Campus Colorlines: The Changing Boundaries of Race Within Institutions of Higher Education in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Campus Colorlines: The Changing Boundaries of Race Within Institutions of Higher Education in the Post-Civil Rights Era

University of Southern California
August 2007
675 pages

Patricia Elizabeth Literte, Assistant Professor of Sociology
California State University, Fullerton

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School University of Southern California In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

The post-Civil Rights era has been characterized by numerous challenges to traditional understandings of race. The dismantling of legalized segregation and discrimination, ongoing immigration from Asia and Latin America, increasing acceptance of interracial contact and relationships, and relatively unceasing conflict between the Western and Arab world, are just some of the socio-political trends and events which have yielded an increasingly fluid, complex, and intricate racial terrain. Given the increasing fluidity of race in U.S. society, the overarching goal of this dissertation is to illuminate the nature and implications of changing racial identity boundaries in the post-Civil Rights era. In order to fulfill this goal, I examine (1) the experiences of university students who defy conventional racial identity categorizations, (2) the processes of organization/mobilization in which these students engage, and (3) the role universities play in shaping and responding to these students, whose racial identities and politics are often incongruent with the institutions’ views of race. The majority of research on college students’ racial identities and racialized political activity focuses on conventional understandings of racial identity, which rely on the assumption that there are five singular racial categories – black/African American, Latino/a, white, Asian American, and Native American. Less is known about racial identities and corollary political activity which falls outside these boundaries. My dissertation addresses this gap through a two-tieredanalysis. First, I comparatively examine how students come to organize/mobilize around two identities which challenge singular or “monoracial” conceptualizations of race: (1) biracial identity and (2) “people of color” identity. Second, I examine how monoracially oriented student services (i.e., black student service offices) respond to such organization/mobilization. Study of these processes within the particular domain of higher education can assist student service practitioners in the formulation and implementation of programming on increasingly diverse campuses and can provide insight into how students can more fully participate in their universities’ public life. My methods of data collection include interviews (N = 90) with students and administrators, student focus groups, observation, and archival research.

Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Chapter 1: Introduction: The Changing Nature of Race in Post-Civil Rights Society
  • Part 1: Institutional Histories: Understanding the Racial Dynamics of Three Universities
    • Chapter 2: Western University: The Long, Strange Path from Racial Leftism to Colorblindness
    • Chapter 3: California University: A Bastion of Conservatism Rethinks its Identity in the Post-Affirmative Action Era
    • Chapter 4: Bay University: A Majority-Minority School Struggles and Embraces Multiculturalism
  • Part 2: The Construction and Mobilization of Biracial Identity: Disrupting the Monoracial Landscape of Universities
    • Chapter 5: Western University and California University: Biracial Students: Facing Double Consciousness, Otherness, and the Complexities of Organizing
    • Chapter 6: Bay University: The Force of Working Class Status, the One Drop Rule, and Mestizaje: The Absence of Biracial Students
  • Part 3: “We all share the same struggle”: Coalition Building and the Formation of People of Color Identity among University Students
    • Chapter 7: Western University: The Power of Students of Color: A Tradition of Resistance Continues in the Wake of Proposition 209
    • Chapter 8: California University: Contesting Apathy and the Strength of Monoracialism: Students of Color Struggle to Engage New Racial Politics
    • Chapter 9: Bay University: Working Class Obligations, Segregation, and the Black-Brown Conflict: The Diminishment of Coalitions and People of Color Identity among Students
    • Chapter 10: Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Read the entire dissertation here.

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