What is it about?

What is the purpose of acculturation for people of color within the context of White supremacist ideology wherein Whiteness is normalized and made invisible? In this article, the authors argue that people of color learn explicitly via racism, microaggressions, and racial trauma about their racial positionality within White spaces. Many people of color learn to accommodate White people’s needs, status, and emotions, such as avoiding racial discourse to minimize White fragility and distress. Acculturation toward whiteness allows the person of color to live in proximity to White people because the person of color has seemingly become unthreatening and racially innocuous. The authors recognize the acculturative process as a form of racial trauma from living within White supremacist spaces and culture. The authors recommend research and clinical practices that connect between ideology, racism, microaggressions to create psychological healing.

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Why is it important?

Current acculturation theories and research focus on new immigrants and overlook the ideological underpinnings of White supremacy and the asymmetric power relationships that propel this process for people of color. In this article, the authors underscore the White supremacist historical and ideological roots within American theories and research on acculturation and the psychological consequences that they have reaped (and continue to reap) on people of color. In this theoretical synthesis, the authors recognize the acculturative process as a form of racial trauma from living within White supremacist spaces and culture rather than as an innocuous process through which anyone may engage by choice.


Composing this article alongside my co-author illuminated the importance of cross-disciplinary perspectives in exposing the everydayness of white supremacist ideology within our racial, historical, social, and psychological contexts. We ask that researchers and practitioners reading this theoretical synthesis assume an onto-epistemological stance that recognizes the pervasiveness and normal-ness of White supremacy and its underpinning function in structural racism.

William Liu
University System of Maryland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Racial trauma, microaggressions, and becoming racially innocuous: The role of acculturation and White supremacist ideology., American Psychologist, January 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/amp0000368.
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