African-American Nomenclature: What we call ourselves and why?
Watson, Kenjus T.
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Strong, positive racial identification and group status have been linked to psychological health (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Racial labels significantly influence the social connotations associated with the groups described. Self-naming is one way that Blacks work to gain a positive racial identity. However, racial labeling has inspired conflict, controversy, and confusion. The evolution of endorsement of African, Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, African-American, and Nigger/ Nigga has left Blacks wondering, ?What shall we call ourselves?? This study explored patterns of social identification among Blacks to learn a) which social identities are endorsed by group members, 2) whether identities cluster into meaningful dimensions, and 3) how such dimensions relate to age, gender, and one another. Participants were 27 Black individuals from community groups and educational institutions in California. Participants completed a survey assessing endorsement of 39 social categories. A factor analysis produced 6 indexes of racial dimensions: Colorism, Prototypic Power, Historically Significant Naming, Political Resistance, Community Bonds, and Other Social Groups. Results show that Black identity is multidimensional, encompassing political, economic, and religious themes; that Community Bonds and Political Resistance indexes are significantly positively related (p<. 03); that Historically Significant Naming and Prototypic Power are marginally related (p<.08); that the participants ranging in age 24-39 are significantly more likely to identify with labels that denote Political Resistance than participants over 40 (p<.02); and that despite not identifying with labels from other ethnic groups, participants did identity with broad status labels (such as Minority, Person of Color, Underrepresented). Further work will explore the bases of these patterns.