As defined by Robert M. Sellers and colleagues in the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI), racial identity is the significance and qualitative meaning that individuals attribute to being black in their conceptualizations of self (Sellers, Smith, Shelton, et al. 1998). The significance component of racial identity is referred to as racial centrality, and the qualitative meaning of racial identity is referred to as racial ideology and racial regard. The MMRI outlines four ideologies that reflect African Americans’ views on what it means to be black: (1) a nationalist ideology; (2) an oppressed minority ideology; (3) an assimilationist ideology; and (4) a humanist ideology. Additionally, African Americans vary in their affective and evaluative judgments of their racial group (private regard) and in their beliefs about others’ affective and evaluative judgments of African Americans (public regard).
The Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity (MIBI) is a measure that assesses the dimensions of racial identity outlined by the MMRI (Sellers, Rowley, Chavous, et al. 1997). Participants indicate their agreement with various statements on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The MIBI is composed of seven subscales. The centrality scale consists of items measuring the extent to which being African American is central to the respondents’ definition of himself or herself (e.g., "Being black is important to my self-image"). The regard scale is composed of two subscales, private and public regard. The private regard subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents have positive feelings toward African Americans in general (e.g., "I feel good about black people"). The public regard subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents feel that other groups have positive feelings toward African Americans (e.g., "Overall, blacks are considered good by others"). The ideology scale of the MIBI has four subscales. The assimilation subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents emphasize the relationship between African Americans and mainstream America ("Blacks should try to work within the system to achieve their political and economic goals"). The humanist subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents emphasize the similarities among individuals of all races ("Blacks would be better off if they were more concerned with the problems facing all people rather than just focusing on black issues"). The minority subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents emphasize the similarities between African Americans and other minority groups ("The same forces which have led to the oppression of blacks have also led to the oppression of other groups"). Finally, the nationalist subscale consists of items measuring the extent to which respondents emphasize the uniqueness of being African American ("White people can never be trusted where blacks are concerned"). The factor structure and convergent validity have been established in samples of college students (Sellers, Chavous, and Cooke 1998), and all sub-scales of the MIBI have been shown to have adequate internal consistency in studies with adults (Rowley, Sellers, and Smith 1998; Sellers, Chavous, and Cooke 1998) and older adolescents (Chavous, Bernat, Schmeelk-Cone, et al. 2003).
The MIBI differs from other widely used measures of racial or ethnic identity in that it does not assess mechanisms for identity development. Jean S. Phinney’s 1992 model assesses the extent to which the individual has searched for information regarding their ethnic group and the extent to which he or she has committed to that identity. Thomas A. Parham and Janet E. Helms’s Racial Identity Attitude Scale (1981) measures individuals’ movement from problack, antiwhite beliefs to an achieved identity that includes tolerance for other groups and in-group pride. In contrast to these other models, the MMRI is primarily concerned with the significance and content of an individual’s identity at a specific point in time.
The MMRI has made significant contributions to research on African Americans. The MMRI and MIBI have been used in research regarding African American adults’ and adolescents’ experiences with discrimination (Sellers and Shelton 2003; Sellers, Caldwell, Schmeelk-Cone, et al. 2003), adolescents’ academic beliefs and achievement (Rowley 2000; Sellers, Chavous, and Cooke 1998), and family dynamics and substance abuse (Caldwell, Sellers, Bernat, et al. 2004). The MMRI provides a vehicle for understanding the diverse experiences of African Americans in the United States.