Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


American Studies

Reader 1

Mark Golub

Reader 2

Lily Geismer

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Rights Information

© 2013 Yuliya Lantsman


This is how the story goes: In 1964, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, America moved into a “post-racial” era. The passage of the act meant a significant shift in race relations, a shift that no longer defined individual opportunity on the basis of race. In this perfected nation, where a person was no longer discriminated on the basis of physical characteristics such as the color of his or her skin, colorblindness became the dominant ideology. People's success was judged on the basis of merit and hard work rather than racial distinctions. Blacks were welcomed into institutions of government, business, and higher education and were no longer legally banned from equal access to lunch counters, transportation, neighborhoods, schools, etc. Remnants of a centuries long history of black exploitation and subjugation, from slavery to Jim Crow, now lived only in the stubborn hearts of individual racists who were condemned by the rest of American society. Opportunity was open to all, success was attainable by all, and it was only a matter of time before the distinctions between black and white held the same weight as the distinctions between blonde and brunette, short and tall. But decades later, in the 80's and 90's, it became clear that this utopia wasn't so easily achieved. Blacks continued to be disproportionally poor and many continued to live in segregated communities—the innercity ghettos. Making sense of the continual significance of race in a supposedly colorblind nation became a hot topic in politics and in the news media. This thesis explores the mainstream national news media discourse of the 80's and 90's as it grappled with the question: Why did so many blacks continue to live in the “backwaters” of America?

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.