What makes William Cross Yellow Meme?

The hallmark of the Yellow meme is the ability to understand that people naturally progress in life in stages and meet people in their current stage. Dr. Cross developed an ethnic development hierarchy that is very similar to Spiral Dynamics. Even though his scope focused on African-Americans, the framework has been used to understand many identities better. As his work developed, he moved from the position that some stages are pathological to the belief there are healthy versions of all stages. He also discusses regression in the face of adversity.

Similarities between Spiral Dynamics and Nigrescence

  1. People progress through stages
  2. Stages can not be skipped
  3. People can ascend or descend
  4. There are healthy versions of each stage

Frequently, Integralists view race as an arbitrary social construct. Dr. Cross doesn’t talk about race, which is the idea that people from the same area are genetically linked, and these links create similarities in ability and personality. He talks about ethnicity, which is the idea that people from a similar lineage have similar experiences and position in society. Ethnicity is something that can be verified and explains how changing environment can have a positive effect on a person life. By concentrating on ethnicity, he can talk about the unique experience of being black without delving into racist ideas of superiority.

Example of this is his thoughts on criminality in the black community. Dr. Cross first explains the similarity in black gangs and gangs of other oppressed groups. Before the New Deal, Italians and Jews formed gangs and other criminal organizations. When mainstream America prevents a group from operating in the economy, the oppressed group create an underground economy. Therefore, the solution is to find ways to reduce discrimination in the marketplace.

Another example of Dr. Cross’s Integral view of problems in the black community is his view of the disparity in education. He begins the conservation by talking about the greatest achievement in American education, the teaching of former slaves. After the Civil War, former slaves created a network of Sabbath schools. The system was nationwide two years after slavery. By 1900 illiteracy in the blacks under 40-year-old was non-existent according to the University of Illinois. Dr. Cross said if blacks had been allowed to explore their natural curiosity, we could have been just as successful as any other ethnic group.

Even though Dr. Cross doesn’t use Wilber’s four-quadrant terminology, he has a four-quadrant view of social problems and solutions. He doesn’t assume blacks are destined to become super-predators because of culture or genetics. He also doesn’t blame everything on slavery or evil whites. He looks at all the factors of a problem for a better understanding. His better understanding leads to advocating for practical solutions and not merely eternal blaming.

How does William Cross not find the Yellow meme mold?

He is by no means an individualist or preferential to independent study. He said in his talk on collaboration that his last book Shades of Black(1991) would be his last solo work. Ideology is something that infects everyone’s decision making. The only way to catch and understand one’s blind spots is to work with those that do not agree with you.

Dr. Cross criticizes mainstream psychology for being too individualistic. The focus is on attaining personal happiness which is contingent on building proper bonds with parents, life partner, and children according to Dr. Cross. Since there are few opportunities to develop these bonds for personal happiness most will not find it. It is more important to build and aid one’s community. Most people will have more salience with people of the same ethnicity because they share the experience. By wrestling with the issues surrounding a particular identity one can contribute to society and help create more well-adjusted people. Personal happiness could not affect the surrounding community or building a better world.

The other way that Nigrescence is different from Spiral Dynamics in that there is no oscillation between collaborative stages and individualistic stages. Ethnic Identity Development focuses on how a person relates to others in his ethnicity, the stages are all collectivist.

The world nor black America are in crisis or on the verge of collapse, according to Dr. Cross. He made clear that black people have lived and thrived for hundreds of years before psychology or ethnic development theory. He approached his work with the attitude that he can learn as much from black people as he can teach. This perspective allowed him to value input from people at all education levels and socio-economic backgrounds. Traditionally, Yellow meme individuals want lean information from sources they feel are “in the know.”

The ways Dr. Cross diverges from the Yellow meme show his growth and a healthy understanding of people. The areas in which he would not fit the Yellow meme mold are areas in which Yellow is anti-social. Anti-social meaning unhealthy individualistic.

What can’t be determined?

One can not determine if he has any fear or shadow controlling his decisions. To know his shadow, one would have to work with Dr. Cross over an extended period. However, one can assume that Dr. Cross’s success in founding the field of African American Studies shows he more than likely isn’t suffering from serious shadow issues.


  1. How former slaves established schools and educated their population after the Civil War by Chamberlain https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/198842
  2. Pi Lamda Phi About page https://www.pilambdaphi.org/about/
  3. Dr. William Cross Jr. Exemplifies Inclusive Excellence by J. Davies http://www.morgridge.du.edu
  4. William Cross http://www.gc.cuny.edu
  5. William Cross http://www.psychology.iresearchnet.com
  6. “Validating the Cross Racial Identity Scale” By Vandiver, Worrel, Fhagen-Smith, and Cross in Journal of Counseling Psychology
  7. “The Psychology of Nigrescence” by Cross in Handbook of Psychology
  8. Cross, William E. (1991) Shades of Black; Diversity in African-American Identity Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press
  9. “Cross’s Nigrescence Model: From Scale to Theory” in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development
  10. “William. E. Cross, Jr. PhD Awarded 2014 APA Presidential Citation on http://www.apa.org