Perceptions of Race and Race Relations Which Affect African American Identification1


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    Preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant from the Office of Research. University of Missouri-St. Louis. The author gratefully acknowledges Suzanna Rose, whose comments on a draft of this article were very helpful.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Vetta Sanders Thompson, Department of Psychology. University of Missouri-St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis. MO 63121–4499.


This study examined life experience and demographic variables which impact on racial identification. One hundred and sixty-two African American adults. including 62 males and 100 females, were interviewed to identify and determine the importance of demographic versus life experience variables with respect to the level of African American racial identification. The data were collected utilizing a structured interview protocol and a 31-item racial identification questionnaire. Information on experiences with race relations, income, education. political and social activities. the level and quality of intra-group interaction. and the orientation of subjects on three parameters of racial identification-psychological. physical, and sociocultural—was collected. The results indicate that perceived experiences of racism have an important impact on each parameter of racial identification. Within-group conflict variables have their greatest impact on the physical parameter and within-group interaction has its greatest impact on psychological racial identification.