The racial diversity in the colleges across the United States of America is not consistent. Just as the nation is, the colleges in America tend to be primarily white. A nickname that these school’s have gotten are PWIs (predominately white institutions). While some colleges do have a diverse population such as Rutgers where the White population is 30%, Black population is 20%, Latino population is 24%, and the Asian Population is 24% as well as many other races represented.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are colleges such as North Dakota State University where the student population is 87% white, 2% African American, 1% Asian, 2% Hispanic/Latino, as well as a few other races. There are also Historically Black Colleges and Universities which have a large black population so their diversity is not high either. However, the experience as a minority(racial) at PWI’s will be highlighted in this article.
At a PWI it is not uncommon for a minority to walk into a classroom and see no one that looks like them. For students who come from backgrounds where their towns have a large population of minorities this can be a shock. As a minority in the class room there is no way you can blend in to the class and there is no way that the teacher won’t notice your absence. Often times students like this are embarrassed to raise their hand in class for fear of their question being seen as stupid and in turn their race being seen as stupid as well. This can lead to lower participation, lower grades and in some cases even drop outs. This is why it is imperative that minority students on PWI campuses have a strong support network.
Some PWI’s have student groups that are dedicated to supporting students to adjustments. This includes organizations such as Asian Student Association, Latin American Student Organization, Black Cultural Society, and South Asian Multicultural Organized Students Association. These organizations often welcome people of all races but do exist as a support network for students who want to connect with people that remind them of their families. They often allow for an outlet and a group of upperclassmen as well as people you may not have met as they aren’t likely to be in your classes. This is especially important for students who feel that they are isolated in a giant pool of people.
On the contrast a friend of mine, Chanda*, who has gone to schools that had a large population of white students her whole life had a different experience. She said “In my experience as a minority in a predominantly white school I’ve sadly “whitewashed” myself a lot. I’ve personally done that since I was a kid because I didn’t want to stand out in a way where I was fully myself and immersed in my own culture, because I was 100% aware of the fact that there would be whispers, subtle comments and even direct remarks. Mainly about how I wasn’t fitting into their standards of style, beauty, body hair or even on what was acceptable to bring for lunch! Being teased for things that are out of your control at such a young age harms you. It harms you so greatly that you instantly want to conform to their standards rather than standing up for your own.
Doing that has made my cultural identities feel very separate. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country I was born and raised in but I’ll never feel 100% at home here or in my motherland because as many other minorities do, we create a new sense of culture and the way we practice our religion (if any). Growing older and really reading articles and fully understanding my culture and ethnicity, I have grown and gotten much better at letting myself not care or bend for white culture. I might be a minority but minority doesn’t mean nonexistent. I shouldn’t have to alter myself so drastically to simply exist.”
Her experience is one that many have felt and some are just starting to understand. While there is nothing wrong with going to a PWI it definitely is an adjustment for a lot of students. In order to aide in diversity of colleges in the upcoming generations we need to impact them now. More mentoring and tutoring needs to occur so that the overall of percentages of minorities in this country can be represented at the collegiate level. Organizations that volunteer to increase reading, writing and math proficiency are highly important. If college students want the future generations to succeed it is imperative that the join the cause of mentoring the younger generation so that they are able to attend college as well.