College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Ronald E. Chennault

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Kuzmic

Third Advisor

Darrick Tovar- Murray

Abstract

Since the end of the Civil Rights era, a new paradigm has emerged for understanding race and racism in American society. This neoliberal hegemonic discourse argues that systemic racism ended with the abolishment of formal, juridical racism and that any continued investment in race is both unnecessary and deeply problematic. Critical race theorists have named this framework color- blind racism. In recent years, color-blind racist discourse has been repackaged under a "post-race" label and the election of America's first non-White president has only served to bolster notions that America might have somehow transcended race.

For college students, the undergraduate years are often a time of great intellectual, emotional, and spiritual upheaval and this instability makes college a prime site for examining individuals' meaning-making and identity formation processes. Students of color are no exception to this overall phenomenon and the literature on racial identity development speaks to the dramatic changes in self-concept that individuals of color often experience while attending college. One group of students of color, Asian American college students, are deeply under-studied and there is little scholarly writing on Asian American college students' racial identity development process.

This dissertation is a qualitative study of the effects of color-blind racism on the racial identity meaning-making of Asian American college freshmen. Using a narrative inquiry methodology, the author conducted lengthy in-person interviews with nine participants. The emergent themes from the study indicate that the participants' racial meaning-making process was heavily laden with elements of the ethnicity paradigm of race, color-blind racist tropes, and Asian American racial tropes. The study results suggest that these participants' hold little in the way of racial identity consciousness, as Asian Americans, and that their heavy investment in ethnic identity works to support a color-blind racial frame. Furthermore, elements of color-blind racism and Asian American racial formation appear to interlock in unique ways to produce complicity with the logic of color-blind racism and support for key elements of White racial hegemony. Further research is needed on the effects of color-blind racism on the identity development of college students broadly, and on Asian American students specifically.

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