Seeing color and television : what do Millennials' television practices tell us about post-raciality?

Mora, Adolfo Rafael
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The demographic composition of Millennials is the most ethnoracially diverse generation so far, and with it, a discursive construction of them being colorblind. Colorblindness is also taken as reality with cultural texts that feature color, therefore one-step closer of achieving a post-racial society: a socio-cultural environment where race and racism are no longer limiting factors. This dissertation was interested in examining the relationship between orientations of seeing color and the television practices of Millennials. To do so, two grand research questions were answered using survey methodology: One paid close attention to color-blindness while the other focused on color-consciousness.

The first research question was interested in the socializing effect of television on two color-blind attitudes: color-evasion and power-evasion. On one hand, it analyzed television programming that featured various types of color diversity: multicultural (heterogeneous in color), minority leading (homogeneous in color, favoring ethnoracial minorities), and White-dominant (homogeneous in color, favoring the ethnoracial majority). On the other, it also analyzed respectable portrayals—representations embodying the values of mainstream culture—for four ethnoracial groups: Whites, Latin@s, Blacks, and Asians. Statistical results (N = 535) show that these predictors had no statistical significance on color-evasive but did for power-evasive racial blindness.

The second research question was interested in how being color-conscious across two orientations (color-awareness and power-awareness) predicted noticing the perceived sexuality, criminality, and secondary narrative treatment of ethnoracial groups on television – conceptualized as onscreen marginality. Statistical results suggest that power-awareness is more successful in predicting onscreen marginality and in manners consistent with its framework than its counterpart orientation.

Both research questions examined opposite and competing ideologies of seeing color, and their findings offer support to think of Millennials as a colorblind generation but not exclusively. This dissertation suggests that color-blind texts prompt colorblindness, and when television misrepresents ethnoracial groups, color-consciousness dominates. Eventually, the Millennial generation is still sorting out the contradictions about the place of race(ism) in society, and even if television appears neutral in its inclusion of color, there are subtle differences in how Millennials interpreted ethnoracial groups onscreen.