Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Sandra Zakowski, PhD

Second Advisor

Leah Horvath, PhD

Third Advisor

Brad Olson, PhD


There has been a steady increase in research and focus on defining and understanding racism and the role it plays in the ongoing inequality and inequity between individuals of White descent and individuals who are Black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). However, little research has focused on what changes with racial beliefs when individuals immigrate between various countries where racism, discrimination, and racial beliefs may appear differently. Our objective was to increase our understanding of how the acculturation process may impact or change racial beliefs over time. Our research sought participants of Polish descent in the Chicagoland area and our data were analyzed through the interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) lens. Our analysis uncovered three general experiential themes about the acculturation of racial beliefs which were: (a) A lack of exposure to diversity and the BIPOC community in Poland created a perceived lack of need to discuss or learn about race, racism, and racial beliefs in a meaningful way; (b) Idealization of what sort of life and opportunities were available in the United States as well as misperceptions of interracial relationships in America contributed to the motivation to move here; and (c) Exposure to United States culture as it relates to race and racial beliefs has impacted and contributed to a sense of incongruence between the participants’ views and beliefs of themselves as White individuals, of the Polish and United States culture, and beliefs about other races. Additionally, a general lack of knowledge related to race, racism, and racial beliefs and language barriers may negatively impact Polish immigrants and their abilities to form accurate and healthy beliefs about the BIPOC community. Through understanding the acculturation of racial beliefs, we may better understand the role incoming immigrants play in maintaining systematic racial beliefs.