Predicaments, Coping, and Resistance: Social and Personal Identities among African Americans

William E. Cross

in The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195188059
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

 Predicaments, Coping, and Resistance: Social and Personal Identities among African Americans

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The contemporary discourse on black identity and personality is thick, complex, and amusingly untidy. Observers in search of a mold within which to encase the psychodynamics of black people are constantly befuddled by evidence that resists singularity, sameness, and one-dimensionality. Black identity comes in many configurations and the personalities of black people are as varied as that of any group. A continuous theme of this article is that black psychology challenges one to come to terms with a broad range of black identities and an equally expansive constellation of personality patterns. This is not to suggest that variability belies analysis and predictability, for we are not dealing with a variant of chaos theory. Rather, meaningful analyses are possible if one comes prepared to ask these types of questions: What is the range of black adjustments suggested by theory and research? What particular identity patterns are privileged in an analysis and, simultaneously, what patterns are overlooked and silenced? The wellspring of variation in black identity and personality is very much a contemporary thing, for in the not too distant past, black and white social scientists, alike, were preoccupied with the search for evidence that a social order based on racial segregation and racial oppression resulted in damaged psyches.

Keywords: social identity; black identity; African Americans; black personality; social order; racial segregation; racial oppression

Article.  9336 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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