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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ethnic identity is subject of Dr. David Oxendine’s book

Dr. David B. Oxendine, a professor in the School of Education at UNC Pembroke has written a book titled “Perceived Fairness of an Ethnic Validation Procedure: Implications for Lumbee Federal Recognition.”

David OxendinePublished by VDM, an international publisher headquartered in Europe, the book details Dr. Oxendine’s research on how individuals perceive their ethnic identity and contrasts that with how the U.S. government regulates American Indian identity.  The research was part of the scholar’s doctorial dissertation in psychology.

 “Procedures are used today in all areas of life including business, education and politics to determine a group’s ethnicity,” Dr. Oxendine said. “American Indians are the only ethnic group that must petition to the United States government to validate legally their ethnicity.”

The study of more than 120 individuals viewed how white Americans view their ethnicity in different settings. According to Dr. Oxendine, individuals that identify themselves as “white” generally do not consider themselves racial or ethnic beings.

“So what if, based on their racial or ethnic identity, their patriotism or Americanism was questioned?” Oxendine asks. “This was conducted in a post 9/11 environment when ethnicity became a national issue.”

The study was designed loosely on the “original 22” concept used with American Indians in Robeson County in the 1930s. At the time, government “scientists” stated they could determine the degree of “Indianness” based on specific anatomical measurements including skull measurements.

Book Cover

Book Cover

Black Line

“In this study, we did the same thing with some variations,” Dr. Oxendine said. “As expected, a statistically significant result determined these procedures were unfair.

“Although a significant outcome was found for unfairness, there was also a gender difference on the degree which males and females perceived these procedures as unfair with females perceiving the procedure with greater levels of unfairness than males,” he said.

This result follows Carol Gilligan’s research on gender differences with levels of moral development, Dr. Oxendine said. Gilligan posited that females operate from an “ethic of care” which differs from males. In other words, there is a gender difference concerning views of justice.

“The data suggest that both males and females perceive procedures designed to determine one’s ethnic group membership as unfair,” Dr. Oxendine continued. “Therefore, do these results suggest that procedures such as the Federal Acknowledgement Program in the Bureau of Indian Affairs for American Indians as unfair?

“If so, then perhaps procedures that attempt to “validate” an ethnic group’s “ethnicity” may itself need to be reevaluated for fairness and appropriateness,” he concluded.

Dr. Oxendine said the study produced a tremendous amount of data for further correction.  He said that although the study is academic in nature, its conclusions are valuable in the ongoing federal recognition of Lumbee and other American Indians.

Using some of the same methodology, the scholar is laying groundwork for another study of views on racial issues.

“I’m looking at how ethnically diverse universities promote ethnically diverse attitudes and beliefs among students,” Dr. Oxendine said. “The preliminary results are interesting.

A Pembroke native, Dr. David Oxendine received a Ph.D. in psychology from NC State University and joined UNCP’s School of Education faculty in 2005. A theatre major as an undergraduate, he has directed the local outdoor drama “Strike at the Wind!” for 15 years.

“Perceived Fairness of an Ethnic Validation Procedure: Implications for Lumbee Federal Recognition” is available at the UNCP Bookstore or at online booksellers. To contact the author, please call 910.521.6324 or email david.oxendine@uncp.edu.

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