Theories Of Racial Identity

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Identity refers to how people define themselves and others and this can include factors such as age, social class, religion and personality (Jenkins, 2008).
Identity can also be defined by race, this is particularly important for this study. Racial identity has been described in terms of a biological category (Spikard, 1992) and from a social dimension (Helms, 1995; Spikard, 1992). When described as a biological category race consists of individuals “physical features, gene pools and character qualities” (Spikard, 1992, p.14). Europeans used these features to group people hierarchically by their physical abilities and moral quality and Caucasians were the pinnacle (Chavez & Guido-DiBrito, 1999). Through colonialism racial categories were enforced and this created a hierarchically racial arranged global order. This is the reason individuals use race to describe him or herself when referring to their identities, this is even more prevalent in South Africa or America as they are highly racialised societies. In South Africa the construction of the Coloured identity was as a result of political power, the government categorised people of mixed races and created an artificial category labelled ‘Coloured’ as these people could not be categorised into any of the other main races (Petrus, 2013).
In Social Psychology
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This is in order to move away from the biological definition as this can be interpreted as a racist perspective (Chavez & Guido-DiBrito, 1999). According to Helms, (1993, p. 3) identity can be interpreted as a social construction, which “refers to a sense of group or collective identity based on one’s perception that he or she shares a common heritage with a particular racial group”. The Coloured identity has proceeded through these definitions; the different ways in which Coloured identity has been defined will be discussed in the literature review
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