Reconceptualizing White Racial Consciousness. (Articles)

By LaFleur, N. Kenneth; Rowe, Wayne et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Reconceptualizing White Racial Consciousness. (Articles)


LaFleur, N. Kenneth, Rowe, Wayne, Leach, Mark M., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


As a result of recent psychometric analyses, the conceptual model of White racial consciousness has been revised. A summary of the new conceptualization is presented along with a brief description of the Oklahoma Racial Attitudes Scale, which will replace the Oklahoma Racial Attitudes Scale-Preliminary Form (S. K. Choney & J. T. Behrens, 1996).

Como resultado de analisis psicometricos recientes, el modelo conceptual de la Concienca Racial Blanca ha side revisado. Un resumen de la nueva conceptualizacion se presenta junto con una descripcion breve de la Escala Oklahoma de Actitudes Raciales, que reemplazara la Escala Oklahoma de Actitudes Raciales-Forma Preliminar (S. K. Choney & J. T. Behrens, 1996).

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White racial consciousness (Rowe, Behrens, & Leach, 1995; Rowe, Bennett, & Atkinson, 1994) has been proposed as an alternate to White racial identity (Helms, 1995) for the conceptualization of the racial outlook of White people. White racial consciousness is deemed to be more parsimonious than White racial identity theory. Because it is not grounded in identity theory, White racial consciousness avoids the implicit problems of identity-based theories such as being prescriptive and highly abstract. In contrast to White racial identity, White racial consciousness simply classifies commonly held racial attitudes that White people have toward persons of color.

Following the approach of Duckitt (1992), attitudes are considered the affective orientation regarding the favorableness of a thing. Consistent with a social-cognitive view, it is also believed that attitudes are most frequently acquired through observational learning, are rather impervious to verbal persuasion, and, subject to situational influences, tend to result in intentions that guide observable behaviors (Bandura, 1986). Therefore, the attitudes of Whites toward people of color are assumed to be acquired in the same manner as other attitudes and, in most cases, to change as a result of either direct or vicarious experience that is inconsistent or in conflict with previous attitudes.

original conceptualization

Obviously, White people hold many attitudes about people of color. The attitudes that any one White person holds are thought to be some narrower, rather consistent, subset of the full array. The White racial consciousness model labels empirically identified constellations of attitudes and allows the determination of which, if any, best characterize the racial attitudes held by White individuals. These groupings of attitudes are described and labeled, and the resulting types of attitudes constitute the components of the construct White racial consciousness. It is noteworthy that the term types refers to empirically derived clusters of intercorrelated racial attitudes and not to abstract personality attributes. The White racial consciousness approach purposely avoids the use of larger personality abstractions, such as identity, or the claim that any particular developmental sequence is likely to occur; it merely proposes that there are certain clusters or types of racial attitudes held by White people.

As originally conceived, White racial consciousness consisted of four basic types of attitudes: (a) dominative, pro-White ethnocentric attitudes; (b) conflictive, attitudes based on individualistic values but not supportive of overt discrimination; (c) integrative, pragmatic, positive racial attitudes; and (d) reactive, strong pro-minority attitudes (Rowe et al., 1995). These were labeled achieved types of attitudes, borrowing from the terminology of the academic identity literature. Unachieved types of attitudes were said to lack either personal exploration (avoidant) or commitment (dissonant), or both (dependent). Although grouped in two categories, achieved and unachieved, each type of attitude was considered to be independent.

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