Skip to comments.Black college students at predominantly white campuses feel internal cultural tension
Posted on 07/21/2013 7:03:16 AM PDT by T-Bird45
NORMAN When George Lee first came to the University of Oklahoma in 2009, he felt out of place.
Lee, who is black, grew up in a low-income, predominantly black neighborhood in Bryan, Texas, near College Station. But when he arrived at OU, he said, he felt pressure to change how he spoke and acted to integrate himself into the dominant culture.
He felt like he couldn't be the same person he'd been in his old neighborhood, he said. He felt like he was being asked to trade part of his blackness for the values and characteristics of the dominant white culture on campus.
There had to be some type of a trade-off, Lee said.
The idea of double consciousness when a person's identity is divided between two cultures isn't new. Sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois explored the idea in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk. But a new study suggests the conflict remains for many black college students today.
According to records from the National Center for Education Statistics, 64 percent of OU's undergraduates in the fall 2011 semester were white. Just 5 percent of undergraduates in 2011 were black.
At Oklahoma State University, 73 percent of undergraduates in 2011 were white, while only 5 percent were black.
According to a recent study published in the National Communication Association's journal, Communication Education, black students at predominantly white universities still often struggle to assimilate themselves into a culture they see as different from their own.
The study consisted of six focus groups spread out over three universities a major Midwestern university in a small, rural community; a major Midwestern private university in a larger city; and a major Southwestern public university in a small metropolitan area. At each of the three schools, black students made up 8 percent or less of the overall student population.
According to the study, many of the students reported feeling an internal tension between remaining proud of their own culture and altering their own language or culture to adapt to the perceived whiteness of their universities.
That inner conflict continues when those students return home, according to the report. Of the 67 students involved in the focus groups, 52 were first-generation college students. Those students reported their families didn't have an understanding of the students' college experiences and the desire for a college degree.
One student reported feeling out of place during a summer family reunion, according to the report.
I want to make it, have a job ... and they keep asking why I'm not married, the student said. I don't even bother explaining the idea that I am preparing myself for law school.
Lee, an African American Studies major at OU, said he notices that difference when he returns to Texas and talks to family and neighbors in the neighborhood where he grew up. Family and friends treat him with greater privilege, he said. He's also more aware of the poverty and drug use in the neighborhood than he was while he was growing up, he said.
One of the study's authors said colleges and universities need to do a better job of engaging black college students and their communities.
Jake Simmons, a professor at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, said schools could help alleviate that tension by implementing programs that reach out not only to students, but also to their families and home communities to let them know what's happening on campus.
Simmons said universities could also develop multicultural programs that do a better job of representing the entirety of students' home cultures, rather than simply holding a stereotypical celebration for major holidays.
Spencer Davis, an OU student from Tulsa, said he's felt the conflict between his own heritage and the surrounding culture since before he came to OU. Davis, who is black, attended Jenks High School, which is predominantly white.
Davis, 19, is a second-generation college student his father graduated from OU and his mother has a degree from the University of Tulsa.
When Davis was in high school, it was obvious that he was in the minority, he said. He felt the internal conflict between his heritage and his surroundings then, he said, but he adopted the speech patterns and culture of the people around him.
After a while, Davis realized he wasn't totally comfortable speaking with other black people, he said. When he came to OU, his social network broadened to include friends from several races. But he still feels like he belongs to multiple groups, leaving him to figure out where he fits.
It hasn't really impeded me, he said. I've definitely managed to navigate it now.
What they are experiencing is Racism being exorcized from their souls.
Simmons said universities could also develop multicultural programs that do a better job of representing the entirety of students’ home cultures, rather than simply holding a stereotypical celebration for major holidays.
Why would that matter? Aren’t we all the same?
There is a reason why the locals call this paper The Daily Joke-lahoman.
If speaking normal English, walking like a normal human being, studying and dressing normal is White....well...
Who pays to study this kind of nonsense?
What kind of retarded culture is this much against education? I’m guessing the same one which demands that an illiterate person with 10 illegitimate children should have the same working wage as someone who tried to learn and be productive.
What an idiot.
This is the same thing that farm boys and small town kids and mountain kids and big city kids ALL feel. It's called socialization...i.e. learning how to move about in societies which are different than the one you grew up in.
probably YOU through taxes to grants...
Average football team and a sub-average newspaper.
send them all to the schools that Colonel West, Dr. Benjamin Carson, or Herman Cain went to....then they can learn to live like an American.
I was a white student at Cleveland State University (Cleveland, OH) briefly in the mid 1990s. I certainly felt some cultural tension, especially when I took one of the mandatory “Black Studies” classes. It was hard to stomach the lies and half-truths that were laid upon my ears.
I was old enough to see through the BS, but most of the students in that class were too young to have lived through all the events that were mentioned. As such, they were being brainwashed into believing things that simply were not true.
If you listened to the professors in that (and other) class, you would believe that all the hard-working white folks were the root of all evil that every existed in Cleveland.
I’d be willing to be the ‘uneasiness’ and ‘being out of place’ feelings they are having are the result of not being in an HBCU or MI or some Northeastern Liberal Cesspool Collage [I spelled it like that on purpose] where their grades and performance don’t matter and “being black is passing.”
I made french toast.
By definition Groupthink requires mindguards to protect the shared thought of the group.
On display is the protection of the manufactured thought it is a racist America. Without that thought, Democrats lose a significant portion of their voter base.
Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were ordered to feign indignation and stage protests to keep the group members from questioning their assertions.
Al and Jesse are spending credibility with 30% of the group to save 70%. Whites and hispanics see through the whole thing.
Black students are being scrutinized for their position. Either they are thinking open minded individuals in the 30% or racist liars backing injustice in the 70%. Those in the %70 pretending they are in the %30 are the really conflicted ones and the ones that will project racism to cover their own racist tracks.
well, duh, wasn't that the original intent of higher education?
These contemporary race baiters are honestly crapping on the legacy of the original civil rights pioneers who fought to gain admittance to institutes of higher learning in the first place.