This chapter explores how racial and ethnic identity develops and how a sensitivity to this process can improve adult education.
Racial and Ethnic Identity and Development
Alicia Fedelina Chávez, Florence Guido-DiBrito
Racial and ethnic identity are critical parts of the overall framework of indi- vidual and collective identity. For some especially visible and legally defined minority populations in the United States, racial and ethnic identity are manifested in very conscious ways. This manifestation is triggered most often by two conflicting social and cultural influences. First, deep conscious immersion into cultural traditions and values through religious, familial, neighborhood, and educational communities instills a positive sense of eth- nic identity and confidence. Second, and in contrast, individuals often must filter ethnic identity through negative treatment and media messages received from others because of their race and ethnicity.
These messages make it clear that people with minority status have a different ethnic make-up and one that is less than desirable within main- stream society. Others, especially white Americans, manifest ethnic and racial identity in mostly unconscious ways through their behaviors, values, beliefs, and assumptions. For them, ethnicity is usually invisible and uncon- scious because societal norms have been constructed around their racial, ethnic, and cultural frameworks, values, and priorities and then referred to as "standard American culture" rather than as "ethnic identity." This uncon- scious ethnic identity manifests itself in daily behaviors, attitudes, and ways of doing things. Unlike many minority cultures, there is little conscious instilling of specific ethnic identity through white communities, nor is dif- ferential ethnic treatment often identified in the media of white cultures. As we discuss throughout this chapter, everyone benefits from the development of a conscious ethnic identity and benefits as well when multicultural frame- works are used in their learning environments.
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION, no. 84, Winter 1999 © Jossey-Bass Publishers 39
40 AN UPDATE ON ADULT DEVELOPMENT THEORY
The purpose of this chapter is to review pertinent racial and ethnic identity literature to better understand how it informs adult learning. First, we define racial and ethnic identity and stress the importance of examining these concepts from a multidimensional frame. Next, we discuss racial and ethnic identity through developmental and descriptive lenses and highlight the strengths and limitations of the models presented. Finally, we discuss implications and share strategies for working with adult learners.
Definitions of Racial and Ethnic Identity
The constructs of race and ethnicity in the United States are complex and difficult to define and frame. Researchers are not consistent in their mean- ing, which makes these concepts particularly challenging to grasp. To...