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Posted 02.13.06

'Colorblind Attitudes' Predict Negative Views on Affirmative Action, MU Researcher Finds

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Some people argue that affirmative action is necessary to remedy past injustices directed toward minority populations. Others argue that everyone, regardless of race, should be treated equally and that race does not and should not matter in society. Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has found that people who hold the latter viewpoint, also known as a "colorblind attitude," are more likely to have unfavorable attitudes toward affirmative action than those who hold racist attitudes.

Kevin CokleyKevin Cokley, associate professor of educational, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education and associate professor of black studies, found that colorblind attitudes are more accurate than racist attitudes in predicting someone's position on affirmative action. Previous research has focused on predicting affirmative action attitudes based on prejudice and modern racist ideals, such as the notion that discrimination is a thing of the past and that minorities are using unfair tactics, such as affirmative action, to gain access to institutions and professions where they are not wanted.

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"It is important to point out that conceptually, color-blind attitudes are seen as a consequence of racism," said Cokley, who co-authored the study with Germine Awad, a Fellow in the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership at St. Mary's College. "Therefore, colorblind attitudes are related to, but distinct, from prejudice. A colorblind approach fails to recognize that discriminatory attitudes still persist, even in individuals who deny having prejudiced attitudes."

Awad and Cokley surveyed 375 people aged 17 to 54 and found that white females are less likely to hold modern racist attitudes than white men. Black Americans were found to display more favorable attitudes toward affirmative action and less colorblind and modern racist attitudes than whites. Also, sex differences were a factor in determining affirmative action viewpoints for whites, but not for blacks. White women were more likely to have a favorable view of affirmative action than white men.

"As affirmative action programs come under attack, it is imperative to understand reasons why individuals differ in their endorsement of affirmative action," Cokley said.

Awad and Cokley's study recently was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.



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