Becoming good Whites: Dissonance, coping and identity processes among White Christian adults working on racial healing

Tracey Ann Hartmann, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The study explored White racial identity process in the context of racial reconciliation activities set in two Christian congregations. The Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems theory (Spencer, 1995) was used to understand White identity processes. This theory emphasizes that experiences of dissonance and coping are essential to identity formation. The qualitative research documented experiences of dissonance for Whites which was linked to learning about the ‘non-innocence’ of their racial group. Some Whites coped with this moral dissonance about their racial group through distancing themselves from the group and group actions defined as ‘bad’. Inter-racial contact was linked with being “good”. White adults reported significantly more inter-racial contact in adulthood than they had at other points in their lives. Whites also reported experiencing significant dissonance with other White family and friends when they made adult choices that led to more inter-racial contact. A cluster analysis using the four dimensions of the race-specific Collective Self-Esteem Measure (CSE) identified two groups of Whites within the sample, differentiated by the salience of race to their identity and their regard for the White group. Individuals with a high salience of race had a lower regard for their racial group. Church involvement was highly correlated with participation in church-based racial reconciliation activities suggesting that churches can motivate White adults to engage in racial reconciliation.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Hartmann, Tracey Ann, "Becoming good Whites: Dissonance, coping and identity processes among White Christian adults working on racial healing" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138018.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3138018

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