Questions of Identity
African American teens tend to racially group amongst themselves because race has been a central theme throughout American history; from the Constitution to the Civil War to the denial of African American citizenship and social participation. Tatum (2003) noted in her essay, “Why are all the Black Children Sitting together in the Cafeteria?” an excerpt from our textbook, From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader (2008), that ‘racial grouping begins by the sixth and seventh grades’ (p. 359). Right about the time puberty begins questions of identity for all teens generally surface. For African American teens, these questions also include ‘Who am I ethnically and racially?’ In addition, Tatum (2003) suggests, “African American teens are forced to look at themselves through a racial lens because the rest of the world does” (p. 360 ). For example, racial profiling sends a very clear message. During adolescence, race becomes more personal and noticeable for the African American student. Finding the answers to questions like, ‘What does it mean to be a young African American?’ ‘How should I act?’ ‘What should I do?’ are all important questions, for Black teens, but the last thing they want to do is ask their parents (pp. 359-364). So, they turn to their peers for the answers. Therefore, African American children resort to self-segregation as a coping mechanism against racism. “They turn to each other for support they are not likely to receive anywhere else. Sometimes their White peers are the perpetrators of racism and if they are not; they are unprepared to respond supportively.” (p. 364). Education in African American studies would be beneficial in helping White teens understand their African American peers. Connecting yourself with people who look like you is only natural; it is a part of growing up and important to your identity development process.
Black and White Children Question Their Racial Identities
Devlin, Dutton, and Singer (1998) quoted Katz (1978) whose concepts are contrary to Tatum’s (2008) theories which indicated, White children don’t have to deal with racial identity issues, Katz (1978) on the other hand stated, “Majority group members (Whites) also experience an impaired self-identity because of race-related issues: Because United States culture is centered around white norms, white people rarely have to come to terms with that part of their identity. White people do not see themselves as white” (p. 42). White people are usually the perpetrators of racism. Nevertheless, prejudice is often camouflaged beneath polite behaviors. These subtle forms of prejudice often appear when Whites demonstrate their sense of entitlement or when they overtly or not so overtly express their destructive beliefs about the African American race in general. Perhaps the United States culture is to blame. Color discrimination is deeply rooted in American history. Being mistreated and discriminated against is a way of life for most African Americans in this country. I would also like to add that not all white people are racist, prejudice or disrespectful toward African Americans. However, in my experience, those that are not, are too few. Prejudices that one may encounter can make one feel powerless and hopeless. It is both demoralizing and humiliating. It seems to me that White people oftentimes appear to be oblivious to discrimination and have a skewed perception about race relations. Devlin et. al (1998) pronounced White children are having difficulties with their development or racial identities because the United States is centered around them. Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to even ponder, white children ever having racial identities issues. Developmental issues I can conceive. Nonetheless, I agree with Devlin et. al (1998) and Tatum’s (2003) stance that ethnic groups and racial minorities aka “African Americans” do have difficulties with their racial development process....
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