Racial Identity Development in White Women Using Intergroup Dialogue with Baxter Magolda‟s Intercultural Maturity Model and Knefelkamp‟s Developmental Instruction Model Elia Grenier SDAD 578-01 Seattle University



Racial Identity Development in White Women Using Intergroup Dialogue with Baxter Magolda‟s Intercultural Maturity Model and Knefelkamp‟s Developmental Instruction Model Peggy McIntosh reflects in her oft-cited “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:” I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don‟t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence. (1988, p. 122) Though this was written nearly 25 years ago, there is still a great deal of progress to be made in the racial identity development of white women, and campus environments are a prime place to foster this development. In college, young women are exposed to new environments and different ideas while exploring their identity and convictions intellectually, morally, and interpersonally. In this environment, an educator could focus on a specific population of white upper division female students and form theory informed affinity groups and intergroup dialogues to discuss complex issues such as White privilege, Critical Race Theory, Critical White Studies, Critical Race Feminism, and White Racial Consciousness. These discussions have the potential to transform individuals and campus communities, develop interculturally competent citizens who can engage in informed, ethical decision making when confronted with problems that involve a diversity of perspectives, and improve racial climates. The structure of this paper first outlines the theoretical frameworks used. Next, I review some of the key pieces of literature that informed my program development. Following that, I outline my program in detail, relate it back to the theoretical framework, and discuss success



measurement strategies. Finally, I reflect on why this program is important overall. While certain elements of the program will also involve female students of color, the impact on their experience and racial identity development is outside the scope of this paper. Theoretical Frameworks Knefelkamp’s Developmental Instruction (DI) Model Knefelkamp (1999) operationalized Perry‟s (1981) theory of intellectual and ethical development in her developmental instruction (DI) model (as cited in Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, & Renn, 2010). The four variables presented are structure, diversity, experiential learning, and personalism. Structure is the framework and direction provided to students, which may vary based on the developmental level of the students involved. Diversity refers to the alternatives and perspectives that are presented and encouraged. Experiential learning relates to the concreteness, directness, and involvement in learning activities, ranging from direct involvement to vicarious learning. Personalism reflects the creation of a safe environment where risk taking is encouraged. Plus-one staging is an additional concept in Knefelkamp‟s work wherein individuals typically understand and are attracted to reasoning that is slightly more advanced than their own. Structuring a racial identity development program using this model would allow an educator to find the right balance of challenge and support for the developmental level of program participants. Intergroup Dialogue Model Zúñiga (2003) defines Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) as “a face-to-face facilitated conversation between members of two or more social identity groups that strives to create new levels of understanding, relating, and action” (p. 9). IGD groups typically meet for 8 to 14 weeks and include between 12 and 18 participants co-led by trained facilitators who belong to the



participating identity groups. Participants meet in homogenous identity groups before exploring contentious or conflicting issues in a mixed group. IGD promotes dialogue instead of debate or discussion, and challenges participant to engage in critical reflection and collaborative action across cultural and social divides with goals of critical co-inquiry, consciousness raising in regard to social inequalities, conflict transformation, and civic engagement for social change (Zúñiga, Lopez, & Ford, 2012). Critical and sustained conversations about issues of social identity highlight conflicting perspectives and begin to build bridges across lines of difference. Zúñiga‟s (2003) IGD method has a four-stage design: first, create an environment for dialogue; second, learn about differences and commonalities of experience and develop a shared vocabulary; third, explore conflicts and multiple perspectives on contentious issues; and fourth, move from dialogue to action through planning and alliance building. The last stage builds on work done in the earlier stages and uses the skills acquired in the dialogue to develop action plans and generate collective visions for a more inclusive and just future. IGD has proved to be very successful in promoting honest conversations about group differences, stereotype and prejudice reduction, development of complex thinking, and active involvement in social justice work. By creating an intergroup dialogue focused specifically on the racial identity development of women, there will be a safe, supportive environment to discuss difference and privilege and significantly enhance white women‟s identity development in a relatively short time frame. Racial Self-Understanding and Intercultural Maturity Model Students struggle with developing an appreciation for racial diversity and participating in cross-cultural action because they rarely have developed a strong sense of their racial identities. This dilemma is exacerbated when students are not at the developmental level necessary to understand racial differences (Quaye & Baxter Magolda, 2007). Baxter Magolda‟s work on self-

WHITE WOMEN RACIAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT authorship and intercultural maturity provides a great deal of insight into the cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal complexity of development required to be able to accept ambiguity and understand differing worldviews (King & Baxter Magolda, 2005). Guiding


assumptions for exploring intercultural maturity and self-authorship include that cultural values and beliefs are complex and socially constructed; self is central to knowledge construction; and authority and expertise are shared in the mutual construction of knowledge among peers (Quaye & Baxter Magolda, 2007). In the initial level of intercultural maturity development, King and Baxter Magolda (2005) found students have minimal awareness about their values, racial identities, and different cultures. At the intermediate level, there is an uncertainty of knowledge and an emerging acknowledgment of differences. It is only at the mature level where students have the awareness and capacity to engage in intercultural interactions that are interdependent, respectful, and informed by cultural understanding. At this stage, a student would be significantly more ready to look at the nature of his or her own privilege. Quaye and Baxter Magolda (2007) found that learning partnerships, multicultural education frameworks, intergroup dialogue, and listening partners were effective ways to advance the intercultural maturity necessary to engage these issues on a higher cognitive level. Literature Review Multiple Dimensions of Identity Because multiple dimensions of identity intersect and interact in a wide variety of ways, it can be difficult to gain meaningful insights by focusing on a single dimension of identity. In exploring multiple dimensions of identity, Jones and McEwen (2000) found that for white women, their “oppressed” female identity status interacts with their often-neutral racial identity



while interacting with other salient identities of culture, education, family, relationships, or religion. Race is typically not salient for white women, which was prevalent among more privileged identity dimensions. Similarly, Closson and Henry‟s (2008) study on White students at historically Black colleges and universities found that programming designed to facilitate White students‟ development of a White identity and critical race consciousness would help lead to enhanced racial understanding and a greater likelihood to engage in actions toward the elimination of racial injustice. In order to help students from majority identity statuses understand the implications of taken-for-granted identities, they must be encouraged to explore these aspects of their identity. Anti-Racist Identity Development Much of anti-racism work is grounded in critical race theory principles. Critical Race Theory (CRT) finds that racism is often well disguised in the rhetoric of shared „normative‟ values and „neutral‟ social scientific principles and practices. According to Yosso (2005), five tenets of CRT that can and should inform theory, research, pedagogy, curriculum and policy are the intercentricity of race and racism; the challenge to dominant ideology; the commitment to social justice; the centrality of experiential knowledge; and the utilization of interdisciplinary approaches. Critical white studies are a further delineation of CRT that focuses on the invisibility of white privilege and whiteness in American culture, the unconscious racism of Whites, and the importance of white anti-racist action (Case, 2012). Scholars have noted the challenges in teaching an anti-racist curriculum, and often acknowledge that student resistance is reinforced by invisibility of white privilege (Gillespie, Ashbaugh, & DeFiore, 2002). As McIntosh (1988) points out, “Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the U.S. think that racism doesn‟t affect them because they are not people of color;



they do not see „whiteness‟ as racial identity” (pp. 124-125). Initial recognition of privilege can create anxiety, guilt, and embarrassment among white students in anti-racist classrooms. If they feel implicated in a system of racial privilege and do not have the intercultural maturity to process and engage the new information, they are apt to disconnect from what is being discussed. According to Kivel (2011), there is no one correct way to act as an anti-racist ally since each person is different and has a different relationship to social organizations, political processes and economic structures, but white students should always assume that racism is at least part of the picture. If student are able to successfully integrate their ethnicity into their identity, opportunities for learning are enhanced and include predictors for higher academic success (Evans et al., 2010). Studies have shown that students who became social justice allies during college developed more self-confidence and weren‟t threatened by being aligned with underrepresented or non-dominant groups (King & Baxter Magolda, 2005). White Female Identity Development In recent years, scholars have focused specifically on white women and their complicity in a racist system (Gillespie et al., 2002). Race shapes the lives of white women in imperceptible ways, and even women actively involved in anti-racist work may consider it an act of compassion for the „other‟ rather than an issue integral to their own lives. Other studies have shown white women are rarely race cognizant, tend to be socialized to avoid conflict, and have fears about stepping outside the „circle of privilege‟ (Gillespie et al., 2002). These findings demonstrate the resistance that may be encountered if an educator moves too quickly and considers complex cognitive topics such as white privilege before a student or class has reached at least the intermediate, if not the mature, intercultural maturity level. Critical race feminism utilizes feminist theory to further deconstruct critical white studies



principles as they relate to white women, such as having a privileged racial status, a subordinate gender status, and additional intersecting identities (Case, 2012). Case (2012) interviewed members of White Women Against Racism (WWAR) groups at two midwestern university campuses who engaged in dialogue about white privilege and anti-racist social action. Findings showed many participants felt a White person must admit his/her own racism before becoming an anti-racist, others expressed discomfort with the idea of a positive white identity as models often intertwine with white supremacy, and all mentioned white privilege as a daily consequence of racism, even if they weren‟t always aware of its presence. In terms of anti-racist action, many women participated in daily acts of confronting racism with their family, friends, and coworkers. Barriers to speaking up included avoiding disapproval, avoiding conflict, power differences, perceived ineffectiveness, and feeling exhausted, but most recognized choosing silence was yet another benefit of white privilege. A key practice for White anti-racists was being able to recognize behaviors that perpetuate racism and critical analysis of the causes of such behaviors (Case, 2012). This study highlights many of the struggles and challenges the women engaged in the following program would confront while in the program and potentially for the rest of their lives. White Women Racial Identity Development Program Design & Structure This program will consist of a two quarter (or semester) series of courses. The first part will be a three credit course entitled White Women Exploring White Privilege and will be cross listed under Gender Studies, Race Studies, and Liberal Studies so as to fulfill upper division course requirements for several major programs of study. Enrollment will be limited to 15 students in order to facilitate meaningful discussion, and the course will be designed for upper



division white female students, though any student may petition for permission to enroll. The professor will meet briefly with every interested student before enrolling her in the course in order to discern whether or not she is at a sufficient intercultural maturity level to engage with the course content. Designing the program with this curricular component will provide funding for the program instructor and classroom, and also allow the academic space to read and discuss antiracist theory and literature like Freire‟s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Wise‟s White Like Me, hooks‟ Where We Stand, Tatum‟s Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Katz‟s White Awareness. The goal of the first part of the program is to bring white female students to a higher level of consciousness regarding racism and white privilege. Case‟s (2012) study found that being a woman and experiencing gender oppression provides women with an avenue for understanding racial identity that most White men do not possess. By focusing specifically on women, the group will be able to leverage this understanding and also more effectively deal with any issues of gender socialization and intersecting identities. The course is designed specifically for white students, as recent research has noted that students of color in anti-racist courses are often being placed in roles of cultural expert, aide, or witness, instead of as fellow students on an educational journey (Blackwell, 2010). Instructors become preoccupied by tending to the race consciousness raising and crises of white students, which creates undesirable limits for students of color who want to make more advanced explorations of race and racial identity. Educators may get seduced by white students‟ epiphanies and distracted from efforts to consider what would count as race consciousness-raising for students of color. Engaging in separated discussions can provide a safe space to develop critical

WHITE WOMEN RACIAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT consciousness. Before engaging with the material in the course, white students may be


unprepared for interracial dialogues because of their inexperience in discussing race, ignorance about the legacy of racial injustice in the United States, and underdeveloped racial identities. By doing the initial work in a white affinity group, white students can become constructive contributors to dialogue instead of requiring constant or remediated attention (Michael & Conger, 2009). Otherwise, these White allies who have not developed a mature racial identity and understanding of the forces of privilege and oppression can be a larger barrier to racial justice because of their belief in their own superiority and a tendency to dominate the agenda, even as they attempt to be helpful. In the second quarter, students who have taken the course will be invited to participate in an Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) around Racial Identity as Women. The group would preferably consist of equal numbers of white women and women of color, and as the white women will have taken White Women Exploring White Privilege, they would ideally be ready to discuss racial consciousness on a higher level and not make the women of color witnesses to their epiphanies. A trained facilitator who matched the affinity identity would lead each group. This facilitator could be a female faculty member, graduate student who had done work on racial identity, or possibly an undergraduate student who had participated in a previous year‟s class and IGD group. A benefit of having a faculty member facilitate would be the ability to offer course credit for participation. A benefit of having an undergraduate or graduate facilitate would be developing peer-mentoring relationships with less of an academic focus and possibly a more open, unhindered dialogue. Topics of discussion in the white women affinity group may include giving up privilege, avoiding collaborating with institutional racism, talking to family member or friends about race, and mentoring for anti-racism. Experiential activities would include cultural



observations and immersions, interactions with diverse others, and written reflections on one‟s own culture and identity development. The group would meet for two and a half hours every week for the ten weeks of the quarter. If the group registered as a student club, funding for space, snacks, and a stipend for the facilitator may be available through student activities. Alternative sources of funding may be available from the Women‟s Center or Multicultural Center on campus, or from the Race, Gender, or Liberal studies academic departments who offered the White Women Exploring White Privilege course. As discussed in the theoretical framework, stage one would give students time to get to know each other and build a safe space. Stage two of ICD would allow students to share their social identity experience, and emphasize talking and listening to each other to provide the support needed for initiating dialogues regarding privilege. Meeting within homogeneous social identity groups prior to engagement in mixed identity groups would help to validate students‟ perspectives and develop their readiness for exploring potentially contrasting perspectives (Quaye & Baxter Magolda, 2007). Application of the Intercultural Maturity and DI Models and Assessment By framing Knefelkamp‟s (1999) developmental instruction model in the context of intercultural maturity principles, one can see how it provides a strong theoretical basis for the program. Using IGD with the DI model provides the structure, diversity of experience, and personalism elements of the model. IGD has a very well established and tested formula with a specified format, active engagement of diverse perspectives, and creation of a safe environment where risk taking is encouraged and supported. Experiential learning is also a component of IGD, and elements such as cultural immersions and written reflections will help situate learning within the students‟ experiences and allow them to form connections with the subject matter. By

WHITE WOMEN RACIAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT either using peer mentors to facilitate the IGD or by drawing on the different levels of


intercultural maturity within the group, the educator will be able to effectively use plus-one staging to connect with all the students in the group. As long as all the students have reached the intermediate or mature levels, this format of dialogue should be successful in enhancing cognitive understanding of very complex issues. Informal assessment will be conducted through written pre and post course and IGD reflections on racial identity development, white privilege, anti-racist principles, or intercultural maturity. Opportunities for self-reflection assist students in becoming clearer about what they know, why they hold the beliefs they do, and how they want to act on their beliefs (Baxter Magolda, as cited in Evans et al, 2010). More formal research and assessment could be conducted following the Case (2012) model, or through more structured pretest-posttest designs that have been used in evaluating IGD nationwide (Zúñiga et al., 2012). Gorski, an anti-racist educator, wrote about the „luxury of whiteness‟ and said, “I must work to promote an approach to multicultural education practice and research which challenges the tendency to excuse the participation of those who most desperately need to be part of the conversation” (2000, para. 40). When difficult dialogues are silenced, students are left with a sense of fear or entitlement that allows them to deny or deflect and justify their responses instead of interrogating and confronting them (Carter et al., 2007). We must learn to find comfort in discomfort and be part of the conversation. By putting in the time and effort needed to develop the intercultural maturity necessary to be able to engage with these complex issues, we will promote an inclusive, supportive environment and transform our campus communities.



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