College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher Keys

Second Advisor

Christine Reyna

Third Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez


Underlying contemporary discussions of race and race relations in the United States is the concept of racial ideology. Racial ideology comprises the ways in which individuals conceptualize racial identity, race relations, and the practical and ideal roles race plays in our lives. Two dominant models of understanding racial ideologies have emerged: Colorblindness and multiculturalism. Colorblindness advocates a race neutral approach while multiculturalism affirms and values the diversity of racialized experience. Critics of colorblindness argue that inattention to the role race plays in individuals’ lives serves to propagate an unequal status quo, and can actually exacerbate racial inequality. Conversely, critics of multiculturalism argue that it emphasizes differences over similarity and contributes to racial divisions.

The current study provides an overview of racial ideology in the experience of Caucasian Americans. To this end it considered three key elements of racial ideology; 1) the factors which shape racial ideology endorsement, 2) the relationship between the colorblind and multicultural conceptualization of racial ideology, and 3) the impact of racial ideology on attributions of racism.

To this end 300 Caucasian participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete and online survey. The survey included measures demographic, psychological, experiential, and community variables. Additionally, participants were measured on their endorsement of multiculturalism and colorblindness using separate measures for each. Finally, participants completed a task in which they were presented with scenarios containing conflict between actors of different races. These scenarios were divided evenly into cases of blatant and ambiguous racism. Participants were asked to rate these scenarios based on the likelihood that racism played a part in the actors’ actions.

Regression analyses yielded several significant predictors of racial ideology endorsement. Political conservatism, high ethnic identification, and lack of interest in exploring other racial groups were predictive of high endorsement of colorblindness. Liberal political ideology, strong ethnic identification, and interest in exploring other ethnic groups predicted high endorsement of multiculturalism. These findings are largely consistent with the study’s hypotheses and the findings of previous research. The primacy of political ideology in predicting racial ideology is particularly interesting given the high visibility of the political divide on race playing out in the current election cycle.

Endorsement of multiculturalism and colorblindness were strongly negatively correlated. In order to better understand the relationship between these two conceptualizations of racial ideology, the composite items from the colorblindness and multiculturalism measures were entered into a factor analysis. The factor analysis yielded 5 factors; Institutional Discrimination, Unawareness of Racial Privilege, Blatant Racial Issues, Egalitarian Actions, and Cultural Sensitivity. While these factors largely broke along the lines of the existing measures, the blatant racial issues factor was evenly comprised of items from both measures. These findings lend some credence to the notion that racial ideology and colorblindness exist on opposing ends of the spectrum of racial ideology. On the other hand, the emergence of four distinct factors, two from each measure, indicates the measures also consider distinctly different dimensions of racial ideology.

The effect of racial ideology on attributions of racism was tested using two regressions and controlling for psychological, experiential, demographic, and community level variables. Endorsement of colorblindness was strongly predictive of lower attributions of racism in ambiguous cases. Multiculturalism was, on the other hand, predictive of higher attributions of racism in blatant cases of racism but unrelated to attributions of racism in ambiguous scenarios.

These findings, while consistent with previous research, conflict with the current cultural critiques of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism was associated with greater accuracy in identifying racism. There was no indication that individuals high in multiculturalism were predisposed to seeing racism in situations where there was no clear basis for such a conclusion. However, consistent with past critiques of colorblindness, endorsement of a race neutral world view was indicative of resistance to attributions of racism even in scenarios where the presence of racism was blatant.

SLP Collection