Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


New Thought, African Americans-Race identity, Blacks-Race identity, Group identity, Splitting (Psychology), Post-racialism, Beckwith, Michael Bernard, Johnson, Deborah L., 1956-, Oliver, Elouise, Theoretical, African Americans, Black, Post-black, Post-soul, Post-civil rights, Mask, Double consciousness, Colorblindness, Post-racial, Black identity development, Social identity development, Religious science


This theoretical research critically explores the phenomenon of contemporary African Americans seeking to cultivate individual identities that are not bound by the external demands inherent in a black racial identity. It examines the work and ideas of three African-American New thought ministers who articulate a vision of liberation that is predicated on the cultivation of an interior spiritual identity beyond the social world. This research employs two theoretical frameworks that may help to shed light on the reasons for and implications of contemporary African Americans constructing their identities in this manner. The first of these theoretical frameworks is sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's (2013) notion of "color-blind racism" which asserts that in the aftermath of Jim Crow racism, elusive forms of racism have emerged, couched in the rhetoric of post-racial color-blindness. The second theoretical framework is the concept of the "post-civil rights condition," and related formulations, summarized by philosopher Paul Taylor (2007). This discourse posits that the political imperatives that previously pre-figured black identity and life trajectories have loosened, resulting in a level of social differentiation within the black community that was not socially permissible during a previous era. Together, these theoretical frameworks help to illuminate the extent to which the views of the African-American New Thought ministers may paradoxically advance contemporary denial of racism and also signal black individuals' capacities to adapt and redefine themselves under changing social conditions. This research may challenge assumptions reflected in existing black identity development models, such as the Black Identity Development model advanced by Bailey Jackson (2012), by illustrating the growing diversity of black self-definition not reflected in existing models. Given the reliance on social identity development models within the field of clinical social work, this research may have significant implications for clinical work with black client populations.




ii, 46 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 43-46)