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Spring of my third-grade year was an important time for me. I was taking my very first state standardized test, TAKS, which is now STAAR. For the first time, ever I was feeling like an adult, filling out all of this information about myself. It was all so new to me. As I sat there anxiously waiting, I noticed some things were already filled on my testing document One theoretical approach to understanding the roles of race, ethnic identity, and culture in moderating the effects of racism is social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 2001).
In social identity theory, these variables may help ameliorate and buffer the negative psychological effects of racism but could also potentially exacerbate the effects as well (Yip, Gee, & Takeuchi, 2008). In social identity theory, individuals select from a diverse range of social identity groups and once the individual chooses a group which becomes their in-group, the individual is motivated to focus on the positive aspects of that group (Hornsey, 2008; Trepte, 2006). For those who affiliate and identify with their chosen in-group and experience racism they will focus on positive aspects of their group which might bolster and maintain their psychological well-being (Yip, Gee, & Takeuchi, 2008). For instance, if individuals were to select ethnicity as the in-group, ethnic identity may potentially buffer the negative effect of racism on the person’s chosen in-group. Some research already suggests that ethnic identification among Filipino Americans, for instance, may mitigate the impact of racism on depressive symptoms (Mossakowski, 2003).
While strong identification with one’s ethnic or racial group may be protective, it is possible the high identification may also increase the negative effects of discrimination and impact an individual’s wellbeing (Yip, Gee, & Takeuchi, 2008). Some research also suggests that individuals who highly affiliate or identify with an in-group may also experience more negative effects of racism. Potentially, individuals who choose an in-group may become highly sensitive to environmental cues related to that aspect of their in-group (Hornsey, 2008; Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). For example, experiences with racism may call attention to an individual’s racial or ethnic group. Because the individual identifies with a particular in-group, and since he/she is sensitive to cues (i.e., racism) against the in-group, the individual is likely to be more sensitive to challenges against the in-group. Some research suggests that for some African Americans who had a strong racial identity, racial discrimination was more likely to be reported (Sellers & Shelton, 2003; Shelton & Sellers, 2000). It might be that for some African Americans, racial identity attitudes are the lens through which many interracial interactions are interpreted.
That is, depending on one’s racial identity attitudes, potentially ambiguous situations that may not be explicitly racist are interpreted as being discriminatory (Shelton & Sellers, 2000). It would also follow that potentially having a strong racial or ethnic identity may lead to poorer psychological outcomes related to racism. Some research suggests this possibility that strong identification with a group and experiences with racism are related to increased psychological distress; these were some results found among Latinos (McCoy & Major, 2003), Asian and African Americans (Operario & Fiske, 2001), and among Southeast Asians (Noh et al., 1999). Therefore, it is possible that depending on the identity of the Asian American, racial identity and ethnic identity may moderate the psychological distress related to racism and affect the individual’s psychological well-being.
In reviewing the extant literature on racial identity, ethnic identity, and cultural values in relation to racism and psychological well-being are limited (Kang et al., 2003; Lee, 2005; Lieber et al., 2001;Yoo & Lee, 2005; Utsey et al., 2002). Typically, these investigations have used only one measure of ethnic identity or racial identity or conceptualized psychological well-being as self-esteem. The tis has taken an outrage on today’s society ad I feel as if this should not be an option under any circumstances conceptualization of well-being as self-esteem is problematic, as psychological well-being is conceptually different from self-esteem. Specifically, the former encompasses optimal experiences, functioning, and self-actualization (Lent, 2004), whereas self-esteem is i
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