Given the increasing importance of relations among non-White racial groups in contemporary US society, as well as the significant role of higher education and college students in shaping issues of race, this article examines coalition building between Black, Latinx, and Asian Pacific American students, as well as the construction of a pan-racial “people of color” identity, on two university campuses in California. Drawing on 36 in-depth interviews with students, staff, and administrators, as well as archival materials, the factors and circumstances that facilitate coalition building among students of color, the nature of these coalitions and their impact on students’ consciousness and collective identities, and the ways in which institutions of higher education respond to coalition building among students of color, are discussed. The findings of this study suggest that students of color will coalesce and build coalitions, as well as construct a people-of-color identity, when they have historical role models, feel that their positions on campus are threatened, and develop ideologies of anti-racism which characterize communities of color as having shared, fundamental, beliefs, interests, and concerns. Conversely, findings also suggest that an apathetic political climate on campus, lack of historical role models, and the institutionalization of student services delineated along racial lines that do not engage in cross-racial programming, work against coalition building and the creation of a shared identity among students of color.

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