Colorblindness as Identity: Key Determinants, Relations to Ideology, and Implications for Attitudes about Race and Policy

Douglas Hartmann, Paul R. Croll, Ryan Larson, Joseph Gerteis, Alex Manning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Colorblindness is often conceptualized as a set of deeply held but unrecognized ideological tenets. However, we believe that colorblindness has also now become an explicit cultural discourse involving self-conscious claims and specific convictions. To illustrate this point - which has both conceptual and empirical implications - we introduce the notion of colorblindness as identity. We define this concept as subjectively meaningful, self-asserted identification with colorblindness. We use data from a nationally representative survey to explore the social determinants of colorblind identification and assess its relationship to both colorblind ideologies and standard attitudinal measures. We find that a relatively large percentage of Americans across racial lines identify as colorblind. Furthermore, such identification is connected to racial ideologies but not all tenets of colorblind racism. For white Americans, colorblind identification is associated with decreased perceptions of social distance, but not support for policies designed to ameliorate the effects of racial discrimination. We conclude that colorblind identification is a unique social phenomenon, connected to views on race but not always in the ways that existing research would predict. We also suggest directions for further exploration of the depth of colorblindness as an identity form and implications for theorizing colorblind discourse more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-888
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author received the following support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Data collection and research assistance for this paper were supported by funds from the National Science Foundation (grant numbers 1258926 and 1258933) and the Edelstein Family Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© Pacific Sociological Association.


  • colorblindness
  • culture
  • racial and ethnic identities
  • racial attitudes
  • racism
  • survey methods


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