I Am But I Do Not See: Color-Blind Racial Ideology in College Millennials
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Research suggests that in the midst of pervasive claims of a post-racial society, it is mostly whites who ascribe to color-blind ideology, while people of color still point to the significance of race. However, we know relatively little about the views of young adults, who have largely come of age during the time of the U.S.’ first black-identifying president. Building upon research done by Bonilla-Silva (2003), and drawing upon from literature on racial ideology and racial identity, my research primarily addresses the following question: In what ways do the racial identities of Millennials impact their utilization or rejection of a color-blind racial ideology? To answer my research question, I conducted a study involving 70 racially diverse college students from four schools in the Washington, D.C. area. Students kept weekly journals about race in their lives for a period of time between 3-12 weeks (n = 65), and I interviewed about half individually following the journaling period (n = 35), with questions focusing on racial identity and racial attitudes. My findings suggest that white college Millennials still utilize the frames and styles of color-blind racism in largely the same ways as the individuals in Bonilla-Silva’s work. Millennials of color use color-blind racism, but typically in more nuanced and even contradictory ways. Millennials of color across all races use color-blindness at similar rates, although some differences emerged across ethnicity. Additional emergent themes include that whites often demonstrate a disconnect between their beliefs about living a diverse life and their actual lives, experience white guilt, and are impacted in complex ways by colorblindness. People of color live more diverse lives than their white peers, believe that race and discrimination are still significant factors in their lives, and may use colorblindness as a coping mechanism. My research brings people of color into conversations about colorblindness in ways that have not been done before. Further, it has implications for understanding racial ideology within the emerging tri-racial system in the U.S., suggesting that the intersection of racial identity and racial ideology within this emerging system may be just as complex as identification itself in the system.