#ATTI80: Kim

So, I decided to deconstruct Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Theory. For several reasons, I debated on whether to do this one. But ultimately I did and in a way it was nice to be reassured of my own personal journey.

So as always some history. Jean Kim received her Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She has more than 35 years of service to Student Affairs serving throughout the UMass system as well as Stanford University, Western New England College, and University of Colorado at Boulder to name a few. Kim’s theory evolved from a study on the experiences of Japanese American women and has over the years focused her work in multicultural workforce management, cross cultural communication, leadership and organizational climate assessment.

Now, onto to the Asian American Identity Development Model!


Kim first begins her theory with 3 Assumptions:

  1. That the Asian American Identity and White Racism are not mutually exclusive
  2. That Asian Americans must unlearn and push back on negative messages and stereotypes.
  3. That Asian Americans must grapple with identity crisis and turn negative experiences into constructive ones.

On those three assumptions, Kim establishes her 5 Stages:

  1. Ethnic Awareness: (Drawing: Being Asian in a white lens or an Asian lens) Where individuals view their identity through their familial environments. Therefore they may establish their identity through an Asian lens or a white/non-Asian lens. Those who live in predominately Asian communities tend to develop more positive concepts of their ethnicity. Subsequently those who live in predominately white communities tend to have negative, neutral or confused concepts of their ethnicity.
  2. White Identification: (Drawing: Korean character for self and the character being crossed out) This occurs when more external factors and educational environments begin to influence the concept of the identity. For those who grew up in predominately Asian communities, seem to exhibit a passive conception of whiteness. For those who grew up in predominately white communities take a more active white identification which leads to rejecting their Asian identity or “fight” against it.
  3. Awakening To Social Political Consciousness: (Drawing: Korean character for Self superseding “white”) At this stage, Asian Americans begin to be aware of their ethnicity and that their negative perspectives and experiences are due to a racist social structure.
  4. Redirection To Asian American Consciousness: (Drawing: South Korean flag) As Asian Americans come into awareness of their ethnicity they being to take pride in their identity and through the support of their support systems explore and embrace the Asian culture and heritage.
  5. Incorporation: (Drawing: South Korean flag made of identity labels) At this stage, Asian Americans incorporate other identities they hold all the while holding firm to their newly reestablished Asian American identity.

This theory is EXTREMELY applicable to my life. As an adopted South Korean I was raised in predominately white communities. Therefore for most of my life I’ve fought my “Asianess”. I’ve hated being Asian. I’ve spent hours wishing I was the quintessential blonde hair, blue-eyed “Ken doll”. But over time I’ve awakened to my ethnicity and have come to really embrace my identity and recognize my Asian identity with pride. I’ve come to understand that we do live in a racist society; that Asians are not well represented; that there are millions of microaggressions and processes established against the Asian community; and that roles models are few and far between. Over time I’ve come to realize that I need to step up and become a role model for other Asian Americans and to help them through the racist social structure that has been established and to take pride in their ethnicity.

To help show my growing pride, I held firm to my South Korean heritage, using only the colors of the South Korean Flag, Korean characters and incorporating different components of the South Korean flag into my graphics.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter thirsteen: Social identity: concepts and overview. Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp. 265-266). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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