The heterogeneity of Asian Americans' racial experiences : how relevant is Helms's people of color racial identity attitudes scale?
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This study tested the construct validity of the People of Color Racal Identity Attitudes Scale (PCRIAS) for Asian Americans using a mixed methods inquiry. The study produced mixed results with regard to the construct validity of the PCRIAS; Conformity and Immersion-Emersion statuses were somewhat corroborated by the qualitative data and provide tentative construct validity for these statuses of Helms’s model. Though statistically insignificant, results for the Internalization status,purportedly the most mature and developed of all racial identity statuses, were opposite to what racial identity theory would predict. Although some dimensions of the PCRIAS may be meaningful for Asian Americans, findings cast doubt upon the overall applicability of PCRIAS scale for Asian Americans. Results draw attention to the importance of race-specific experiences for Asian Americans and highlight the within-group heterogeneity of Asian Americans’ racial experiences. Qualitative analysis yielded critical theoretical points that illuminate how the historical, political, and economic context of Asian Americans has led to a multitude of options for the management of racial stimuli. Emergent themes revealed that Asian Americans have discursive options—factors such as the model minority myth and recourse to ethnic identity—that may offer possible detours around the recognition of racism or the incorporation of race into their sense of identity. These detours, however, may not necessarily be experienced as maladaptive or ego-dystonic. Nonetheless, one of the most prevalent emergent themes involved an endorsement of subjective distress caused by some racial experience, highlighting the clinical significance of Asian Americans’ racial identity and their management of racial stimuli. Emergent themes also revealed that the salience of race is externally imposed upon Asian Americans through the experiences of being (mis)recognized as a racial other. Limitations of the current study are discussed and suggestions for future research are explored.