Ethnic Self Identity Essay

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According to Phinney and Alipuria (1987), ethnic self-identity is the sense of self that an individual feels; being a member of an ethnic group, along with the behavior and attitudes with that feeling (p. 36). The authors point out that the development of ethnic identity is an evolution from the point of an ethnic identity that is not examined through an exploration period, so as to resonate with a specified and attained ethnic identity (p. 38).

Ethnic identity refers to a feeling, attitude and identification of one with the behavior and character of people of a specified culture and cultural ethos. They often have a common origin, values, beliefs, practices, customs and other commonalities. Therefore, as opposed to the race concept in which the physical traits are the main controlling factor, ethnicity relates to the common values, beliefs and concepts help by a group of people (Yeh & Huang, 1996).

Ethnic Minority in Burma

The issue of ethnicity is not just about identity in their localities or at international level. Rather, it is a central component of the thinking patterns of a given people including how they perceive where they stand in the wider society. Ethnic organizations in exile from Burma have recently embraced the use of the term ethnic nationality. In other words, a sense of nationality has been remolded to form an ethnic group and vice versa in a process that spans across the world. Ethnic identity is conjured differently though. It has to do with dreams of being incorporated and rooted in a deeper fashion that is the case with national identity. It follows; therefore, that ethnicity is therefore an essential source of self-identity, empowerment, solidarity and the confidence one derives from being a member of a community with a common cultural background and history. Such a force is given impetus by migration activity or being displaced. Burma's ethnic diversity is a complex matter. Research reveals that there are many minority groups that have been overlooked in the political process over the time (Gravers, 2007).

Asian Identity Development

All cultures across the globe have their ways of asserting their cultural identity and influencing their members. Studies along cultural comparison indicate that Asian individuals exceed both European and North Americans in terms of private versus collective selves. Self-monitoring is a more common trend among Asians compared to the other groups in this study. Indeed, North Americans and Europeans show a lower self-monitoring habit.

The individual or the Asian self, as referred to in the study, is controlled more by the societal values compared to the European or North American self. Embarrassment and humiliation are commonly used in Asian cultures to reinforce the obligations of an individual to the family. Asians operate more on the basis of trust. The culture focuses more on teaching an individual to become more cognizant of how the others will react to their actions. A member of a collective culture is more afflicted by shameful incidents affecting them. Such a reaction is informed by the fact that there are severe consequences that include exclusion from the society and community support. The existence of an individual is greatly influenced and determined by relationships. If a social group withdraws support, one's self-identity is at high risk.

It is, therefore evident that the fear of shame is a strong motivator for people to conform to expectations of interpersonal relationships.
Many American Asians respond to questions touching on the self based on the influence by the social circles outside the individual; not the psychological aspects. The ethnic identity development is influenced by the tendency to avoid shame and other factors listed above (Yeh & Huang, 1996).

Karen Ethnic Minority

The Karen people constitute an ethnic community living in South East Asia. The Karen people are ethnically and linguistically diverse. They constitute various subgroups. Buddhism and Animism are the common religions practiced by most members of the Karen community. 15% of them are Christians though. Burma has about seven million Karen people. Thailand has about 300 000 Thai-Karen people. Reports indicate that in excess of 140 000 Burmese Karen people have escaped human rights abuses and war in Burma. The Karen people have been involved in a long-protracted war that is over sixty years since its beginning. They have been fighting the military regime for secession and their rights. Figures also show that over 70 000 refugees of Thai origin; most of whom are Karen have been resettled in countries abroad including America, Australia and Canada between 2005 and 2011(Moonieinda, 2011).

Racial and Ethnic Identity Development

Ethnic and racial identity developments constitute an essential component of one's self and collective identity. In some cases, such as that of the Karen, in which ethnic minority is clearly and legally defined, their consciousness of such facts is more conspicuously defined than others. Two main social and cultural influences come into play. The deep involvement in cultural traditions including religious practice, neighborhood and other similar values makes them bond tightly with the wider community and hoists their self-confidence and ethnic identity.

Secondly, it is essential that individuals differentiate ethnic identity by contrasting it with negative media messages and treatment from other people belonging to their race and ethnic groups. Usually, such messages are tinged with undesirable innuendos from the perspective of the mainstream society.

Models of Ethnic Identity Development

There have been many models of ethnic development developed from various researches in the last few decades. Such models and researches have given limelight for the acceptance of ethnically diverse communities. A lot of the models for identity are modeled along psychosocial considerations for defining the self. Some of them acknowledge the inherent cognitive complexity of the process of self-definition. It has been observed that most of these models were designed to suits black people, African-Americans and Asians. They were sought to understand the experience of black people in the US. The first and most progressive models of nigrescence based on psychology was developed by Cross. It showed the evolution of the African-American from a non-Afrocentric through being an Afrocentric to one that embraces multicultural identity. The process involves being completely aware of one's race, embracing the culture of the blacks to the point of committing to the concerns of many cultures and championing the interests of a multiplicity of cultural groups. The model by cross is critical in pointing out the dynamic progression characteristics of racial identity. It is influenced by those within ones ethnic group and others from outside. It helps in acknowledging the multicultural frames and ethnocentrism. Cross's arguments have sparked controversy because….....

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Atkinson, D. R., Morten, G., & Sue, D. W. (1989). Counseling American minorities: A cross-cultural perspective. Brown & Benchmark.

Chavez, A. F., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1999). Racial and ethnic identity and development. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1999(84), 39-47.

Gravers, M. (2007). Exploring ethnic diversity in Burma (1st ed.). Copenhagen S, Denmark: NIAS Press.

Karen - Minority Rights Group. (2017). Minority Rights Group. Retrieved 21 February 2017, from

Moonieinda, A. (2011). The Karen people: Culture, faith and history. Culture). Online: Karen Buddhist Dhamma Dhutta Foundation.

Phinney, J. S., & Alipuria, L. L. (1987). Ethnic identity in order adolescents from four ethnic groups. In Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Baltimore. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 283 058).

Santasombat *, Y. (2004). Karen cultural capital and the political economy of symbolic power. Asian Ethnicity, 5(1), 105-120. doi:10.1080/1463136032000168925

Weng, S. & Netting, F. (2014). Culturally Responsive Strategies Used to Deliver Ethnic-Specific Services to Asian-Americans. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 95(4), 253-260. doi:10.1606/1044-3894.2014.95.32

Yeh, C. J., & Huang, K. (1996). The collectivistic nature of ethnic identity development among Asian-American college students. Adolescence, 31(123), 645-662.

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