A Portrait of Black Millennials' Understanding of Racial Dynamics in the 21st Century Open Access

Lee, Celeste Nichole (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/d217qq113?locale=en


In the 21st century, the dominant racial ideology suggests that we live in a colorblind, post-racial society in which most people do not see color or care about racial differences. Accordingly, this ideology suggests that racial egalitarianism exists in contemporary U.S. society. The ideals of colorblindness and post-racialism have gained great traction within the last decade, despite recent scholarship that calls into question the core beliefs of colorblind post-racial ideology and documentation of persistent racial inequality in nearly all aspects of American life. Currently, the U.S. presents a structural and ideological conundrum whereby race continues to matter in determining the life chances of ethno-racial group members despite dominant ideological assumptions that articulate the belief that race is irrelevant today. Prior research reveals that White millennials overwhelmingly embrace colorblind post-racial logic. Research on millennials of color, however, is virtually non-existent. This dissertation seeks to understand the ways in which groups of color make sense of and understand contemporary racial dynamics. Specifically, this project explores how Black millennials reconcile two competing realities: (1) an ideological reality dominated by colorblind/post-racial discourse and (2) a structural reality characterized by persistent racial inequality and disadvantage. Drawing on data from 61 in-depth interviews with Black college students from two historically white, public, state flagship universities --- one in the southern and one in the western regions of the U.S. ---this dissertation offers a reflection of the ideological frameworks that Black millennials espouse in an effort to make sense of racial dynamics in the 21st century. In stark contrast to existing data on White millennials, this research revealed that Black millennials draw upon colorblind post-racial ideology in very nuanced and contradictory ways. Nearly all of the Black millennials in this study reject the claim that the U.S. is a colorblind or post-racial society. Nonetheless, their understandings and explanations of racial inequality often draw upon colorblind post-racial ideological frameworks. Ultimately, Black millennials present conflicting understandings of racial dynamics that reflect ideological commitments to both race consciousness and colorblind post-racialism. These data revealed minimal regional difference in Black millennials' likelihood of investing in race conscious or colorblind post-racial ideologies. Early childhood and adolescence experiences with racial socialization, however, may have some influence on Black millennials' commitment to race-conscious ideological frameworks.

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