Are 'color-blind' millennials ignoring racism?

Setting up for a presidential address at the Unive
Two workers steam the American flag before an address from President Barack Obama at the University of Michigan on April 2, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The University of Michigan has received attention this year for racial tension on campus.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Can "colorblindness" and racism coexist? It's a question that challenges a common stance among the millennial generation, getting to the heart of arguments over race and class.

The majority of millennials consider their generation to be "post-racial" and aspire to a "colorblind" society.

But Jamelle Bouie, Slate staff writer, argues this stance conveniently ignores the roots of race-based inequality in the country -- in effect denying that race continues to be a factor in individual outcomes.

"It leads us astray when it comes to crafting public policy," he said on The Daily Circuit. "If you look at pretty much any problem in American life, from education disparities to income inequality, you'll find an extremely strong racial dimension that stems from our legacy of racism, of institutionalized racism. When we apply color-blindness to the arena of public policy, what ends up happening is we can't actually address the disparities."

Only about 20 percent of millennials say they are comfortable talking about racial bias.

"My concern is that we have this generation of voters who don't seem to get that, who seem to think if we simply ignore not just race but if we ignore racism, we will be able to fix it," he said.

But listeners said the issue is much more complex than that for millennials.

Collin called in from Minneapolis:

Some other contributions from the audience:

The New York Times looked to colleges and universities in covering the issue earlier this year:

In the news media and in popular culture, the notion persists that millennials -- born after the overt racial debates and divisions that shaped their parents' lives -- are growing up in a colorblind society in which interracial friendships and marriages are commonplace and racism is largely a relic.

But interviews with dozens of students, professors and administrators at the University of Michigan and elsewhere indicate that the reality is far more complicated, and that racial tensions are playing out in new ways among young adults.

Some experts say the concept of being "postracial" can mean replicating some of the divisions and insensitivity of the past, perhaps more from ignorance than from animus. Others find offensive the idea of a society that strips away deeply personal beliefs surrounding self-identification.

Do you think racism and colorblindness can coexist? Do we need to heighten our dialogue on race in America? Leave your comments below.

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