The Unchosen Me: Race, Gender, and Identity among Black College Women

Article excerpt

The Unchosen Me: Race, Gender, and Identity Among Black College Women, by Rachelle Winkle-Wagner. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2009, 248 pp, $57.00, hardcover.

Much of the research involving identity has focused on comparing African Americans to Caucasian Americans or African American women to Caucasian women. However, the book, The Unchosen Me: Race, Gender, and Identity Among Black College Women by Rachelle Winkle- Wagner, assistant professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, enhances the psychology and sociology literature in exploring and investigating the experience and identity of Black women attending predominantly White academic institutions, In attempting to capture their social experience on academic campuses, the author discusses the challenges that many Black women face as students in interacting with faculty/administration, other students, as well as individuals from their own communities. In chapters 4 and 5, she then proceeds to examine how the aspects of African American women's racial and gender identity influence this interaction. The book offers multiple definitions of identity and describes assumptions of identity maintained by the fields of psychology and sociology. In using the sociological framework, Winkle- Wagner outlines and highlights findings from her qualitative research study that support her affirmation of the notion that Black women's identity and identity formation is unique due to their simultaneous experiences of race and gender. She attributes this perspective to Black women's attempt to navigate through and resolve daily social conflicts that arise as a result of their dual group membership.

Winkle-Wagner distinguishes the sociological and psychological identity frameworks in describing the psychology framework as stage-oriented perspective that assumes that an individual's identity forms as he or she progresses through various identity stages or cognitive processes. Given this, the individual is conceptualized as a singular identity with his or her own personality, characteristics, and traits. Winkle- Wagner suggests that viewing the individual as having a singular identity denies the power of the social experiences that create and influence various aspects of the self. She contrasts the psychology perspective to the sociology perspective in which an individual's identity is assumed to develop through the dynamic interaction with their environment and social structures. Given these social structures, an individual develops multiple aspects of their identity and seeks to organize their self-existence in considering their life roles, their commitment to those roles as well as the salience of the roles within then- context.

Winkle- Wagner proposes that the racial and gender identities for Black and Latina women are intricately linked thereby creating a unique experience for both groups. Contrarily, although both identities are experienced simultaneously, their identity consciousness allows for one aspect of identity to be individually salient as different contexts arise. …