Color Blind Racism: Definition, Theory & Examples

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  • 0:03 Racism
  • 0:30 Colorblind Racism
  • 1:09 History & Theory
  • 1:59 Sociological Frames
  • 3:11 Examples
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about a theory known as colorblind racism, which resists seeing racism as a continuing problem or one that is deeply rooted in our society. Colorblindness prevents us from seeing how much racial inequality remains.


Racism is likely a familiar term to most of us. It is a belief that some racial groups are superior to others, for example more intelligent and moral. Several major events, including the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the legal end of segregation in schools and public places led many to believe that overt racism simply isn't something society should tolerate. Yet racial inequality persists.

Colorblind Racism

Social changes did not eliminate racism and racial inequality, even if they made important progress. But, if racism is no longer overt in many situations yet still exists, what should we call it? One concept which scholars call colorblind racism, is the belief that racism is no longer a problem and that we all have equal opportunities. People who subscribe to colorblind explanations claim they do not see the color of people's skin and believe everyone to be equal. Colorblindness prevents us from seeing the historical causes of racial inequality and how racial inequality persists in our society. Let's talk a bit more about this idea.

History & Theory

Colorblind racism as a theory became more prominent in the 1960s and 1970s as racism continued to be based on beliefs about biological inferiority. However, race is not biologically based; in fact, there are far more differences within racial groups than between them. Proponents of the colorblind racism theory propose that the ideology resulted from society's increasingly complex arguments about race. Instead of relying on a simple biological argument, people started to suggest that, for example, the culture of certain minority groups was deficient, which explain their unequal access to opportunities like good jobs and schools. Other suggestions sited segregation as simply a matter of preference: we just like to live near people like us. These types of arguments often replaced more overt claims that some people are simply born inferior to other people.

Sociological Frames

In sociology, one of the most important scholars of race is Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, who has written extensively on the issue. His four frames of colorblind racism provide explanations for how this form of racism works:

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