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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Understanding Whites' colorblind racial attitudes: The role of intergroup anxiety and psychological flexibility
by Hanus, Alexa E., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2014, 133; 3642089
Abstract (Summary)

Colorblind racial attitudes are described as the denial or minimization of race and racism (Neville et al., 2000), which may silence accounts of racial discrimination and lead White Americans to ignore their racial privileges, ultimately supporting and reproducing racial inequality in the US (Bonilla-Silva, 2001). Alarmingly, colorblind attitudes are the dominant racial ideology among White Americans (Lewis, 2004), and inform the way White adults talk to their children about race (Schofeild, 2007). The current study explored the development and maintenance of Whites’ colorblind attitudes, using ideas from Stephan and Stephan’s (1985) theory of intergroup anxiety, Helm’s (1995) theory of White racial identity, and concepts underlying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; Hayes et al., 2006). Informed by these theories, the study examined the roles of interracial anxiety and psychological flexibility in Whites’ colorblind racial attitudes.

Participants were 323 White American adults, consisting mostly of females from the Midwest. The study hypothesized that Whites’ level of interracial anxiety with Blacks would predict their level of colorblind racial attitudes. The study also hypothesized that Whites’ level of psychological flexibility, or their ability to remain present with unpleasant experiences without defense, would moderate the relationship between interracial anxiety and colorblind racial attitudes.

Results indicated that Whites’ interracial anxiety with Blacks did not significantly predict their colorblind racial attitudes, and that psychological flexibility did not moderate the relationship between interracial anxiety and colorblind attitudes. Results did reveal that psychological flexibility was related to colorblind attitudes, indicating that Whites who reported lower levels of flexibility also reported higher levels of colorblind racial attitudes.

Results support the notion that psychological flexibility may play an important role in Whites’ racial attitudes. Specifically, White Americans with high levels of psychological flexibility may be less likely to engage in avoidance or denial when they experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings related to race, allowing them to actively process and integrate racial information, ultimately leading to increased racial awareness. Findings suggest that research and theory on racial attitudes should consider incorporating psychological flexibility in the future, and that diversity interventions focused on increasing psychological flexibility may be beneficial for promoting attitude change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jome, LaRae M.
Commitee: Ellis, Michael V., Prelow, Hazel M.
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Counseling Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 76/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Multicultural Education, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Colorblind, Intergroup anxiety, Multicultural, Psychological flexibility, Racial attitudes, Whites
Publication Number: 3642089
ISBN: 978-1-321-28743-1
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