely different lens.
The effects of racism may cause them to become hostile, and violent. That person may
experience extreme levels of anger, pain, and rage when attempting to cope with issues of race
and their identity.Personally, I did identify with certain levels of racism, but I did not harbor any
hostility towards certain ethic groups.
The Redefining Stage in my opinion is one of the most important stages in terms of Black
Identity for me, because this is that crucial point in a person’s life where they are concerned with
learning more about their culture and establishing themselves as a credit to the race. To me, this
is the time and place where African Americans can regain some of their culture and pride that
was stripped from them during the times of slavery.
The final stage pertaining to Internalization stage is very unique. This is the stage where
an individual no longer feels they have to explain, defend, or protect their identity. In my
opinion, this is reaching the promise land. I agree with this philosophy from Jackson. Reacting
to other races and institutions are not as important as focusing on key elements of Black Culture.
Multiculturalism, and an appreciation of other cultures may also play a key role at this stage of
The discovery of my true identity came during my latter high school years and early
college years. This was the time when I became in tuned with who I was as a person and young
man. The most important aspects of my identity is race and ethnicity. I feel these are the most
important to me because this is in essence, what you represent as a human being. In terms of
whether my identity is on the dominate or marginal side, really depends on the situation
Harrro’s cycle of Socialization really captures the true explanation of how a person is
born into a certain situation, inherits many traditions and practices, then matures and creates their
In regard to my Sexual Orientation, I’ve been a heterosexual all my life. Living as an
African American Heterosexual in today’s society, for the most part is comfortable. I grew up in
a predominately black community in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The neighborhood in which I
lived in, accepted heterosexual males. If you were a heterosexual, you were not ostracized by
family or peers. For male heterosexuals, it seemed liked the more females you were involved
with, the more respect you received. In regard to females dating the opposite sex, if you had a
boyfriend then you were looked upon as a female that any man would be lucky to have.
Heterosexuals were not viewed as weird or abnormal. On the other hand, if you were a
Homosexual, or had any feminine tendencies, then you were severely scrutinized, ostracized and
practically disowned by your family members and friends. Females were treated in the same
harsh manner if they publically announced they were lesbian or displayed any male
characteristics. (GLBT) individuals were not accepted in the black community. In many cases,
if an individual fell into one of these categories, it was kept in secrecy for many years, until that
person or person’s situation changed or they lived as a hermit in a virtual life of hell.
Gender Identity and Expression was extremely important within the black community.
For males, the more manly you portrayed yourself, the better your surroundings were. For
females, the more physically attractive you made yourself, the more attention you received. The
unwritten rules were simple in my neighborhood in terms of gender, the boys played sports, and
the girls were supposed to be pretty and excel in school. In terms of gender, externally,
everything a male communicated publically had to exude toughness, and strength. The females
had to display cuteness, and certain level of sexuality. Anything else was viewed as abnormal or
I came from a middle to low working class family. My mother worked and retired as an
educator, and my father worked and retired as a city worker for the Massachusetts Bay Transit
Authority. In the house hold, religion, education and the value of work was stressed upon almost
on a daily basis. My parents grew up in the 50’s & 60’s, in the south, at the height of the Civil
Rights Movement. Accepting handouts from government assistance was not an option.
Messages of ownership opposed to renting were echoed throughout my existence. Displaying
examples of pride within the community was a positive attribute to African Americans. In
relation to an economic status, if your family was not on government assistance and your mother
and father were legally married and stayed together, you were looked at by your peers as being
successful, and had tremendous clout within your community.
In terms of age within the black community, as long as you are a productive person and
not wasting time or losing precious years because of lack of education or incarceration, you were
accepted. However, in my earlier years, an individual might have been scrutinized for getting
kept back in grade school. Also in today’s society, a person might be ostracized if they still live
at home with a parent or parents after the age of maybe 30.
In terms of Physical and Mental Ability Development, I experienced a lot of dualism.
Because I was athletic and participated in multiple sports, I was accepted and socialized a lot of
times with the popular and unpopularkids. Athletes in many cases are placed in this identity
category because of the emphasis society has placed on them being athletes. Because of this
stigma within our society, people assume that because you are a pretty decent athlete, you
automatically have the answers to every situation. In my community, athletes were idolized and
highly sought after by the public. People gravitated towards them, because of their physical and
mental ability they displayed in their particular sport. I think this is very dangerous, because a lot
of times athlete’s, are given certain privileges when they did not earn them.
These Social Grouping memberships have assisted in defining me as a person and
man.They have given me an identity of self and culture. Although I do not agree with all the
traditions attempted to be passed down to me and other family members, I now have a better
understanding and knowledge base of the existing information. The information presented to me
has given me a desire and certain confidence about myself to continue to strive to excel and
reach my fullest potential. I look at Black Culture overall and think to myself, if my descendants
can survive the humiliation and oppression of slavery, than the rest of us really don’t have an
excuse to not succeed in life.
Finally, as individuals, I believe that each person owes it to themselves and their fellow
man to continue to educate themselves and others of the dangers of unfair treatment and
discrimination regarding multiculturalism. Educating, raising awareness, and changing negative
views when needed are not only my plans for the next several months, but for the rest of my
life. In terms of working in Student Affairs as a practitioner, these components are vital to our
success as an individual, and will be particularly important in enhancing the institutions we