This new research just published in the Harvard Business Review shows that people who studiously avoid mentioning racial identity when the situation calls for it are perceived to be more racially biased than those who call attention to it. They also confirm independent research that shows that by approximately the age of 10 whites internalize the norm of colorblind discourse, whereas children younger than 10 do not feel compelled to be colorblind.
From the opening paragraphs:
It’s a natural tendency, proven time and again in research: When you see a new person, one of the first things you notice is his or her race. In business life, however, we typically pretend we don’t notice—a behavior that’s called “color blindness”—because we want to reduce our odds of exhibiting prejudice or engaging in discrimination, or of seeming to do either.
Our research, conducted with our colleague Sam Sommers, of Tufts University, shows that there are drawbacks to the color-blind approach. In a series of experiments, we found that when people avoided referring to race in situations that cried out for a mention of it, other people perceived them as more racially biased than if they’d brought the subject up.