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Ethnic Role Identity among Black and White College Students: An Interactionist Approach

Clovis L. White and Peter J. Burke
Sociological Perspectives
Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jul., 1987), pp. 310-331
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.2307/1389115
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1389115
Page Count: 22
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Ethnic Role Identity among Black and White College Students: An Interactionist Approach
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Abstract

This article examines a structural symbolic interactionist approach to the process of ethnic identity formation among black and white college students. This approach, termed "identity theory," considers an ethnic identity (like all identities) to be a portion of the self that contains shared understandings of what it means to be a member of a given ethnic group. Within the framework of identity theory, ethnic identification is hypothesized to be related to self-esteem, identity salience, identity commitment, and other structural characteristics. Using the Burke-Tully method, a black-white ethnic identity dimension is developed and used to measure ethnic identity among a sample of college students. The nature of this identity dimension is discussed and its relation to the other self variables is investigated. The study confirmed that identity salience, commitment, and self-esteem, as hypothesized by identity theory, are related to ethnic identity among students. However, it was also noted that these ethnic identity processes seemed to work somewhat differently for blacks and for whites as a result of differences in dominant and minority position.

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