Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




No longer is it acceptable to rationalize racial hierarchy in explicit terms. Today’s ideology substitutes these explanations for cultural ones that diminish racial oppression. Though recent studies uncover the slippery, covert, and seemingly nonracial discourse of colorblindness, claims of ideological progression are offered without empirical verification. Examining debate surrounding the three-fifths clause of the U.S Constitution, I complete a “historical ethnographic content analysis” that transplants colorblind ideology into historical soil some presume it does not belong. The data derive from “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation” and consist of 1,493 pages of congressional record. My findings reveal how colorblindness captured in phrases like “I’m not racist, but…” have historical parallels in “I’m principled against slavery, but….” This observation merits more attention because it shows how contemporary ideology was not created out of whole cloth in post-1960s America. Contrary to approaches that contend racism is reflective of other social forces, comprised by a dominant ideology, and follows historically discrete categories, I advance an alternative viewpoint: a “racial ideology complex.” It defines racism as possessing a significant degree of autonomy from the political economy, consisting of multiple, differentiated ideological currents, and following a continuous, more connected path across time.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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