American Sociological Association

Black-white Biracial Students’ Evaluations of Blackness: The Role of College in Shaping Racial Regard

This study explores biracial students’ racial regard, an evaluative component of racial identity that captures positive and negative feelings about the racial groups to which one belongs. Drawing on data from interviews with 62 black-white biracial students attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs) or historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), I explore the conditions of educational contexts that promote or hinder development of positive racial regard. HBCU students highlighted the importance of college for improving their evaluations of blackness, while narratives of improved regard were rare among PWI students. Students’ evaluations of blackness and descriptions of contact with black peers support contact theory’s propositions about the type of contact likely to improve racial attitudes; specifically, I show how HBCUs can improve racial regard by facilitating institutionally supported contact between equal-status black and biracial students in the pursuit of common goals. My findings also extend contact theory by suggesting another condition of contact that can improve evaluations of blackness: contact with a heterogeneous group of black peers. These findings add to the literature on biracial identity by exploring racial regard, an understudied dimension of racial identity with important mental health implications. The findings also speak to the importance of HBCUs for fostering positive racial regard at a time when the purpose and longevity of these institutions is often questioned.


Kristen Clayton





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