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Research Alert: Study on Color-blind Racial Perspectives Offers Insights

MAY 3, 2016
BY: DELIA GORMAN, PROGRAM MANAGER, MENTOR

Editor’s note: From time to time on the NMRC Blog we will cross-post announcements about research studies on mentoring drawing from the research listserv run by NMRC Research Board Chair Dr. David DuBois. Today we offer a quick glance at a study about a tool that assesses color-blind racial perspectives, or “the belief that ideological and structural racism do not exist” (Neville, Lilly, Lee, Duran & Browne, p. 61). To introduce this research, Dr. DuBois writes:

“It is my impression that mentoring programs frequently struggle with the issue of how to ensure mentors (and perhaps staff) ‘get it’ when it comes to issues that, in the vernacular of today’s times, are often referred to using terms like ‘White privilege’ , ‘social justice’, and the like, and the implications that the extent and manner in which one has done personal ‘work’ vis a vis such ideas/concepts can have for being an effective caring adult in the life of a youth served by their programs.”

In this study, Neville, Lilly, Lee, Duran & Browne (2000) examine the nuances of color-blind racial perspectives as they relate to the expression of “ultra-modern” racism, or racial prejudice in the context of today’s social climate (p. 59). The researchers define the color-blind racial perspective as an overall denial of the structural advantages of white people and the disadvantages of people of color. They describe it as “a mode of thinking about race organized around an effort to not ‘see,’ or at any rate not to acknowledge, race differences” (Frankenberg, 1993, p. 142, as cited by Neville, Lilly, Lee, Duran & Browne, 2000, p. 61).

The researchers emphasize that color-blind racial perspectives are not the same as racism, but they explore the connections between these two phenomena as they develop and test the Color Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS), a scale that assesses the cognitive elements of color-blind racial perspectives.

This study, which was published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, has implications for the broader field of human services, and raises pertinent questions for mentoring organizations specifically. As DuBois notes above, many mentoring practitioners grapple with how to provide mentors who are affirming of youth’s racial and ethnic identities. Mentors who hold color-blind racial perspectives, such that they deny the importance of race and ethnicity and the structural disadvantages that exist for people of color, may have less effective, if not detrimental, impacts on the youth they mentor.

What are some of these possible negative effects? How do we handle these perspectives in the screening and training elements of our work? Could a scale like CoBRAS be an appropriate tool for mentor screening? Are there other tools that can help us assess the cultural competence of our mentors, and their ability to provide an affirming experience for youth across racial and ethnic backgrounds? We welcome your thoughts and considerations about this pertinent topic.

Article: Neville, H., Lilly, R., Lee, R.M., Duran, G. & Browne, L. (2000). Construction and initial validation of the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 59-70.

References: Frankenberg, R. (1993). White women, race matters: The social construction of whiteness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

This article is freely available online. Full text copies are available from the publisher or through your local public library.

To access the CoBRAs tool, email Helen Neville at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can join Dr. DuBois’ youth mentoring research and practice listserv by emailing him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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