– Images from racial theme parties that are posted on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace not only elicit different reactions from different people based on their race and their attitudes toward diversity, they also represent an indirect way to express racist views about minorities, according to published research by a University of Illinois professor who studies the convergence of race and the Internet.
In a study that examined the associations between responses to racial theme party images on social networking sites and a color-blind racial ideology, Brendesha Tynes, a professor of educational psychology and of African American studies at Illinois, discovered that white students and those who rated highly in color-blind racial attitudes were more likely not to be offended by images from racially themed parties at which attendees dressed and acted as caricatures of racial stereotypes (for example, photos of students dressed in blackface make-up attending a "gangsta party" to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
"People who reported higher racial color-blind attitudes were more likely to be white, and more likely to condone or not be bothered by racial-theme party images," Tynes said.
The students also were asked questions about their attitudes toward racial privilege, institutional discrimination and racial issues. Those who scored higher on the measure were more likely to hold color-blind racial attitudes, and were more likely to be ambivalent or not bothered by the race party photos.
Respondents low in racial color-blindness were much more vocal in expressing their displeasure and opposition to these images, and would even go so far as to "de-friend" someone over posting those images, Tynes said.
According to Tynes, a color-blind racial attitude is the prevailing racial ideology of the post-Civil Rights era, and is the view that seeing race is inherently wrong.
"If you subscribe to a color-blind racial ideology, you don't think that race or racism exists, or that it should exist," Tynes said. 4 million grant to study the effects of online racial discrimination by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said that along with the role children and adolescents play in producing online hate, her inspiration for the study was the numerous racially themed parties that occurred on college campuses across the country in 2007 and the resultant blowback when images from the parties were posted on Facebook and MySpace. "
"To their friends, they would express mild approval of the party photos or just not discuss race," Tynes said.
"Just as people use Facebook and MySpace to post photos from the racial theme parties, others use it to criticize and protest against the parties and the images," she said. "
Since a color-blind racial ideology is associated with endorsement of the racial theme party photos, Tynes says that mandatory courses on issues of racism and multicultural competence are necessary for students from elementary school through college. "We need to teach people about structural racism, about the ways that race still shapes people's life chances and how the media informs our attitudes toward race.