I Don't See Race (or Conflict): Strategic Descriptions of Ambiguous Negative Intergroup Contexts

Francine Karmali, Kerry Kawakami, Elysia Vaccarino, Amanda Williams, Curtis Phills, Justin P. Friesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
159 Downloads (Pure)


Despite current societal trends to encourage diversity, individuals often avoid acknowledging race, and we suggest also conflict, because of concerns about appearing prejudiced. The present research investigated the use of racial color and conflict blind strategies in an ambiguous negative intergroup context. In three studies, we assessed whether people acknowledged race and conflict using a novel ambiguous context task. Study 1 demonstrated that when describing an intergroup interaction with a photograph of Black and White males bumping into one another, only 27% of participants used racial labels and approximately half (53%) mentioned conflict. In Study 2, when participants described two White males in the same situation, significantly fewer participants mentioned conflict compared to when the photograph depicted a Black and White male actor, but rates of mentioning race were not different. Finally, in Study 3, when participants were instructed to use race when describing the actors, they mentioned conflict significantly less than when they were free to avoid racial labels. These latter results suggest that although racial color blindness may be used to appear unbiased, when this strategy is unavailable, people may resort to not referencing intergroup negativity. Together these findings indicate that racial color and conflict blindness may work in conjunction as compensatory strategies to appearing nonprejudiced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1034
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number4
Early online date20 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


  • prejudice
  • racism
  • conflict
  • intergroup relations
  • diversity


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