Blacks in College

This morning Alston wrote about the difficulties that blacks face while in college. I thought it would be pertinent to relate my experiences and observations.

As you all know, I grew up in the city. My grade school classmates were primarily German Catholic and we did not have many a large percentage of minorities. That was due to the size of the school and the makeup of the immediate neighborhood. High school was much more diverse since it attracted people from a larger area of the city and it was a larger school. We had large percentages of whites (Polish, Irish, Greek, Italian, German), Hispanics (Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans), Asians (Korean, Filipino), and African-Americans.

So when I went to college there was a bit of culture shock that I realize now in retrospect. At the time it was all scary and exciting since it was a new place and the first time living on my own so I didn’t consciously notice at the time. What I notice now looking back is that on one hand it was that it was unfamiliar due to the very white bread atmosphere of this smaller downstate town, but on the other hand it was a bit comforting to be among so many others who were like me. I was fiercely proud to be from somewhere not so white bread, but I can’t say that I actively sought out that diversity to counter the lack of it.

One observation that I had at the time was how easily it would be for my fellow classmates to view (probably continue to view) African-Americans in a negative light. There were three African-American groups that were the most visible. The first were the students who seemed to spend all their time at the student fast food shop. It could easily be assumed they were affirmative action students who would not survive the first year. The second were my fellow workers at the same shop. For the people being served, it could just look like another class distinction like at a fast food restaurant with the blacks behind the counter. The third was when I moved over to the cafeteria food service. We had almost no black student workers, yet the actual cooks and kitchen workers were mostly black. They were largely uneducated and from the poor side of town. I’ve always thought that many of my fellow classmates (who I assume went on to lives as professionals, executives, and managers) were left with a limited view of African-Americans during those formative years. Especially considering so many came from either privileged or rural backgrounds where there was limited contact with minorities.

As far as the classes in my discipline, there were still very few blacks. I only remember one in one of my architecture design studio. He did not come to studio much and his work was poor. That disappointed me since I knew it would reinforce stereotypes. We did have two black professors during my time there. One was rather lackluster while the other was exceptional. Despite being a paraplegic, he was an extremely charismatic and outgoing person. He was someone you would fight to have as a design professor at some point during your education. It is unfortunate that there were so few African-American students who could have looked up to him as a role model.

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~ by Frank on June 6, 2010.

2 Responses to “Blacks in College”

  1. So through these observations, why do you think that colleges are averse to hiring black men permanently as tenured professors in order to help more black students with this problem? Not everyone can or wants to go to an HBCU.

  2. I really can only guess. But I would not doubt that choosing someone like yourself is at play. Plus despite my hopes, it seems evident that racism either consciously or subconsciously also plays a factor. The other thing is that it is a catch 22. Since there are not role models in the schools, fewer do well, then there are fewer role models. I’d be curious to see if there has been much progress since I was there two decades ago. But I don’t think it’s likely that there has been any change of significance.

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