Understanding Gendered Racial Identity Among Black Women Using an Intersectional Approach
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Gendered racial identity (GRI) has emerged as a construct used to describe Black women’s distinct intersected identity as Black and woman (Thomas, Hacker, & Hoxha, 2011; Thomas, Hoxha, & Hacker, 2013). Despite the importance of Black women’s GRI in shaping women’s self-concept and perceptions of their experience (Settles, 2006; Thomas et al., 2011; Thomas et al., 2013), the identity literature has been unsuccessful in further describing GRI and refining the appropriate methods by which to examine this construct. The purpose of the current study is to describe and explore an empirically-supported taxonomy of GRI for Black women using an intersectional approach. In consideration of Black racial identity theory from an intersectional perspective, a new description of Black women’s gendered racial identity (BWGRI) is proposed. BWGRI for the purposes of the current study is defined as how Black women conceptualize their intersected racial and gender identity. This construct is operationalized through the assessment of the significance of and qualitative meaning women attribute to their membership within Black and woman social identity groups. To explore BWGRI, 240 diverse Black women (Mage = 35.83 years; SD = 11.88; range = 19 – 79) completed the following measures: Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity-Racial Centrality Scale (Sellers, Rowley, Chavous, Shelton, & Smith, 1997), Gender Centrality Scale (adapted from Sellers et al., 1997), and the Self-Defined Gender Racial Identity Questionnaire (self-authored). The study utilized a mixed-methods research design targeted at exploring the significance and qualitative meaning that Black women assign to their intersectional identity. Cluster analysis was used to statistically examine variations in the significance of BWGRI, whereas, a modified grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 2009) was used to capture the varied meanings Black women may assign to their intersectional identity. A cluster analysis revealed the existence of four BWGRI clusters that were further refined by women’s qualitative responses, thereby evidencing that Black women’s conceptualization of Black womanhood is not homogeneous. The four clusters include: (a) consciously introspective (characterized by women who place importance on their intersected identity and are self-aware and reflective regarding how their social identities may shape their experiences of societal marginalization); (b) consciously engaged (characterized by women who place importance on their intersected identity and take actions towards eliminating experiences of societal marginalization); (c) pre-consciously conflicted (characterized by women who place relative importance on their intersected identity and are challenged with navigating the extent to which they pursue connections, particularly with other Black women); and (d) unconsciously disengaged (characterized by women who place little to no importance on their intersected identity and minimalize or have limited awareness of their own marginalization). The manuscript will conclude with a discussion of the implications of BWGRI typology in terms of extending Black racial identity theory and in relation to the mental health of Black women.