Grassroots organizing and 'post-civil rights' racism: The dilemma of negotiating interracial solidarity in a 'color-blind' society

Date of Completion

January 2010


Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Sociology, Organizational




In this dissertation, I examine the strategies interracial organizations use in the "post-civil rights" movement era, where color-blind ideology dominates. Much theoretical work on racism examines how it has evolved during different historical periods, but this work does not address how these changing forms of racism affect social movement organizations. Whereas, the literature on color-blind ideology has examined how it is expressed by African Americans and European Americans separately, my work investigates how color-blind ideology operates when European Americans and people of color are working together in the same organizational setting. Studies of social movements have examined how organizational culture affects strategies but have paid little attention to how external racist culture, and color-blind ideology as a component of that culture, impacts organizational strategies. Synthesizing social movement and racism theory, I develop a conceptual model for understanding how internal organizational culture and external color-blind ideology influence organizational strategies of racism evasiveness. My study involves three years of ethnographic data collected on an interracial social movement union organization and its corresponding coalition. My findings suggest that members of interracial organizations use racism-evasiveness strategically to maintain solidarity. While activists perceive advantages to these strategies, there are also long-term negative consequences. Without explicitly naming and addressing racism, I find that these organizations are limited in their ability to challenge systemic racism. ^