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Is a Raceless Identity an Effective Strategy for Academic Success Among Blacks?


  • *Direct correspondence to Angel L. Harris, Department of Sociology, Princeton University, Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 〈〉. We are greatly indebted to Mary Corcoran, Tabbye Chavous-Sellers, William “Sandy” Darity, Jr., Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Oksana Malanchuk, Kelly Raley, Robert Schoeni, David R. Williams, and Yu Xie for helpful comments. This research is supported in part by NICHD Grant R01 HD33437 to Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Arnold J. Sameroff, by the Spencer Foundation Grant MG 200000275 to Tabbye Chavous and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, and by the MacArthur Network on Successful Adolescent Development in High Risk Settings (Chair: R. Jessor).


Objective. Fordham (1988, 1996) notes that because the larger black community has a culture that is oppositional to mainstream U.S. society, blacks who wish to maintain academic success and achieve upward socioeconomic mobility feel pressure to adopt a raceless identity. The purpose of this study is to examine whether a raceless identity leads to better educational outcomes for blacks in high school than does a nonraceless identity.

Methods. Using data from the Maryland Adolescence Development In Context Study (MADICS), we create five profiles intended to capture blacks' connection to their race and determine whether racial/ethnic connections among blacks are associated with school achievement, educational aspirations, value attributed to schooling, or detachment from schooling. These links are assessed net of affective feelings about being black and beliefs about shared fate.

Results. The findings are not consistent with the racelessness perspective. Specifically, blacks in the race ambivalent and race similar profiles have higher achievement and educational aspirations, and attribute more value to schooling and are less detached from schooling than are those in the race neutral profile.

Conclusion. Prior studies have overstated the extent to which racelessness helps achievement.