College - Author 1

College of Liberal Arts

Department - Author 1

Communication Studies Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BA in Communication Studies



Primary Advisor

Leslie Nelson, College of Liberal Arts, Communication Studies Department


Guided by Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw, 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2017), the current study explored how Black adults made sense of their own racial identity through family messaging about racism and what it means to be a Black person in America, as well as how participant’s experiences with racism counter the dominant narrative that the U.S. is a “post-racial” society. We conducted retrospective interviews with 19 self-identifying Black adults. In our first research question, three primary themes emerged from participants’ recollections of conversations with parents about what it means to Black in the U.S.: (1) Black people are considered “others” in society, (2) being treated unfairly is inevitable as a Black person, and (3) Black people have to be more careful than white people. Our second research question revealed four primary themes that counter the dominant narrative of U.S. post-racialism: (1) being physically or verbally attacked because of their skin color, (2) getting followed around in stores by employees or owners, (3) unjust interactions with the police, and (4) their hair being a spectacle to white folx. Findings exhibit how Black adults make sense of their racial identity through both family messaging about and real-life experiences with racism. The current study offers unique theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, findings highlight the connection between racial socialization, critical incidents, and counter-narratives in Black families and personal development. Practically, findings highlight ways professions can increase awareness and understanding of Black folx’ experiences of racial identity development in family contexts, as well as considering the mental and physical traumas Black adults may possess from experiencing racism. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.