American Sociological Association

Reproducing and Reworking Colorblind Racial Ideology: Acknowledging Childrens Agency in the White Habitus

What is the relationship between white children’s interpretations of racial phenomena and dominant racial ideology? Do children passively adopt dominant racial ideological positions, the result of a "deep cultural conditioning" that happens to children? Do kids assertively challenge ideologies, rejecting adults’ authoritative worldviews through enacting child agency? Or is something more dialectically complex occurring that includes both reproduction and reinvention? Drawing on a subset of data from a two-year ethnographic study with white, affluent families, the author focuses on the relationship between children’s ideas about race and Bonilla-Silva’s four frames of colorblind ideology. The findings demonstrate that rather than adopting colorblind ideology in a prescriptive fashion, children engage in the dialectical process of interpretive reproduction whereby they simultaneously reproduce and rework colorblind ideology, including if, how, and when colorblind frames are used. Acknowledging the active role children play in their own racial socialization, this article complicates the theory of white habitus, arguing for greater recognition of children’s agency and innovation in this socialization process. Exploring this relationship is central to understanding how racism—the ideological sphere of the racialized social system—is reproduced and reworked across generations and how ideal whiteness is dynamic, adapting with the newest generation of whites as they move through different contexts.


Hagerman, M. A.





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