Black Students In Predominately White Institutions Struggle With Internal Battles

July 29, 2013  |  

A new study about Black students in predominantly White universities reveals the inner battle to retain an African-American identity, reports Clutch.

African-American students from all three of the universities examined in the study reported heightened racial tensions after seeing White fraternities wearing blackface at parties. In witnessing such racially insensitive practices, it is no wonder why Black students feel anxiety.

Students in the study admitted they refrained from speaking out in class because they were concerned about how their White peers would perceive their regional dialect and accent, reports InsideHigherEd.

Another participant in the study revealed that he was skeptical about giving a presentation on a Toni Morrison novel and its high resonance with the Black community. He feared that his White classmates wouldn’t find his speech particularly compelling, InsideHigherEd adds. He did not want to be seen “as a black man trying to explain a black writer to a white audience.”

Both incidents, which occur because of the fear of perpetuating Black stereotypes, can greatly hinder learning. Participation and interaction are essential to education.

“Black students feel tension between integrating into the dominant culture while honoring their own culture and black pride,” Jake Simmons, the study’s author found.

Clutch quotes an African-American female student in the study who describes the inner war of attending a predominately White institution (PWI):

There is a war going on inside of me between my Blackness and your Whiteness. When I see myself in the mirror, I see a competent, talented Black woman. Then I go to class, look around, and realize that I need more. My Blackness seems too…um…Black, like I need to be more than who I am. I need what you [as a White person] have. I need an understanding of how things work, you know, politically. My Blackness, my personhood isn’t enough. I need to Whiten myself to succeed.

Unfortunately, this Black student’s thoughts mirrors the introspective battles for many African-American students in PWIs; there is a need to “maintain cultural independence by segregating from [Whites],” the authors wrote. However, there is still a desire to feel accepted.

“When so much of what is happening socially is talking about how we are moving through racism,” added Simmons, “this study is about how we are not.”

The study was conducted with a 67 students in three universities: a Midwestern public university, a Midwestern private university, and a Southwestern public university. It was published in Communication Education.

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