In our existing culture of color-blind racism (or explicitly negative racial attitudes which have gained more and more acceptability under the Trump administration) in which white people aren’t expected to engage with racial issues, and face no penalties for failing to do so, it is puzzling the conditions/processes by which some white people form positive racial attitudes. My research project investigates the narratives of white people who hold positive racial attitudes and the process through which they formed these attitudes. It explores the several different theories posited by scholars, including demographic characteristics, social networks, media, period effects, group threat, and intergroup contact (ascertained through in-depth interviews) and assesses which explanations best apply to my participants by comparing their narratives of racial attitude formation with the existing literature about what predisposes white people to having positive racial attitudes. My research also looks at variations in the positivity of these participants’ attitudes in order to attempt to develop a causal model of racial consciousness raising in white people. My study points to the significance of meaningful relationships with people of other races, religion, and specific “a ha!” moments that cause one to confront and then rethink one’s assumptions about their own identity in relation to the identities of people of color as factors that predispose individuals toward attaining the empathy necessary to form positive racial attitudes.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen J. Ellingson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.