Beyond Conflict and Competition: How Color-Blind Ideology Affects African Americans’ and Latinos’ Understanding of Their Relationships


  • Chrisshonna Grant Nieva
  • and Laura Pulido
  • with Nathan J. Sessoms



This exploration of the attitudes of Latinas/os and African Americans toward each other in the Los Angeles area finds a clear pattern of respondents invoking color-blind ideology in their discussions of members of the other group. Color-blind racism is a racial ideology that denies the existence of racism by emphasizing that we are all the same. In essence, color-blind racism does not “see” racism because of its supposed commitment to look beyond race. Most of what we know about color-blind racism has been developed within the context of a Black/white paradigm. While this makes sense given that the national racial narrative of the United States has been anchored along a Black/white binary, it is also clear that we need to expand the context, given the country’s rapidly changing demographics. Thus the question becomes this: To what extent have people of color adopted color-blind ideology—especially in relation to one another? Given that color blindness is a key part of the national racial formation, one would expect it to have some presence among people of color, but how exactly does it function? Does it do the same “work” that white color blindness performs with regard to Black people? This article reveals how color-blind racism works among African Americans and Latinas/os in Los Angeles. Specifically, it focuses on how race relations between Black and Latina/o Angelenos are described by both groups. It asks how Latinas/os and African Americans have adopted, refuted, and negotiated mainstream ideologies of color-blind discourse in their understanding of interethnic relations. The data in this article show clearly that people of color are maintaining white supremacy through their inability to speak its name and the lack of historical knowledge among Blacks and Latinos about each other. A lack of knowledge about how different groups have been exploited and marginalized throughout history and into the contemporary period works in tandem with the notion that we live in a meritocracy and precludes either group of people from seeing how they are complicit in contributing to the oppression of other people of color. By focusing on meritocracy, people indirectly assert that neither past injustices nor our current actions have any bearing on current social conditions. Without a shared understanding of the ways in which African Americans and Latinas/os have been similarly exploited, the likelihood of coalition-building is consequently diminished.