The process by which people develop their racial or ethnic identity varies from race to race; black American, biracial, and white. According to William E. Cross Jr. (1971), a leading theorist and researcher in the field of ethnic identity development, specifically Black identity development, suggested a five-stage theory of acquisition of Black identification; (1) pre-encounter, (2) encounter, (3) immersion/emersion, (4) internalization, and (5) internalization-commitment. At pre-encounter stage, Black people acquire many beliefs and values of the dominant White culture, including the notion that “white is right” and “black is wrong” then they are forced by event (usually series of events) to acknowledge the impact of racism in one’s life and the reality that one cannot truly be white. The third stage, immersion-emersion, Black people actively seek out opportunities to explore aspects of their own history and culture with support of others who share the same background. This is the result of desire to surround themselves with symbols of their racial identity. Black people are likely to secure their own sense of racial or ethnic identity at the forth stage, internalization. At last, black Americans find ways to translate their personal sense of blackness into a plan of action or a general sense of commitment to concerns of Blacks as a group, which is sustained over time (Cross, 1971).
On the other hand, White people establish their racial or ethnic identity through different process. Helm (1990) argued White racial identity model, which contains six stages; (1) contact, (2) disintegration, (3) reintegration, (4) pseudo-independence, (5) immersion/emersion, and (6) autonomy. In the first stage of contact, there is no conscious demonstration of racism since White people recognize racial difference but do not find it salient may feel that racism is propagated by the discussion and acknowledgement of race as an issue. The next stage is disintegration, new experience challenges their prior conception of the world and White people are often plagued by feelings of guilt and shame. These negative emotions can be modified when White people determine to channel them in a positive way. However, White people may move into the next stage, reintegration, when those emotions continue to dominate.