Identity development is an important experience that many people go through as it helps them to internalize the different races and ethnicities, and how they interact with society. Personally, I have grown from the contact stage to the pseudo-independence stage through my socialization and knowledge-gaining processes. This paper will outline my personal journey in identity development and reflect on some of the issues related to racism in society.
Describe an experience that directly affected you or that you observed where someone was treated as an “O”. What did you, or could you have done to minimize this experience?
One of the experiences that directly affected me was a situation where a Chinese immigrant student joined our educational institution and was treated like an ‘O’. He was shunned by his fellow classmates since he could not communicate properly in English. Some of the classmates began imitating his Chinese dialect and made fun of him due to his inability to communicate. He had a difficult time adjusting to the local culture and few people offered him support, since they perceived him to be different. However, I am an empathetic person who is keen on helping the marginalized people and I quickly cultivated a strong friendship with him and helped him settle in the new environment. I also introduced him to immigrant programs and language courses that greatly helped him to master English and communicate with his peers. We are strong friends to date, since he views me as the only person who truly welcomed him in spite of him being perceived to be an ‘O’.
Think of 3 different ages or points in your life, for example, ages 6, 12, and 18.
What racial identity development stage would you say you were in for each of these stages and why?
At the age of 6, I was in the contact stage of racial development as outlined by Helms (Racial Equity Tools Organization, 2018). This is a stage where a person views race to be a non-issue and he/she believes that racism is propagated by acknowledging and discussing race as an issue. During this age, I freely intermingled with friends from different races and ethnicities; something that my parents encouraged. I was therefore oblivious about racial issues. At the age of 12, I was in the disintegration stage where I had experiences which challenged my views on racism. I felt guilty reading literature and watching media on how minority communities face social and economic challenges that the White people do not necessarily face. However, I channelled these emotions positively by embracing charity and volunteer work to help these marginalized groups and ethnicities. By the age of 18, I was at the pseudo-independence stage which is characterized by the desire to interact with people of color to understand racism, and empathize with them, so that they can become anti-racist (Racial Equity Tools Organization, 2018). By the age of 18 I had experienced white privilege and my participation in charity and volunteer work with minority groups helped me to understand and empathize with their experiences.
What factors can you think of that may have impacted any changes in your racial identity development stages from one age to another?
One of the factors that influenced changes in my racial identity stages is my socialization process. My parents instilled in me values such as respect, empathy, tolerance and honesty, which were important in understanding and acknowledging the challenges facing people of color. I was therefore keener to interact with them so that I can internalize what they go through and assess whether white privilege does exist. Another factor was influence from mass media and literature. I read a lot of books on race and ethnicity, and watched popular media on social issues that relate to race, ethnicity and gender (Lentin, 2017). Gradually, I began understanding racism and how it affects society, and this encouraged me to participate in volunteer and charity work that targets marginalized populations. These factors gradually transformed me from the contact stage of racial development to the pseudo-independence stage.
Do you feel that each of these stages could have been better supported by the caregivers, educators, peers, or colleagues around you?
I feel that each of these stages could have been better supported by educators and my peers around me. At school, people did not discuss racism and it was deemed to be a taboo subject. Instead of educators talking about the issue so that they can disseminate knowledge on how to fight racism, they ignored the subject, and consequently, some students were bullied due to their race and ethnicity. Moreover, my peers also disregarded the issue of racism, and many created friends based on their racial lines. For instance, my Chinese friend was marginalized by most of my peers due to his race, and many students ignored the issue at the time. I feel that educators and my peers should take tackled the issue of racism head-on so that students can understand how racial discrimination affects society, and particularly people perceived to be ‘O’, so that such knowledge can encourage people to accept racial and ethnic diversity.
Reflecting on the McNickles section, what explains the perception gap that exists between whites and African Americans when it comes to matters of race and racism? Do you agree with McNickles?
McNickles explains that the perception gap is the difference in the understanding of racism between white people and minority groups. For white people, they view racism as a negative connotation which involves deliberate harmful things that are done to individuals or racial groups on the basis of their race. For minority groups, racism entails the development of practices and policies across social institutions, either intentionally or unintentionally, which perpetuate racial discrimination. I agree with McNickles regarding the perception gap, and the differences in internalization of racism between whites and minority groups, has been a stumbling block towards addressing racial issues. The perception gap usually leads to conflicts between groups as they attempt to share their views and perceptions about racism.
The ability to communicate in English is important for many jobs and therefore some companies offer ESL (English as a Second Language) courses to their non-English-speaking employees. One alternative to requiring company-sponsored ESL instruction is to require that all potential employees meet an English language proficiency standard before they may be hired. Compare and contrast these two alternatives in terms of advantages and disadvantages to the company.
The advantage of offering the ESL courses to employees within the workplace is that it helps them feel appreciated by management, which builds organizational loyalty. Organizations that offer the course also benefit from diversity as they hire a diverse workforce that may be creative and innovative. The major weakness of offering courses after employment in that it is expensive for the company gender (Lentin, 2017). The advantage of requiring potential job candidates to pass ESL proficiency tests before seeking employment is that it reduces organizational costs associated with training employees through ESL courses. However, it reduces the levels of diversity since many employees who do not speak English will not apply for such positions. This limits the creativity and diversity within the organization.
In summary, identity development is essential for people to understand how issues such as racism impact society. It is important for educational institutions and work organizations to promote diversity so that people can share diverse perspectives, culture, values and opinions, which will promote creativity, problem-solving and innovation in society..
Lentin, A. (2017). Racism: A Beginner’s Guide. Oxford: One World.
Racial Equity Tools Organization. (2018). Summary of Stages of Racial Identity
Development. Retrieved from http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/Compilation_of_Racial_Identity_Models_7_15_11.pdf
Trainers Tool Chest. (2010). A tale of O video on diversity. YouTube. Retrieved from
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