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Date of Award

5-2011

Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Sociology

First Advisor

Gerald M. Platt

Second Advisor

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

Third Advisor

John Bracey

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Ethnic Studies | Higher Education

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the role of familial racial socialization and formal education in black college students' racial ideologies. I argue that the ascendance of claims that America has become a colorblind, post-racial society necessitates a scholarly consideration of the sources that promote and sustain these empirically unsubstantiated notions. The mass media, through its coverage of highly visible examples of successful people of color, accomplishes some of this work. However, I contend that familial racial socialization and the high school U.S. history course, through its coverage of African American history, are two additional sources of racial messages that assist in promoting colorblindness and post-racialism. While researchers have identified parents as an important source of racial socialization, my interviews revealed that other family members, such as grandparents, siblings, and aunts, also played a significant role in students' racial socialization. Further, while students' racial socialization existed along a continuum of acknowledgment of contemporary racial oppression, the substance of what their parents and family members conveyed to them was generally of one of two types, critical or colorblind. Approximately half of the students in my sample received colorblind racial socialization, an important finding that contrasts with much of the literature on racial socialization. Additionally, high school U.S. history, through its coverage of African American history, interacted with students' familial racial socialization to help shape their racial ideologies beyond high school. Once these students matriculated at college they did not necessarily reproduce the racial ideologies into which they were socialized. Rather, depending on the nature of their racial socialization from family and the high school U.S. history course, I found that students were more or less likely to diverge ideologically from the racial interpretive framework developed prior to and during high school. The primary factor that motivated this process was whether students chose to take college coursework that exposed them to more critical interpretations of race and racism. A secondary factor was the substance of the racial ideologies of those in their peer group.

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