Colorblindness and Diversity: Conflicting Goals in Decisions Influenced by Race

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The present studies address a conundrum in contemporary American society: While many Americans agree that increasing racial diversity is a worthy goal, they are reluctant to acknowledge the impact of race on individual decisions in an effort to honor norms of colorblindness. In two studies, participants made hypothetical college admissions decisions among sets of equally qualified Black and White candidates. Study 1 revealed that participants justified decisions in favor of Black candidates by citing nonracial criteria, and that Whites—more concerned with appearing colorblind—were more likely than non–Whites to continue to use these criteria when making subsequent decisions. Study 2 showed that a preferred strategy for Whites to appear colorblind across multiple selections between candidates of different races was to select diverse sets of candidates, regardless of their specific qualifications. These results demonstrate the conflict Whites experience in their effort to appear colorblind while simultaneously increasing diversity.

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Social Cognition, v. 26, no. 1, p. 102-111.