Racial Self-Identification: The Effects of Social History and Gender1


  • 1

    The authors wish to thank Thomas Parham and Adrienne Harris for their assistance on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Michelle Fine, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


Dark and Clark's pioneering study in 1947 demonstrated that Black children were ambivalent about racial self-identification. Subsequent research indicates that during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Black children were increasingly likely to demonstrate a commitment to identifying with a Black stimulus. The present study investigates the extent to which this trend persists in the 1980s and how gender of the child affects her/his racial identification. The results indicate that the 1980s may be a time in history when Black children are growing more ambivalent about racial self-identification, and that Black boys are significantly more likely than Black girls to identify with the white doll. The findings suggest that the current political climate which places Blacks at a significant social and economic disadvantage may reduce children's willingness to identify with a Black stimulus. The gender differences are explored in terms of Black boys' greater likelihood psychologically to try to identify away from Blackness.