Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


AFrican American teenagers-Psychology, Blacks-Race identity, Racism-United States, Theoretical, African American, Black, Identity, Racism


This theoretical thesis explores the impact of systemic racism on the African American adolescent's ability to secure a cohesive and positive identity. Working from a symbolic interactionist frame influenced by critical race theory and social identity theory, this thesis explores the unique challenges African Americans face in this critical identity development process and seeks to explore explanations for the role of racism as an institutionalized system that hinders healthy development. This thesis aims to examine how the messages received by African Americans in all systems--ranging from schools to health services--privilege the dominant perspective and ideology and negatively impact racial identity development for these adolescents. Critical race theory and social identity theory are applied to this author's case of JC to demonstrate how racism is currently impacting his identity development as a young black man in the United States. Ultimately, this thesis hopes to offer an individual story as a window into the role of the individual in the identity negotiation process for a member of an historically oppressed racial group. A final goal is to encourage social workers to create innovative interventions, modalities, and treatments for working with this population on their identity development journey.




iii, 77 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 68-77)