CAMD Scholar Courtnie Crutchfield ’09 Discusses Racial Identity and Discrimination

CAMD Scholar Courtnie Crutchfield ’09 researched racial identity and discovered that mono-racial societies in America put pressure on individuals to identify with one race over another. Crutchfield showcased her findings on “The Multicultural Dilemma: Identity Formation for the Latina, Afro-Latina and African American” in Kemper Auditorium last Friday. Prior to coming to Andover, Crutchfield identified herself as black because she grew up in a primarily black community, despite having a Latina ancestry. Crutchfield asked, “Why am I black… Can I call myself Latina? Do I have this right? Can I label myself or do others label me?” Crutchfield said, “[I think that I am] black more by force of habit than real thought or choice.” In personal interviews, Crutchfield found that many people thought it was necessary to speak Spanish or know how to dance to say they were Latina. Crutchfield’s search for her own identity sparked her interest in researching racial identity formation. In her presentation, Crutchfield explained the three stages of the identity formation process. According to Crutchfield, the first “unexamined” stage is one similar to that of a child. The individual rarely thinks about race and so conforms to whatever idea is thrust upon them. There is no conflict in their racial identity and for some, this stage can last their entire life. The “search stage” is the realization that race is connected to identity. An individual may feel angry with the majority culture, completely reject their own cultural and immerse him or herself in a different culture. The final stage is achievement, in which “[individuals] are aware of race, but it doesn’t consume them. They are comfortable with it,” said Crutchfield. Crutchfield said, “The project has played a huge part in my own search [stage]. I haven’t reached the achievement phase, but I’m just going to keep moving forward.” “I can see myself in a clearer, more accurate way, a more informed person,” added Crutchfield. Crutchfield said that increasing discussion and raising questions would help increase awareness about racial identity at Andover, especially for new students who are still exploring who they are. In order to better understand identity, Crutchfield also researched the concept of races. Crutchfield discovered that races were established purely to create social structures and that they have no biological basis. “Race was made to make life easier,” said Crutchfield. Though Crutchfield believes race was developed to classify and separate people of different cultures, she acknowledges that race creates a group identity. However, group identities often become too broad and stereotypical, creating racism and discrimination, according to Crutchfield. According to Crutchfield, the media reveals the nation’s tendency toward mono-racial identification. Crutchfield explained that the presidential election is portrayed in such a way that, if Obama wins, one would say that the U.S. had elected its first black president, as opposed to its first biracial president.