Around the Columns
Major research in minority identity
Undergraduate researcher Cameron Williams explores the differences among middle-class African-American males from across the U.S. Photo by Nicholas Benner
By the time Cameron Williams was 14 years old, he had lived in Kentucky, Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Germany. That’s the life of a military family, which Williams learned as his father spent 20 years in the U.S. Army.
During those moves, Williams began to notice variations in identity, especially among African-American males. He became interested in issues relating to race, identity and inequalities, and he is now studying those subjects as an undergraduate researcher at Mizzou. His work looks at how middle-class African-American men form their identities.
“This topic can be profound and difficult to engage in dialogue about,” says Williams, a senior sociology major. “I wanted to explore how men navigate through life and construct their identity being African-American and middle-class.
“I’ve learned that these men face certain stereotypes because of their status, and they deal with challenges to their identity,” he says. “These men encounter difficult realities on a daily basis because of their middle-class status.”
His research topic is unusual. “Research on middle-class African-Americans receives significantly less attention than other groups in sociological studies,” he says. “Studies of African-American men tend to focus on the inner-city or deviant aspects of their life. While these experiences are important, they cannot be applied to all African-American men in the inner city or to those from other economic levels.”
Williams joined the McNair Scholars program at MU and works with Wayne Brekhus, associate professor of sociology, who studies identity and culture.
After graduating in May 2012, Williams plans to continue sociological research on this topic in graduate school.
I believe continuing this research is important so a more balanced perspective of the African-American male experience in America is known,” Williams says.