Prof claims Hispanic students perpetuate 'colorblind racism'

A professor at Michigan State University is alleging that Latino students perpetuate “colorblind racism” due to their commitment to meritocracy and free market values. 

Sociology professor Maria Isabel Ayala made the argument in a recent study published by the Journal of Latinos and Education, having received $25,000 from the school to conduct the research.

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Ayala interviewed 50 Latino(a) students at Midwestern University—27 women and 23 men—to probe how they explained their academic success, discovering to her dismay that many students expressed credence in both “colorblind racism” and “abstract liberalism” while shunning affirmative action policies in support of the “free market, meritocracy, and laissez-faire ideology.”

For example, when asked to describe her success in college, a dark-skinned Latina named Carla responded that “everyone is equal and we all have the same experiences...I have [worked hard] and I deserve it.” 

Sebastian, a student who is described as a “medium-skinned” Latino, also reflected on his academic achievements and failures, telling Ayala that “I guess all the mistakes have been just me...I am self-reliant.” 

A student named Eduardo, meanwhile, reportedly said “I am disadvantaged, and I am very aware of that but that is not a bad thing, I just have to work harder.” 

[RELATED: Color-blindness is ‘unethical,’ USC profs declare]

When introducing her findings, Ayala claims that students’ belief in meritocracy is symptomatic of a larger societal issue: a tendency among minorities to dismiss the notion that racism may have impacted their own educational success. 

“Color-blindness within higher education negatively shapes the experiences of students of color,” Ayala writes, stressing that students are “preventing the rebuttal of an ideology that not only invalidates their unique and cumulative racial experiences, but those of other people of color.” 

“Color-blind racism is hegemonic,” the academic asserts. “It comes as no surprise that Latina(o) college students rely on it to rationalize their college attainment.”

Similarly, Ayala argues that “some of the tenets of color-blind racism are the refusal of the existence of White privilege, a lack of awareness of institutional racism and its implications, as will as the rejection of social policies (e.g., affirmative action).”

[RELATED: Meritocracy is a ‘tool of whiteness,’ claims math professor]

According to the study, the research was funded by a “Creating Inclusive Excellence” grant from the Michigan State University Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. 

The Office’s website indicates that professors can apply for taxpayer-funded grants for initiatives that “create inclusive excellence” and “enhance diversity,” and according to Ayala’s CV, MSU awarded her $25,000 to conduct the research for the study.

The Director of the Office told Campus Reform that she could not confirm whether Ayala had ever received a grant from the school, and spokespersons for MSU did not respond to an inquiry about the purpose of Ayala’s research.

Ayala did not respond to multiple inquiries from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen