DEVELOPMENT OF A RACIAL IDENTITY SCALE FOR LOW-INCOME AFRICAN AMERICANS

During the past 25 years, there has been considerable interest in
delineating a Black psychology; one that considers the many bio-
logic, cultural, historical, and spiritual characteristics unique to
people of African descent (Baldwin, Brown, & Rackley, 1990;
Cross, 199 1; Harris, 1992; Montgomery, Fine, & James-Myers,
1990; Mosby, 1972; Nobles, 1972; Parham & Helms, 1985b;
White, 1972). Personality in Black psychology has been conceptu-
alized as comprising two primary domains: personal identity (PI)
and racial group identity (Cross, 1991; Cross, Parham, & Helms,
1991; Whaley, 1993). PI includes personality traits that are com-
mon to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, or socio-
economic class, whereas, racial group identity includes those “as-
pects of self that are culture, class, and gender specific” (Cross1991, p. 45).
For African Americans, one important component of
racial group identity is Afrocentricity.

Afrocentricity, also referred to as Africentricity,’ Black con-
sciousness, Black awareness, African worldview, and Black self-
concept (Akbar, 1984; Asante, 1987, 1988; Baldwin, Duncan, &
Bell, 1987; Cross, 1991; Montgomery et al., 1990; Morgan, 1991),
denotes both a psychologic and epistemologic construct. With
regard to the latter use of the term, it has been defined as a
philosophic orientation that places African ideals at the center of
any analysis that involves African culture and behavior (Asante,
1987), as well as aconceptual framework that centers on the history,
culture, and philosophy of African people (Baldwin, 1987; Baldwin
et al., 1990). It is also seen as a way of knowing and processing
experience, defined by distinctive use of language, time, and rea-
soning as well as a unique appreciation of nature, mythology,
spirituality, and community (Akbar, 1984; Asante, 1987, 1988;
Morgan, 1991; Nobles, 1972). In this context, Afrocentrism often
represents an alternative to the Eurocentric perspective (Akbar,
1984; Asante, 1987,1988; Cross, 1991; Mbiti, 1970;Morgan, 1991;
Nobles, 1972, 1991).

On the psychologic level, Afrocentricity can be defined as an
“awareness and knowledge that African Americans have of them-
selves as African people historically, culturally, and philosophi-
cally” (Baldwin et al., 1987). In this context, Afrocentricity con-
notes an affirming emotional, spiritual, and social connection to
African people, history, and culture in the diaspora as well as the
African motherland (Asante, 1988; Morgan, 1991). Afrocentricity
in this regard can be viewed as the emotional and behavioral
manifestations of Black nationalism or pan-Africanism. It is this
psychologic, rather than the epistemologic perspective of Afrocen-
tricity, with which the current study is primarily concerned.

Afrocentricity, as a psychologic construct, has been associated
with a wide range of personality traits and behaviors including
self-actualization, anxiety, hostility, juvenile crime, substance use,
depression, and self-esteem (Belgrave et al., 1994; Cross, 1991;
Cross et al., 1991; Gary & Berry, 1985; Munford, 1994; Parham &
Helms, 1985a, 1985b; Terrell, Taylor, & Terrell, 1980). Given it
broad range of effects on psychologic well-being and behavior,
it has been suggested that Afrocentricity be included in any
assessment of personality and behavior among African Americans
(Baldwin et al., 1990; Gary & Berry, 1985a).

Numerous conceptualizations of racial identity have been pro-
posed, including those of Baldwin et al. (1990), Harris (1992),
Cross (1971, 1991), and Akbar (1984). Two dimensions of racial
identity addressed by most theorists are awareness of and pride in
African1 Black heritage and recognition of and opposition to racism
(Baldwin et al., 1990; Cross, 1971). These constructs have also
been referred to as “pro-Black” and “anti-White” attitudes (Bald-
win & Bell, 1985; Baldwin et al., 1987; Parham & Helms, 1985a).
The connection between these two components of racial identity
has been the focus of considerable research. The nigrescence
theorists (Cross, 1978, 1989, 1991; Cross et al., 1991; Parham &
Helms 1985a, 1985b) have identified a process of Black psy-
chologic and spiritual growth, during which racial identity evolves
from a pro-Whitelanti-Black to a pro-BlacWanti-White position,
and finally toward a more universal pro-BlacWpro-White orienta-
tion. One question relevant to nigrescence theory and Black psy-
chology that will be addressed by this study is the degree to which
positive racial identity, that is, pro-Black, loads on the same factor
as negative attitudes toward Whites and America. In other words,
to what extent are pro-Black and anti-White independent dimen-
sions of racial identity?

Several researchers have developed and tested instruments to
assess various dimensions of racial identity in African Americans
(Baldwin, 1987; Baldwin et al., 1990; Burlew & Smith, 1991;
Milliones, 1980; Montgomery et al., 1990; Thompson, 1990). Most,
however, have been tested in college populations (Baldwin &
Bell, 1985; Baldwin et al., 1990; Baldwin et al., 1987; Milliones,
1980; Parham & Helms, 1981, 1985a, 1985b). Few scales have
been developed specifically for or tested among African American
adults with low educational attainment. The goal of the present
investigation was to develop a brief instrument to assess several
dimensions of racial identity appropriate for African American
adults with low literacy skills.

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