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Fostering inter-minority race-relations: An intervention with Black and Asian students at an urban university

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Fostering Inter-minority Race-Relations: An Intervention with Black
and Asian Students at an Urban University
Dr. John Tawa, Dr. Jesse J. Tauriac, Dr. Karen L. Suyemoto
Since immigration reform and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s,
increasing numbers of members of historically underrepresented groups (e.g.
Blacks, Asians, Latino/as36) have been enrolling in higher educational institutions
(NCES, 2005). Inter-minority dynamics (e.g., Black and Asian) are increasingly
prevalent, particularly in urban educational contexts where minority group
members are over-represented relative to suburban contexts (Kiang & Kaplan,
1994; Rosenbloom & Way, 2004). A focus on dominant-minority interactions
(White and Black; White and Asian) is no longer sufficient for fostering and
maintaining positive racial climates on college campuses. Less supportive climates
for racial minority students are related to poorer academic and psychosocial
outcomes, whereas improvement of social and racial climate for racial minority
students is associated with more positive academic performance and well-being
(Allen, 1985; Ancis et al., 2000; Lesure, 1994; McCormack, 1998; Reid &
Radhakrishnan, 2003). Thus, the purpose of this paper is to offer an intervention
model for promoting positive race-relations between Black and Asian students on
campus. Our model, by design, aims to attend to the unique power dynamics
occurring in interactions between minority groups, and aims to encourage not
only change in relations between group members, but also change at the
institutional level. In the following sections, we review previous race-relations
interventions on college campuseswhich have been primarily dominant-minority
36 Throughout this paper, the authors use racial terminology including the terms Black, Asian, White, and
Latino/a. Although it is recognized by the authors that each of these racial groups are comprised of a tremendous
diversity of ethnic groups and cultures, immigration experiences, and socioeconomic statuses, the authors use this
language to emphasize the social constructions of race, which considers precisely the ways in which these groups are
over-aggregated into monolithic racial groups within dominant discourses. This language also emphasizes the primacy of
racialization in the issues that we are discussing.
34
relation focusedand then examine the unique power dynamics existing between
minority groups, and specifically Black and Asian students in college settings.
Previous Race-relations Interventions on College Campuses
Various colleges and universities have attempted to implement programs
aimed at improving race-relations among students (Blumenfeld & Robinson, 1995;
Muthuswamy, Levine, & Gazel, 2006; Williams, 2004). These programs have
reflected research and theory on prejudice reduction. Although inter-racial
contact is a necessary condition for improving race-relations, it is not by itself
sufficient (Allport, 1958). Various mechanisms (e.g., cognitive, affective) that foster
change in inter-group beliefs and behaviors leading to more positive inter-group
relations have been empirically tested and incorporated into race-relations
interventions, including: shifting reference groups to think about one’s self in
relation to a more inclusive broader group (i.e., Common In-group Identity and
Social Identity Theories; Dovidio, Gaertner, & Validzic, 1998; Turner, Brown, &
Tajfel, 1979), increasing contact and exposure to diverse racial groups (i.e., Inter-
group Contact Theory; Allport, 1958), and increasing inter-group cultural
awareness and empathy (Blumenfeld & Robinson, 1995; Nelson & Baumgarte,
2004; Sydell & Nelson, 2000).
Race-relations interventions have taken several forms including classroom
activities (Williams, 2004), workshops and dialogue groups (Muthuswamy et al.,
2006), weekend retreats (Blumenfeld & Robinson, 1995), and even living in the
home of a family of a different race (Kranz, Steele & Lund, 2005). Each of these
interventions have adopted one or more of the theoretical positions referenced
above, and to varying degrees, have resulted in improvements for individual
students with respect to fostering greater knowledge of other groups’ cultures
and histories, greater knowledge and understanding of race and racism, decreasing
stereotype endorsement and prejudice across groups, and greater comfort
interacting with members of other groups.
In one early, intensive effort, an experiential course in race-relations was
implemented for primarily Black and White students in the “deep South” during
the 1970’s. Course requirements included reading, journaling, group discussions, a
field trip to a historically Black college, and a weeklong stay in the home of a
family of the other race. In addition to immediate reductions in prejudicial
attitudes, a 20-year follow up study demonstrated sustained personal change in
perceptions and attitudes towards members of other racial groups, and increased
35
inter-group competence (Kranz, Steele, & Lund, 2005). For White students, the
primary agents of change were the experience of “role-reversal” (p.18) and, for
the first time, being in a minority space.
More recently, Blumenfeld and Robinson (1995) developed and facilitated a
weekend retreat with eight African American and eight Jewish American students.
Prior to the retreat, students were required to read a critical text on Black and
Jewish relations. In addition to explicit discussions about Black and Jewish
relations, students engaged in numerous cognitive (e.g., active listening practice)
and experiential (e.g., caucus groups and fishbowl exercises) activities designed to
foster inter-group trust and competence. Evaluations of the students’ growth
through their reflections suggested that nearly all of the students gained
awareness and knowledge about the other group’s history and culture, and were
able to “unpack” stereotypes held about the other group.
Most recently, Muthuswamy, Levine, and Gazel (2006) evaluated a program
at Michigan State University, where racially diverse students came together over
the course of a year to attend student-facilitated weekly roundtable discussions
about racial issues, attended monthly socials and an annual field trip, and
participated together in community service. This program emphasized the use of
peer-educators who might serve as role models for the participants. Students
who completed the program were significantly more knowledgeable about race
and racism, held more positive racial attitudes (e.g. feelings towards members of
other racial groups), and more pro-interracial attitudes than both students who
had never participated in the program, and students who had just begun
participation in the program.
Although these projects and programs had positive impacts for student
participants, they have almost exclusively been aimed at improving race-relations
between racial minority students (e.g., Black/African Americans) and
White/European American students. However, racial minority students’
experiences, particularly in diverse, urban contexts, are typically more complex
than the dominant-minority binary that is addressed in these models. Instead,
inter-minority dynamics are characterized by both the relationship between the
racial minority groups (e.g., relations between Asians and Blacks; Kiang & Kaplan,
1994; Rosenbloom & Way, 2004) as well as both groups’ relation with the
dominant White majority (Kiang & Kaplan, 1994; Kim, 1999; Tawa, Suyemoto &
Tauriac, 2013).
36
Inter-minority Dynamics on College Campuses
Given the ever-present and absolute sociopolitical power of the dominant
group, minority-minority interactions must be understood as existing within a
context of the dominant group, comprising a “triangulated” racial dynamic. These
triangulated dynamics are more complex than binary dominant-minority
interactions and are frequently influenced by factors such as limited resources and
the ways in which racial groups are racialized (Kim, 1999; Tawa, Suyemoto &
Tauriac, 2013). For example, the racialization of Latinos and Asians as
synonymous with “immigrants” (Armenta et al., 2013; Tuan, 1998) may set these
groups apart from both Black and White student bodies who are more likely to
be racialized as native to the U.S. Consequently, perceived nativity may serve as a
basis for Black and White cooperation, to the marginalization of Latino/as and
Asians. For example, research suggests that higher influxes of Latino students
into school systems can result in Black-White coalitions in school-board elections
when both groups perceive Latino’s as a threat to consume educational resources
(Rocha, 2007). On the other hand, the presence of a large Black student body
who are racialized as lacking in intellectual ability and meritmay become a
signifier of the poor academic worth of a school system; research has also found
that increases in Black enrollment in school systems leads to “Latino flight” at
rates comparable to “White flight” (Fairlie, 2002). While we are not aware of
similar research within the education literature examining the role of racial
composition on school choices for Asian Americans, research clearly supports
that racialized dynamics and interactions school experiences of Asian Americans
including their interactions with other students of color (see below).
As evident in these examples, inter-minority dynamics must be positioned
within a context of absolute sociopolitical power of the dominant group. To be
sure, sociopolitical power is not synonymous with numerical majority status. In
fact, in one case-study of a large public University in California, the absence of
Black and Latino student coalitions was attributed to Black and Latino students
being “lulled into a false sense of security” given their numerical majority status
(Literte, 2011). Thus, even in institutions with sizable representations of multiple
minority groups, positive race-relations are not inevitable, and promotion of
positive relations between minority groups must be intentional and proactive.
The current research was conducted in an educational setting with sizable
Black and Asian student bodies. Moreover, as an urban environment in which
37
many of our Black and Asian students experience socioeconomic challenges,
triangulated racial dynamics may be unique. Previous research in urban
educational contexts where Black and Asian groups share inner-city stressors
such as poverty and community violence (Kiang & Kaplan, 1994; McIntyre, 2006;
Rosenbloom & Way, 2004) suggests that these stressors have the potential to
serve as a basis for empathic connection and awareness across groups or place
additional strain on racial dynamics between these communities (Kiang & Kaplan,
1994). For example, segmented assimilation theory suggests that recent Southeast
Asian immigrants who settle in inner city communities may feel a greater sense of
affinity with African Americans due to shared experiences of socioeconomic
oppression (Chhuon, Hudley, Brenner, & Macias, 2010; Portes & Zhou, 1993).
Conversely, theorists also point to the prevalence of horizontal hostility (i.e., the
tendency of targeted group members to believe, act on, or enforce the dominant
system of discrimination and oppression) within urban contexts, as fostering
further division between these communities (McDonald & Coleman, 1999). These
systemic level dynamics, in turn, play out in the day-to- day experiences of racial
minority students as they interact on college campuses. In the next section, we
describe the research on Black and Asian student experiences, with a focus on
their interactions with one another, including the ways in which each group
perceives and stereotypes one another.
Black and Asian Student Experiences on College Campuses
Both Black and Asian college students report experiencing greater
marginalization relative to their White counterparts and, as a result, are at greater
risk for college adjustment difficulties and attrition. Comparative data suggests
that both Black and Asian students report significantly higher levels of racism and
discrimination than their White peers including greater racial-ethnic hostility,
greater pressure to conform to stereotypes, higher perceived marginality, more
faculty racism, and less equitable treatment by faculty, staff, and teaching assistants
(Allen, 1985; Ancis et al., 2000; Gossett, Cuyjet, & Cockriel, 1998; Greene, Way,
& Pahl, 2006; LeSure, 1994; McCormack, 1998; Reid & Radhakrishnan, 2003).
These experiences have been linked to problems with social and emotional
adjustment on campus and poorer academic performance (Allen, 1985; Ancis et
al., 2000; Lesure, 1994; McCormack, 1998; Reid &
Radhakrishnan, 2003).
Furthermore, the academic performance of both Blacks’ and Asians’ is
negatively influenced by their being judged as members of stereotyped groups
38
rather than as individuals, regardless of the differences between stereotypes. For
Black students, the tendency to expect and perceive negative stereotypes about
intellectual inferiority, laziness, and lack of motivation often places great pressure
on the student to perform and inhibits intellectual performance through
“stereotype threat” (i.e., developing the expectation that others will treat you
based on the way you are stereotyped; Chavous, Harris, Rivas, Helaire, & Green,
2004; Steele, 1997). For Asian students, who are often touted as the “Model
Minority,” the stereotype of inherent intellectual superiority and hyper-motivation
is also harmful, as many of these students feel they cannot live up to these
unrealistically high standards (Cheryan & Bodenhausen, 2000; Museus, 2008). Not
only does internalization of these stereotypes lead to social and psychological
distress, and challenges to academic performance for members of each group, it
also plays out in interactions between Black and Asian students as well.
Black and Asian Student Interactions and Reciprocal Perceptions
Blacks and Asians frequently endorse stereotypical views of each other on
college campuses, engage in relatively infrequent interactions with each other
when compared to other groups, and experience relatively negative (sometimes
hostile) interactions when they do interact. In one study, African American
undergraduates perceived Asian American undergraduate students as more
prepared, motivated, and more likely to have career success than European
Americans and other racial minority students, reflecting acceptance and
internalization of the Model Minority Myth (Wong, Lai, Nagasawa, & Lin, 1998).
Black students also perceived Asian students as having poor social skills and as
being discriminatory towards Blacks (Way, Becker & Greene, 2006). In interviews
with Black high school students described in Way, Becker, and Greene (2006),
Black students felt that Asian American students had low social status within the
school due to their not having the social skills to get along with members of other
racial groups and because they were unable to stand up for themselves.
Asian undergraduates also have been found to endorse stereotypical and
negative views of their Black peers. For example, Asian American college students
(N = 160) endorsed perceptions of Blacks as “lazy,” “unsuccessful, and
“unattractive,” although those Asian American participants found to be in a
“conformity” status of racial identity (i.e., conforming to White values while
rejection of Asian cultural values) were more likely to endorse these views than
those in any other racial identity status (Kohatsu et al., 2000). Similarly, Chinese
American college students (N = 34) rated Blacks more negatively than their own
group on perceived laziness, inconsiderateness, and tendency to react angrily
39
(Lee, 2001). Qualitative research indicates that Asian youth associate Blackness
with being more socially adept in comparison to their group (Maira, 2006;
Mittapali, 2006; Reyes, 2005).
Black and Asian students also interact less frequently with each other than
with members of other racial groups on college campuses (Halualani,
Chitgopekar, Morrison, & Dodge, 2004; Kiang & Kaplan, 1994; Mack et al., 1997;
Rosenbloom & Way, 2004). Halualani et al. (2004) surveyed 850 students at a
large multicultural university and found that only 10% of the African American
students and 5% of Asian American students reported interacting with another
individual across these specific racial groups in the past two weeks. In contrast
43% of African Americans reported interacting with at least one Latino/a student,
and 43% of Asian Americans reported interacting with at least one White student
during this time frame. When interactions do occur, they are frequently of
relatively poor quality. Asian college students report being less comfortable than
any other racial groups attending a lecture where most of the audience is Black,
and also less comfortable attending a predominantly Black party (Mack et al.,
1997). Among Asian high-school students (n=57) high levels of reported peer
harassment at a diverse high school were interpreted by the authors as potentially
coming primarily from non-Asian minorities (e.g., Blacks) who resented Asian
students for being treated preferentially by teachers (Greene et al., 2006).
Rosenbloom and Way’s (2004) observational and interview study of adolescents
in a New York City high school indicated a cycle of racial encounters in which
teachers treated Black students more poorly, relative to the more favored Asian
students, resulting in resentment from the Black students who in turn harassed
the Asian students (e.g. by teasing, “slapping,” and robbing them). Given both the
shared challenges for Black and Asian students and the difficulties in their
perceptions and interactions, fostering positive relationships between racial
minority groups generally, and Black and Asian students specifically, is of
increasing importance for creating more supportive educational environments for
racially diverse students. Here we describe a model for an intervention developed
specifically for Black and Asian students at our urban Northeastern University
aiming to provide greater support, reduce the isolation experienced by each of
these student groups, and challenge internalized stereotypes relating to
discrimination and segregation. We begin with an overview of our institutional
context so that readers may consider similarities and differences when evaluating
the applicability of the program to their contexts.
40
A Multi-Stage Intervention Model for Improving Inter-minority Race-
Relations on College Campuses
Our University Community Context
Our campus is located in a diverse urban setting: At the time of this
intervention, approximately 23% of the city’s population of color was
Black/African American (African American, Caribbean, and African), and the other
8% was Asian/Asian American (primarily, Chinese and Vietnamese groups;
http://boston.areaconnect.com/statistics.htm). Approximately 26% of the city’s
residents were immigrants; among these immigrants, 29% were from the
Caribbean, 9% from the African continent, and 24% from the Asian continent;
Dominguez, 2008). As an urban commuter school serving primarily state and local
residents, this ethnic and immigrant-generational diversity was represented in our
campus as well. At the time of this intervention, approximately 44% of the current
full-time undergraduate students were racial minorities. Blacks and Asians
comprised substantial subgroups; .6% of the students on campus identified as
Black, and 14.9% identified as Asian.
Faculty and students anecdotally reported considerable separation between
Black and Asian students, Black and Asian student clubs, and Africana Studies and
Asian American Studies departments (e.g., through discussions in committee
meetings, class discussions on race relations, the observations of the authors),
although there was an increasing effort aimed towards collaboration between
different student groups and different departments/programs representing
minority group studies (e.g., Asian American Studies and Africana Studies; Kiang,
personal communication). There was a considerable presence of monoracial Black
and Asian student peer groups. It was also common to see large multiracial peer
groups composed of Black and Latino/a, Black and White, and White and Asian
students, but it was relatively uncommon to see peer groups that were comprised
primarily of Black and Asian students. Student clubsincluding the Black Student
Center, the Haitian Club, and the Asian Student Centerwere all located on the
same floor in the campus center and were divided only by temporary partitions.
Yet, students in these clubs generally kept to themselves rather than connecting
with students from other clubs (Ainooson, personal communication).
41
Overview of the Intervention
Through planning meetings amongst ourselves (the first two authors), and with
our project supervisors (faculty members Castellano Turner and Karen
Suyemoto), we developed a four-step model for our intervention, including:
1)
Department Consultation and Outreach, which was conducted with
various academic departments (e.g., Africana Studies and Asian American Studies
department heads). In these meetings we described our project and asked how
we might carry out our project in a way that was culturally sensitive to each
group and consistent with the goals of each department.
2)
Focus Groups, which were held with Black and Asian students recruited
from our campus asking open ended questions about their experience of Black
and Asian relations. These groups included shorter affinity groups in which Black
and Asian students met separately prior to coming together for a longer
collaborative group to discuss the issues together;
3)
Participant Feedback approximately a week following the focus groups,
which occurred through email exchange and provided space for participants’
reflection on how the focus groups impacted them personally and
recommendations to us about any follow up efforts.
4)
University-wide Dissemination, which included sharing with the University
what was gleaned from the focus group through newsletters, and a University-
wide panel for students, invited faculty, and student service staff members.
In the following section, we describe each phase in more detail, including the
rationale and function of each phase and a description of each event as it
occurred during the implementation of the project.
Phase I: Department Consultation and Outreach
In this phase we met with department heads and primary faculty of the
Asian American Studies Program and Africana Studies Department to confirm
that the project that we developed, as well as our recruitment strategies, would
be appropriate and generally consistent with the needs of Black and Asian
students. We conceptualized the faculty in these departments as “expert
consultants” who had extensive experience with and insights about the students
and the relational dynamics between them, as well as understanding of the
sociohistorical contexts of racialization. Additionally, we felt it was important to
have the support of both Ethnic Studies programs/departments as both of these
programs within our university are highly invested in facilitating students’
42
connections to student services. Recognizing the considerable work being done
already within both communities to support students’ social and educational
experiences, we wanted to ensure our project did not run counter to any of the
goals of the respective departments. At the very least, speaking first with the
department heads and primary faculty was a gesture of entering these
communities respectfully, and hopefully a contributor to fostering a trusting and
supportive relationship between the Ethnic Studies programs/departments and
our student service department (the Counseling Center).
In our meetings with the expert consultants we were transparent about
what we were planning and how it might affect their students (e.g., the kinds of
questions they might raise in class discussions following the intervention).
Although we originally planned to meet with the Africana Studies and Asian
American Studies faculty together, logistically we were not able to find a common
time to meet. We met the department faculty members separately; the first
author (JT) met with the Asian American Studies faculty and department head,
while the second author (JJT) met with the Africana Studies faculty and
department head.
After describing the project in detail to these faculty members, we asked
for feedback and recommendations for improving the project. Faculty across both
ethnic studies departments were enthusiastic about the project and felt it could
be beneficial to their departments. Faculty from the Asian American Studies
department encouraged us to think about and promote our project as a “primary
intervention” rather than a “crisis intervention” given the relatively neutral
climate (non-hostile) of the relationship between the Black and Asian students on
campus. Africana Studies faculty encouraged us to continue to seek institutional
support for our project recognizing the importance of creating sustainable,
positive change.
We also asked faculty members if we could go into their classes to make
brief announcements about our project and invite student participation. Although
most faculty were willing, a few Africana Studies faculty had reservations about
giving class time for such announcements. These reservations may have been
related to (a) reservations about what may have been perceived as
“psychological” interventions given our connection to the Counseling Center and
the Psychology Department and sociohistorical examples of exploitation of
Blacks/African Americans; (b) perceptions of imbalances in collaborative efforts
43
historically in general which have generally been more beneficial to the Asian
community (e.g. Kim, 2004) although we are not aware of such issues in the past
at our specific university; (c) circumstantial issues such as need for class time to
press through their demanding curricula. We attribute the lack of reservations
from Asian American Studies to the fact that the third author is a primary faculty
member in Asian American Studies. Regardless, we decided it would be best to
not take such an active approach to recruiting in either Africana Studies or Asian
American Studies classes (for the sake of parity). Instead, we invited participation
more broadly and more personally (see below). Faculty members from both
departments were helpful in our recruitment and recommended students to us
directly, suggesting that it was the classroom recruitment that led to reservations,
rather than the intervention itself.
Although a smaller phase of our project model, we feel this collaboration
with faculty and established academic programs/departments was an extremely
important aspect of the project as it ensures that the project facilitates rather
than disrupts the connections between academic departments and students
support services, and is sensitive to the cultural and racialhistorical and
currentrealities of the Black and Asian communities.
Phase II: Discussion Group Intervention
In the second phase, the students participated in discussion groups focused
on Black and Asian relations. Students met first in affinity groups (all Black
members or all Asian members) and then convened for a cross-race discussion
with members of both groups.
Participants: Recruitment and Demographics.
Our participants were invited to attend the group discussions through
multiple methods including (a) flyers posted around campus; (b) information and
sign-up sheets emailed to faculty and distributed by them in Asian American
Studies, Africana Studies, Introduction to Anthropology, and Introduction to
Psychology classes; (c) outreach to faculty in Africana and Asian American Studies
asking for recommendations of specific students that may have interest in Black
and Asian relations or life experiences that bridged these communities; and (d)
“snowballing” or, recommendations from participants who had already signed up.
The latter two approaches reflect a “deliberate sampling” strategy (Creswell,
2013), which is consistent with guidelines for qualitative research. From this
epistemological perspective, we were particularly interested in speaking with
students who had previous experience in thinking and talking about their relations
44
across groups, as these students were likely to be rich sources of data (Creswell,
2013). Furthermore, from an intervention perspective, we believed that students
who had prior interest and knowledge would be more likely to take the effects of
the intervention beyond the specific group meetings, for example, serving in
further contexts as leaders and role models. Interested participants contacted the
first author via either phone or email. Although not initially intended, our more
expansive strategy increased the diversity in educational perspectives (multiple
majors represented) that was ultimately an asset to our group.
In total, our participants included 9 Black/African Americans students and 7
Asian/Asian American students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Ethnic
backgrounds of the Black students included: African American, Haitian, Costa
Rican, and Somali. Ethnic backgrounds of the Asian students included: Chinese,
Cambodian, Japanese, Khmer, Fijian, and Indian. Participants were overwhelmingly
male, with two females in each racial group. Participants were at least 18 years
old.
Discussion Group Structure; Introductions, Affinity, and Collaborative Groups Spaces
We began with all participants in a large group, briefly introducing ourselves
and sharing some guidelines we had developed for the discussion and our
intentions for this discussion group (i.e., to share our discussion with a University-
wide audience). We then broke into affinity groups (approximately 45 minutes) in
which Asian participants met separately with the Asian American co-facilitator
and first author of this paper, and Black participants met with the African
American co-facilitator and second author of this paper. Finally, we reconvened
for a collaborative group discussion, sharing what was discussed in each affinity
group to further the dialogue across groups.
Introductions and discussion guidelines
Our intent in presenting discussion guidelines was to foster an open,
empathic environment to maximize participants’ growth through the intervention
and to minimize any possibility of harm related to exposure to negative sentiment
about one’s group without having a chance to offer counter-perspectives. We
asked participants to be respectful of one another at all times. As trained
psychotherapists who understand emotion to be a potential therapeutic change
agent, we invited emotional material into the group; however, we simultaneously
encouraged participants to “take care of themselves.” For example, if they began
to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed they should feel free to excuse themselves
from the group and return when they felt ready. Because of the historic and
45
current dissention in Black and Asian relations, specifically on college campuses,
we were prepared for disagreement between and possibly within groups and
wanted to establish some guidelines for this possibility that would both protect
individuals and encourage open discussion. We requested that if someone
disagreed with something someone said, they should challenge their ideas and not
the person her or himself. Similarly, while we wanted ideas developed in the group
to be taken with them (into other contexts), we requested that participants not
say anything outside of the group that would personally identify one of their
fellow participants. We then asked if anyone had any questions about the
guidelines we proposed; in our case, participants understood the guideline clearly
and did not raise any further questions. After this introduction, we broke into our
affinity groups, which were held in separate classrooms.
Affinity groups: Structure and group content.
Affinity groups have been utilized to address shared experiences among
members of various disempowered groups (e.g., Kidder & Stewart, 1975; Tatum,
1997; Watts-Jones, 2002). The commonality of the in-group context contributes
to creating an atmosphere where participants speak more freely or receive
validation, without fear or defensiveness related to outgroup members contesting
their perspectives. We felt that the separate affinity group space was important
particularly for an inter-minority dynamic because:
(a)
both groups have historically been oppressed by dominant group members; our
experience has been that it can be challenging to discuss inter-minority group
experiences if participants are primarily focused on their experiences of
oppression from the dominant group, particularly given racial hierarchies and
potential tendencies to consider “who is most oppressed” in relation to the
dominant group. Individuals may need to come to terms with their own areas of
oppression (e.g., as a Black person) before being able to develop empathy for
other areas of oppression (e.g., as an Asian person; Suyemoto & Fox Tree, 2006;
Vasquez & Magraw, 2005). In such cases (e.g., when minority-minority relations
are being considered), participants may need to engage first in affinity or
“consciousness raising” groups with members with whom they share minority
status before they are able to engage in dialogues across spaces (Kidder &
Stewart, 1975).
(b)
both groups may have internalized negative views of each other or conflictual
interactions or experiences of discrimination with each other. In affinity groups,
participants might “test out” ideas or previously unarticulated feelings about the
other group before bringing them up in the collaborative space. They could also
46
“release” intense and sometimes debilitating feelings of anger and frustration,
thereby enabling them to channel these feelings into productive directions or
better regulate their affect while they discuss feelings and experiences of
marginalization with outgroup members (Tatum, 1997; Watts-Jones, 2002).
Each of us began our affinity groups by asking every participant to share his or her
name and first and/or significant encounter with a person from the other racial
group. We used this as an opportunity to take a “pulse” on general attitudes or
feelings about the other group. By asking about older memories, we attempted to
prime participants to think about their attitudes and feelings towards the other
group developmentally rather than statically, to consider how their attitudes may
have changed, and to be open to further change. After these brief introductions,
we asked open-ended questions to the group about their experiences across
racial settings, and how they were affected by these experiences. Both facilitators
asked the same line of questions. As an example, in the Asian affinity group, I (JT)
asked participants: “What is your experience in primarily Black communities or
settings?” “What have been your experiences relating to Black/African American
individuals on campus?” How have these experiences affected you?” Because
we anticipated a tendency for participants to focus on negative interactions and/or
feelings, we also asked explicitly about positive interaction and/or feelings.
In the Black affinity group, several group members discussed feeling ignored
or overlooked by Asians. Two participants described experiencing being ignored
only moments before the discussion group began, as they had twice attempted to
invite Asian students they encountered to participate in the group but were
completely ignored. A number of participants expressed a belief that, in an effort
to fit into the dominant White society, many Asians eschewed contact with
Blacks, accepting the dominant racial hierarchy and viewing Blacks as beneath
Asians, despite the fact that Asians benefit from the efforts of Black civil rights
workers. Some Black participants indicated that they had experienced Southeast
Asians as more responsive than East Asians, whereas others described more
positive interactions with East Asians. Several Black participants attributed the rift
between the two groups (as well as the subjugation of both groups) to the
dominant system or group (i.e. White European American people, groups,
institutions, and policies). They emphasized the commonalities that existed
between the two groups, such as internalized negative stereotypes about equating
darker skin complexion as signs of inferiority, and described enjoying intimate
friendships with Asian Americans since early childhood.
In the Asian affinity group, some participants described perceptions of Blacks
as unintelligent, athletic, poor, and underprivileged. Others described experiences
47
of stereotyping and discrimination from the Black community, and Black people’s
perceptions of them as a “Model Minority,” “smart” and free of social and racial
challenges, minimizing their lived social challenges. The Asian affinity group also
discussed their perceptions of the influences on the development of these
perceptions. A number of participants suggested that their perceptions were
largely shaped by their level of exposure to African Americans as they were
growing up. One male participant who described awareness of his stereotypical
perceptions of Blacks discussed growing up in a White suburb and his only
exposure to Black/African Americans was TV images and Black students in a
school-bussing program bringing inner-city youth to his primarily White high
school. Conversely, an Asian American woman who grew up in a predominantly
Black urban community had a greater understanding of the diversity within the
Black community, while still describing her experiences with anti-Asian
stereotyping. Participants in the Asian affinity group also talked about how their
parents shaped their understanding of Black/African Americans. For instance, one
participant felt that his current anti-Black attitudes came directly from his parents
who “didn’t let Black people into my life.” Conversely, another participant who
described his parents as Asian American activists in the 1960’s, felt he grew up
with positive images of African Americans and has long recognized the reality and
destructiveness of anti-Black sentiment in the Asian community. For many,
however, views about Blacks were not directly transmitted from parents to
children. For instance, one participant discussed his immigrant parent’s anti-Black
racist attitudes and discussed having to sneak his Black friends in the back door to
hide them from his parents, while he didn’t have to do the same thing with his
White friends. For this participant, however, his parent’s anti-Black racism
enabled him to see the reality of racism faced by Blacks in the U.S. in general and
in the Asian community specifically, which then led to the development of his own
strong pro-Black attitudes and an allied stance against anti-Black racism.
Both Black and Asian affinity groups provided participants with a safe in-
group space in which relatively intense viewpoints and feelings regarding their
relationship with the other group could be aired. The facilitators maximized this
possibility by positioning themselves as members of each group (both as
multiracial group members). However, although the facilitators both endorse
strong allied stances (e.g., JJT’s Asian community allied stance), they chose to be
relatively reserved in the affinity groups so that participants felt comfortable
expressing their multiple viewpoints without feeling “shut down.” Nevertheless,
facilitators prompted discussion of allied stances, not by emphatically expressing
their own views, but rather by explicitly asking participants about positive
interactions across groups. As a result, neither group was dominated by
48
discussions of negative perceptions and interactions; rather, both groups
considered their complex (sometimes positive and sometimes negative)
experiences across spaces.
Collaborative Group: Structure and Group Content
After meeting separately, we brought the Black and Asian student groups
together for a cross-race dialogue. Our goals for this dialogue were to foster
empathic understandings across groups, develop a sense of shared identity as
“people of color,” and as facilitators, begin to model anti-racist allied stances
across groups. Thus, we adopted affective (e.g., empathy), cognitive (e.g., social
identities), and behavioral (e.g., role-modeling) strategies for initiating change.
Adopting a social identity framework (i.e., Turner, Brown, & Tajfel, 1979), this
strategy was an effort to set aside group differencesalbeit momentarilyand
experience a shared understanding of structural oppression faced by both groups.
We also attended to the logistics of the group to maximize the development of a
collaborative environment. We purposefully asked Black and Asian students to
spread out rather than sit closer to their respective group members. The second
author of this paper (JJT) is trained in shorthand, and was able to “record” the
session, writing down verbatim responses that were central to discussion themes.
We began by asking each participant to share her or his name, how she or
he identifies racially, ethnically, and culturally, and to state briefly his or her
interest in the group. This warm-up exercise ensured everyone a chance to speak,
as well as heightened awareness of the great diversity and multiple perspectives in
the room. We then asked open-ended questions to the group, such as: “What are
the current issues between Blacks and Asians (in general and on campus)? What
has been your experience interacting across groups (in general and on campus)?”
Additionally, because we are aware that much of the past focus in this relationship
has been on conflict, we asked explicit questions about how Black and Asian
interrelationships have been or could be beneficial to the respective communities
and individuals. We prompted discussions around “common experiences” shared
by both groups as “people of color.”
During these discussions we paid particular attention to cultural differences
in interaction style. For example, because we are aware that many Asian cultures
frequently do not encourage speaking out of turn or speaking without first being
called on (Uba, 1994), we did our best to step in when necessary and make sure
that members of both groups had opportunities to contribute their perspectives.
As the conversation progressed, group members followed the lead of the
facilitators and reminded one another at times to make efforts to limit comments
49
in order to foster an atmosphere in which everyone would feel free to express
their ideas and opinions. Our description below of the content from this
collaborative group discussion unfolds chronologically (rather than thematically),
reflecting our use of focus group methodology in which responses are
“generative;” later discussion points are contextualized in earlier discussions
(Krueger, 1998).
Following the introductions, one Black male participant began the
discussion by sharing his belief that many Asians tended to distance themselves
from Blacks and generally receive differential treatment:
“Asian people don’t feel discriminated against ... but when they’re called
‘gooks’, then they understand what it feels like to be Black ... [I] didn’t see
Asians go through the struggle they came in after the Civil Rights
movement with MLK and Malcolm X and benefited from their efforts.”
The intensity of this participant’s statement was countered by equally provocative
statements by some of the Asian students. One Asian student described his
preference for working with White students for group projects in class because
he felt he was more likely to have high-achieving group members. This comment
was met with a great deal of protest from many of the Black participants and
some of the Asian participants, and an emphatic back-and-forth ensued. Although
discomforting, it was important for the facilitators not to intervene immediately as
we were aware that a certain degree of frustration can actually be beneficial to a
group’s process. However, when it became clear that the content of the
discussion had become overwhelmingly directed towards challenging this
particular participant’s assumptions and beliefs rather than considering the
multiple experiences of the group members, it then became important for the
facilitators to “intervene.” This was done by shifting the framing of questions; for
example, the Asian American co-facilitator asked Asian group members:
“Although many of us may disagree with [participant’s name] view, rather than
challenging him directly, can some of the Asian participants talk about some
positive experiences working with Black peers?” It was particularly important for
the Asian American co-facilitator to “intervene” in this instance rather than the
African American facilitator, so that both Asian and Black students could see him
modeling a pro-ally stance. Had the African American co-facilitator responded in
this instance, he may have been viewed by the Asian participants as being biased
or defensive, thereby losing his credibility as a facilitator.
As the group began to shift to think more collectively as people of color, a
Black Somali immigrant male expressed that sources of tension between Blacks
50
and Asians and many of the difficulties each group faced were rooted in global
systemic forces that positioned both groups in marginalized positions. He
described experiencing some Asian college students as receptive and others as
ostracizing and shared that an Asian faculty member’s outreach to him was pivotal
in his decision to persist at the University despite perceiving the campus climate
as hostile to his racial and ethnic background, “Thanks to an Asian person I’m
here [as a student] today.”
At a later point in the discussion, a Cambodian American female described
her feelings of empathy and desire to build connections with the Black community
that stemmed from participation in a “Middle Passage” program designed to
educate youth about enslaved Africans. She went on to express that U.S.
sociohistorical accounts do not adequately acknowledge the hard work of both
Blacks and Asians in promoting social justice. Black and Asian discussion
participants agreed with this view, and an Asian male added that despite the great
efforts of both Blacks and Asians during the Civil Rights era, relationships between
these groups are not promoted or highlighted:
“[It’s a] system thing education and a system that sets people up against each
other If you don’t have an education you don’t realize other people suffered
[or the] system that sets [this up] History books only had a paragraph about
them [Asian involvement] during the Civil Rights movement … Beyond that, they
[Asian civil rights activists] were completely left out of the dialogue … Look who
writes the textbooks.”
He expressed hope that alliances between these groups are possible, “Effort can
overcome stereotypes.” Some of the Black participants suggested that to have
successful relationships with Asians on campus, the Black community must not
self-perceive or act according to internalized negative stereotypes. A Black female
shared: “Each race needs to see how we promote those stereotypes and break
them. When people come together, they are rooted in who they are.” One
Asian American male responded by saying, “Black people have a harder time
integrating.” To which another Black female said: “That’s because people think
they’re being perceived as ghetto and we let that stop us and we can’t. We need
to think positive about ourselves and bring our ‘A’ game.”
Both Black and Asian participants emphasized that systemic barriers played
a role in perpetuating these negative stereotypes, limiting Black access to upward
mobility, and posing obstacles for Blacks to successfully integrate into the
mainstream community, mentioning that, “Asians are afforded more financial
privileges than Blacks Asians can get loans [for which Blacks are denied] and
51
that’s why they have so many stores in Black neighborhoods,” and “What Asian
people learn about Blacks is from TV.”
The facilitators asked what each community would need to give up in order
to develop positive relationships with the other community. In response, one
Asian man indicated that when upwardly mobile Asians are confronted with an
opportunity to advocate for the Black community, they often feel pressured to
“choose the White or the Black community Asians sometimes keep quiet” in
order to attain social status. Another Asian man added, “We get more than we
have to give up.” Facilitators followed up with a question about how each
community might benefit from establishing relationships with the other
community. To which one Black male participant asserted that because both
groups are targets of systemic oppression and racism, “we have much to gain.”
Another Black male added, “We live in a system in which we have allowed other
people to benefit from our work.”
Participants also discussed each other’s experiences that engendered cross-
community connections in general and on college campuses. One Black male
asked an Asian female who held strong ties to the Black community, “What was it
in you that allowed you not to be conditioned in that way?” She responded by
describing her experiences of going to schools with Blacks, making persistent
efforts to initiate relations with Blacks in order to break down her own
stereotypes, summarizing by saying: “education and exposure.”
We ended the group with a debriefing, reminding participants of our guidelines,
offering participants further contact information should any questions or concerns
arise, and also sharing with the group what we intended to do with the
information gleaned from the group.
In summary, Black and Asian group members exchanged views,
experiences, and perceptions about the other community, and described changes
that their own communities needed to make to successfully build bridges.
Dissenting views and conflict dialogues were minimized by the facilitators’ framing
of questions to consider shared experiences and the benefits of collaboration and
participants’ own interest in having a collaborative dialogue. Participants shared
awareness that their assumptions were based largely on misinformation from, for
example, parental attitudes, Eurocentric education, and stereotypic media
portrayals. Both groups expressed the need to further understand the other
groups’ culture and historical experiences, in the U.S. and internationally. They
addressed the forms of privilege that each group was afforded in particular
contexts that contributed to stereotypes, (e.g., African American civil rights
workers were more highly profiled than Asian American civil rights workers;
52
Asians are homogenized in educational portrayals as successfulignoring the
challenges of Southeast Asians where as Blacks are homogenized in media
portrayals as uneducated; in general, Asians have been afforded more financial
privilege than Blacks and are more frequently allowed to receive business loans,
which many Blacks have been denied; Blacks are seen as more American than
Asians).
As facilitators, it was important to find a balance between being seen as
trustworthy and balanced (“unbiased”), but simultaneously modeling pro-allied
stances across spaces. Appearing as “biased” might shut down open dialogue and
participants’ freedom to express their views. Yet, it would be a mistake to believe
that our impacts on the group were “neutral;” for example, as an Asian American
co-facilitator (JT), had I directly questioned a Black participant’s anti-Asian
sentiment, I would likely have been seen as having a self-interest agenda. When
the African American co-facilitator (JJT) followed an anti-Asian statement with a
line of questioning, he modeled an allied stance against anti-Asian sentiment.
Phase III: Participant Feedback
Approximately one week following the discussion group, we emailed our
participants requesting feedback on the discussion group experience. We asked
participants how the group impacted them personally, how they perceived the
groups to have potentially impacted student group relations, and asked for any
recommendations for what we might have done differently, or any follow up
efforts. Black and Asian participants responding to the email suggested that the
group was much needed and had a positive and lasting impact for many
participants and for intergroup student relations more generally. Some
participants shared with us a sense that a dialogue between Black and Asians was
long overdue. One Asian American male wrote:
“I felt comfortable both at the Asian focus group and the collaborative meeting
surrounded by racial minorities who were concerned about this forgotten race-
relationship…It was a really important meeting because I knew many others felt
frustration over the same thing.”
Others recognized that while it was a positive step forward, it was also just a
beginning. In the words of one African American male:
“The group was a stepping stone in a path that many have not yet developed, or
[shed] some light on…hopefully others will follow the action of this group
too…to bring awareness.”
53
In addition to articulating the benefits of the group for Black and Asian
communities, a number of participants shared how the group benefited them
personally, as well as the way the group motivated them to become active in
race-relations work. These sentiments are expressed in the following quotes from
an African American woman and Asian America male, respectively:
“My overall experience was positive. I was informed about both races and it
changed my perceptions towards Asians and African Americans…. I [now] look
differently at people who say negative things about Asians, because I feel like I
know them and can relate to them. I realize they aren’t so different from African
Americans…This discussion has motivated me to start my own discussion group
about the problems and stereotypes harming African Americans.”
“This definitely contributed to my understanding, as well as [a] possible long term
goal of mine, in which we must somehow create solidarity among Asians and
Blacks to have an applied and united movement of activism.”
Participants also had suggestions for improvement in the group structure,
including a more equal representation of women, smaller groups to enable more
comfortable interactions, and possibly the inclusion of other racial groups,
including a group specifically for multiracial Black and Asian participants. We
responded to this feedback by organizing another discussion group, with Black
and Asian students returning from the first group (two from each group),
balancing men and women more equally, and including a multiracial Black-Asian
group facilitated by a faculty member who is herself multiracial Black and Asian.
Although compelling, it is beyond the scope of this paper to delve into the
experience of that group. What we want to highlight here is the necessity and
benefit of including the participants’ voices by being able to respond to their
needs.
Phase IV: University-Wide Dissemination
In the final phase of our project, we made efforts to disseminate the
experience of the discussion groups to a University-wide audience. Our goal here
was to strategically publicize the dialogue to bring greater awareness to the issues
between Black and Asian students (and perhaps between minority communities
more generally) to the University. We believe that it is not enough to promote
54
change in individual students; it is also necessary to initiate change in the
institution so that positive change can be sustained. Thus, we sought multiple
opportunities to disseminate the experience of our discussion group. In particular,
we allowed a member of the school newspaper staff to attend the discussion
group and panel, who then wrote an article about the project. Additionally, we
were invited to write an article for a student-run newsletter. Our primary
strategy was to organize a panel discussion in which some members of the groups
shared what was learned by our participants to a University-wide audience. In our
follow-up emails, we reminded participants that we would like to present their
experiences feedback in a University-wide panel to share the impact of the group
with the larger University community and invited them to participate.
Panel Discussion
In addition to advertising the event generally through flyers posted around
campus, we sent more personal and specific invitations to faculty and health
service providers. We were particularly interested in inviting ethnic studies faculty
members, Counseling Center staff members, and other faculty and health service
providers at our University because we felt they were people at the University
who were in positions of power who could potentially mobilize systemic changes
in curricula, educational programming, and student services that could provide a
context for supporting positive race-relations between Black and Asian students.
Approximately 20 audience members were comprised of interested students, and
faculty from Anthropology, Psychology, Asian American and Africana Studies
(including the program/department chairs), and multiple staff members from the
Counseling Center and other student service departments.
Our panel discussion included six members: one of our project supervisors
(Castellano Turner), the project facilitators (and first and second authors of this
paper, JT and JJT), and three student participants from the discussion groups. The
project supervisoran African American psychologist with previous experience
in inter-minority race-relationsprovided a brief historical introduction to set
the context for our project and its significance. We (JT and JJT) introduced
ourselves and discussed our interest in developing the project and shared the
major themes developed from the affinity and collaborative groups described
above. Three members from the grouptwo Asian American women and one
African American maleshared their personal experiences across Black and
Asian settings as well as their experience of the group discussion. The student
voices gave audience members exposure to first-hand experiences regarding the
significance of Black and Asian relations as well as insight into the personal impact
of the discussion groups. I (JT) concluded by sharing with the audience quotes
55
taken from participants’ responses to our email asking for feedback and
reflections of the discussion group experience.
Although it is difficult to assess the impact of this phase of our project on
the institution, we have some indication that it has had a positive effect. For
example, the facilitators have since been invited by an Asian American Studies
faculty member in attendance to lecture on Black and Asian relations in her class.
We also understand our project is a part of a growing movement on campus
more generally to build bridges between minority groups (Kiang, personal
communication). One of the student panelists and student club leader has
reported to us more recently that student clubs have redesigned their space so
that there is a common location and shared space for the various ethnic clubs
(Ainooson, personal communication).
Discussion
This paper described an effort to improve race-relations between Black and
Asian students at an urban commuter college, detailing both the structure and the
reported experiences. As discussed in our literature review, numerous efforts to
improve race-relations in college settings have been successfully enacted
(Blumenfeld & Robinson, 1995; Kranz et al., 2005; Muthuswamy et al., 2006).
These interventions represent sincere efforts toward positive change and, given
that most campuses remain predominantly White, it is fitting that these
interventions were initially aimed at improving relations between White students
and students of color. However, as university campuses are becoming increasingly
diverse, racial minority students no longer negotiate a “Black and White” world,
but rather negotiate complex interactions between multiple student groups.
The intervention model presented here was designed to attend specifically
to relations between two groups that have historically lacked sociopolitical
power. Our use of affinity groups, with in-group members as co-facilitators, was a
relatively successful means of providing a comfortable space where participants
could develop comfort talking about this race dynamic with their same race peers.
In the cross-race dialogue we used an integrative framework for affecting change;
we fostered change cognitively (e.g., by shifting focus from race-specific identities
to identities as people of color), affectively (e.g., by fostering empathy across
groups, and allowing some degree of frustration within the group), and
behaviorally (e.g., by modeling pro-allied stances across spaces). Each of these
means for fostering change have been supported in the literature, and we caution
facilitators and/or clinicians about adhering blindly to only one perspective (e.g.,
holding intellectualized discussions without an affective component), as race-
56
relations is a complex phenomenon that may be best addressed from multiple
angles. Feedback from students suggest that many students did experience some
positive individual transformations including greater empathy and awareness of
the plight of the other group, a greater appreciation of the shared experiences of
being racial minorities, and becoming motivated to continue dialogues both
formally and informally across racial groups in order to work towards the long
term goal of solidarity.
In addition, we sought to foster change not only within the individual
participants, but also in the larger constituencies of the institution. Early theorists
such as Allport (1958) have called for the need for institutions to change along
with their members if positive change is to be sustained. This may be particularly
important for inter-minority dialogues as separation between students, student
clubs, and ethnic studies departments may be an inevitable result of racial
minority members and groups vying for limited resources within the educational
institution (Prashad, 2006). We welcome interested students, faculty, and
administrators to adopt our model to strengthen minority group relations on
their own college campuses. The model we offer can be implemented with little
or no financial resources, attends to unique and complex power dynamics existing
between multiple minority groups and the dominant majority, and seeks to affect
change at personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels.
Although we believe this model has applicability to other minority group
relations on college campuses, we recognize that it is possible that its relative
success was specific to our particular university and community contexts. For
instance, both Black and Asian students are supported by strong ethnic studies
departments, multiple student clubs, and strong communities in the surrounding
areas. Their experience is likely also affected by the sheer numbers of minority
students at our university. Minority students in settings that are less supported
within the university community may not feel that interpersonal and institutional
change are tangible goals, and may meet efforts such as this with resignation.
Additionally, although we have some indication of the success of this
project from participants’ feedback and feedback from campus members more
generally, we have not subjected this model to rigorous empirical study. To do so
would be an important next step.
In sum, it is our belief that failure to attend to the specific interactions
between minority groups (e.g., Blacks and Asians, Asians and Latino/as, Latino/as
and Blacks) perpetuates the divisions among minority groups and minimizes the
potential for people of color to be allies for each other in creating more
57
supportive college environments. Research has consistently shown that
improvement of social and racial climate for racial minority students is related to
greater academic outcomes (Allen, 1985; Ancis et al., 2000; Lesure, 1994;
McCormack, 1998; Reid & Radhakrishnan, 2003). We do not see improving race-
relations as an extracurricular endeavor; rather we see it as an obligation for
educational institutions to offer social racial environments that enable all students
to succeed. We offer this intervention model as a step towards that direction.
58
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Dr. John Tawa is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Salve Regina University
and an Instructor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has taught
bachelor and masters level courses in psychology including: Abnormal Psychology,
Social Psychology, Cross-Cultural Psychology, Asian American Psychology,
Counseling Theory and Practice, and Multiracial Experiences. Has expertise in
teaching courses that involve developing awareness of race, culture, and systems
of power and oppression. He conducts psychotherapy with a multicultural and
constructivist perspective, and strength based framework for health and healing.
His research focuses on inter-minority race-relations, Asian American self and
identity, and contemporary constructions of race and ethnicity.
Dr. Karen L. Suyemoto is Professor of Psychology and Asian American Studies
at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Dr. Suyemoto's teaching, scholarship,
and community coaction reflect her commitment to contributing to social justice
and empowering those who have been oppressed, marginalized, or silenced. Her
64
courses focus on issues within her joint disciplines related to racialization, culture,
and diversity, with secondary foci on applications of psychology and qualitative
methods. With her research team, she focuses her scholarship on the processes
of resisting oppression from both privileged and marginalized statuses; on
meanings, constructions, and operationalizations of identities and concepts related
to power and privilege; and on connections between research/theory and practice
in order to contribute to mental health and social justice.
Dr. Jesse J. Tauriac received his Ph.D. and M.A. in clinical psychology from
UMass Boston, his B.A. from Boston University, and was a fellow of the American
Psychological Association's Minority Fellowship Program. His clinical training
included internships at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Cambridge Youth Guidance
Center and the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology/Boston University
School of Medicine, where he led groups for diverse Black and Latino K-12
students in urban schools and community centers, as well as for adults in college
and prison settings, and conducted individual and family therapy. His scholarly
work reflects his interest in factors promoting academic engagement and success
among racially- and ethnically-diverse students, particularly Black American males,
and first-generation college students, as well as utilizing culturally-relevant stress
reduction and mindfulness-based techniques to promote well-being and academic
resilience. His research explores social and academic resources promoting
positive educational experiences and outcomes for non-traditional students;
improving campus climate through cross-racial social support, intergroup
dialogues, and transformative education; and academic interventions utilizing mind-
body relaxation techniques.
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... Across disciplines, the extant literature about activism and coping with racism indicates that resistance includes individual actions both to manage the individual's experience, and to influence social norms. These may include actions aimed to foster collectives and coalitions (e.g., Polletta & Jasper, 2001) and address related barriers to coalitions (e.g., Srivastava, 2005;Tawa et al., 2016); actions to titrate emotional engagement, either catalyzing or managing emotion in the service of collective action (e.g., Rodriguez, 2011;Ruiz-Junco, 2012); or lifestyle changes and indirect everyday aspects of resistance (Haenfler et al., 2012;Turiel, 2003). However, psychological research that examines individuals' engagement with racial social justice action or resistance is rare and may be hampered by a dearth of measures. ...
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... Black participants had significantly higher oppression PPR; these scores may reflect participants' internalization of the idea that Black Americans, relative to other minorities, have endured greater oppression within the U.S. and have been more active in the fight for civil rights (J. Y. Kim, 2006;Tawa et al., 2016). Furthermore, I found that while belief in oppression as a source of PPR was related to less anti-Black prejudice, it was unrelated to anti-Asian prejudice. ...
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I offer a new measure of perceived proprietary right (PPR) to resources as an operationalization of one critical aspect of Harold Blumer’s group threat theory. Black (n = 82), Asian (n = 72), and White (n = 176) participants completed PPR items in the context of a residential resource allocation task designed to evoke competitive threat. A four-factor model of PPR was established through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. For Black participants, competitive threat was directly related to anti-Asian prejudice. For Asian participants, competitive threat was related to anti-Black prejudice indirectly, through belief in merit as a source of PPR. Moderated parallel mediation models also uncovered PPR beliefs – on the basis of past oppression and outsider status – as possible sources of allyship between Black and Asian community members. Findings are discussed in relation to Black and Asian relations specifically and the contribution of PPR to intergroup relations more generally.
... These may include actions aimed to foster collectives and coalitions (e.g., Poletta & Jasper, 2001) and address related barriers to coalitions (e.g., Srivistava, 2005;Tawa, Tauriac, & Suyemoto, 2016); actions to titrate emotional engagement, either catalyzing or managing emotion in the service of collective action (e.g., Rodriguez, 2011;Ruiz-Junco, 2012) or lifestyle changes and indirect everyday aspects of resistance (Haenfler et al., 2012;Turiel, 2003). ...
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Full-text available
This study aimed to develop and validate the Resistance and Empowerment Against Racism (REAR) scale. Method: Fifty items developed through processes adapted from Consensual Qualitative Research were administered to a sample of 723 women and 230 men of color (Asian Americans, Black Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans). We employed exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses using stratified subsamples; examined construct validity of the final REAR scale and subscales; and evaluated 2-week test-retest reliability with a subsample. Results: Analyses supported a four-factor model, including Awareness and Relational Resistance; Participation in Resistance Activities and Organizations; Interpersonal Confrontation; and Leadership for Resistance. The REAR demonstrated good test-retest and internal reliability and construct validity. Conclusions: Use of the REAR may enable researchers and clinicians to examine how people of color proactively respond to racism through empowered action to challenge racism, and how these responses may moderate the negative effects of racism on psychological well-being. REAR Scale available at klsuyemoto.net (Scholarship/Projects)
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(from the chapter): By 2050, social scientists predict that racial minorities collectively will constitute more than half of the entire U.S. population (Bobo & Hutchings, 1996; Yancy, 2003). Complex interactions between minority groups are inevitable and raise questions about the relations between groups and groups’ members. In this chapter, we (a) integrate theory from political science and psychology to develop a model of “triangulated threat” for understanding Black and Asian relations outside of a Black–White paradigm, (b) review research on Blacks’ and Asians’ intergroup perceptions to support triangulated threat, (c) consider the implications of triangulated threat for social distance between Blacks and Asians, and (d) position triangulated threat within a context of White/European American dominance. Our chapter responds to recent calls in the literature for a paradigm shift in the ways in which we understand race relations (Alcoff, 2003; Perea, 1997). We offer “triangulated threat” as one model for community activists, theorists and researchers, and educators to move “beyond Black and White” in the ways in which they think, talk, teach, and write about race relations. Moreover, we position this model within a broader context of White/European American dominance, recognizing the ways in which the dominant White group’s constructions of racialized minority groups (i.e., the social constructions of the meanings of “Black” and “Asian”) promotes a “divide and conquer” strategy that maintains White power and privilege.
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