How can colleges become more welcoming to black students?

Since we’re talking race and education this month, I thought I’d direct readers to a guest post on Stuff White People Do. In it, a young, black grad student describes the alienation and marginalization she feels in one predominately white academic environment:

…You wouldn’t believe the amounts of implicit racism I’ve experienced here. Twice while coming on campus I’ve been stopped in a hostile and condescending manner by newly-hired guards who, having seen my ID, told me that I am ‘ok’ since I was a groundskeeper or a day worker for the animal facility, whose staff is mostly black and latino.

Coming to my dorm, almost every six months someone gives me a hostile look in the foyer as if I’m some intruder. When I attend lectures, I meet the same hostility until I ask a serious academic question of the lecturer.

When someone new comes to my lab, they’ll automatically either intentionally ignore me or attempt to condescend to me. Scientific sales reps will intentionally ignore me and proceed to the white guys who are also just students. Believe it or not, this one white girl who rotated in the lab would speak to me in a passive-aggressive/patronizing manner. And almost everyone in the lab, despite my being there for years and attempting to form working relationships with them, never come to me casually or attempt to have conversations (work or otherwise) with me unless I initiate the conversation, and never at the casual or intelligent level they have with each other. Read more…

A lot of schools work hard to achieve diversity. (Doesn’t sound like the school in question even does that.) But tossing a few brown folks on campus, while it may make for a more diverse space, doesn’t always make a more welcoming one. What are they keys to identifying a diverse and WELCOMING college campus? How can parents best arm students of color to survive on predominately white campuses? How can parents of white students prepare them for diverse environments? How can academic leadership pursue diversity in a way that moves beyond tokenism?

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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