There is a new study by psychology researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Louisville that maintains that those people who maintain a “color-blind” racial philosophy are actually fostering racism. There is a growing movement from elementary schools to colleges that it is not enough to be non-racist. You must be anti-racist. A collateral position is that color blindness allows white people to evade racism or racial justice questions. The question is whether the study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology will be used to support universities requiring affirmative anti-racism statements and other direct responses from faculty and students.
Researchers Jacqueline Yi, Helen Neville, Nathan Todd and Yara Mekawi refer to “color-blindness” as either “color evasion or power evasion.” They maintain that “colorblind racial ideology (CBRI) provide information on barriers to naming the problem of structural racism against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) as a source of racial inequities in society.” The study is dismissive of the view that color blindness is anything other than conscious evasion, stating that it is intentional for many white people: “conceptually, color evasion or denial of race and racial categorization is an intentional strategy some White people adopt in interpersonal relationships to appear nonbiased and ultimately to promote greater racial harmony.”
In an interview, Lead researcher Jacqueline Yi asserted that
“The denial of structural racism appears to be a big barrier to racial equity because it allows for more victim-blaming explanations of systemic inequality. The more that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals are blamed for racial disparities, the less likely it is for white people and institutions to take responsibility for the continued effects of systemic racism.”
The researchers argue that color blindness ignores race to “reduce prejudice and possible tension or focusing on human similarity rather than differences linked to racial group membership,” while the latter is the “denial [or] minimization” of structural racism.
If the study is accepted, the question is how such findings translate to school policies on the training and expectations for faculty and students. The study states “[o]ur meta-analysis established that CBRI, specifically power evasion, is associated with greater prejudice against Black people, thus providing evidence against the idea that CBRI is a way to ‘get past’ racism.”
The study specifically recommends changes in light of the findings that include:
• Create opportunities for CP students and faculty to support organizations in naming the role of LIs in their policies
• Change the racial makeup of institutions and CP programs by increasing representation of Black folx
• Train CP students to challenge the racial status quo and engage in structural analysis
• Incorporate the role of structural racism and anti-Blackness in mental health diagnosis and treatment
into CP curriculum
• Use multicultural, SJ, and anti-Black frameworks
in CP supervision models
• Educate policymakers in helping professions on the role of CBRI in perpetuating anti-Blackness and systemic racism (e.g., licensing boards, funding agencies)
The expectation is that this study will receive broad application as universities address diversity and anti-racism priorities.