Color-Blind and Color-Visible Identity Among American Whites

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17 Scopus citations


Many signs point to the contemporary period as a color-blind era, one in which Whites purport to be unaware of race in social or political life. At the same time, White ethnic and racial identity continues to be measured in official government statistics such as the decennial U.S. Census and the annual American Community Survey (ACS). To adjudicate between the two, the ACS ancestry question response can be used not just as a means to measure the actual size of national origin populations but can also be a way to understand what it means to be “White” in an era of color blindness and optional ethnicity. White identities can provide the mechanisms by which color-blind ideologies are understood and expressed. Whites whose primary identity is “American” will understand race in a different way than a White respondent who identifies with a European ethnicity—yet each identity can lead to the same color-blind beliefs. To assess the appeal of different varieties of White identity, the responses of 16,632 non-Hispanic Whites to the ancestry question on the 2011 ACS are used. Based on these data, one can discern four primary types of White identity prevalent in the United States today: “White” (6%), “American” (10%), “ethnic” (62%), and “none” (12%). Each identity is most appealing to a different segment of the population—for example, older, urban Whites are most likely to claim an ethnic identity, while younger Whites living in rural areas with larger Hispanic populations are most likely to claim simply that their ethnic ancestry is “White.” Each identity also suggests a different pathway to color blindness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1452-1473
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Whiteness
  • color blindness
  • identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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