One form of racism people may not realize happens to Black students in predominately white schools is micro-aggression. A micro-aggression is a term used to describe subtle discrimination against another individual, particularly a minority, in the form of a clever comment or observation. An example of a micro-aggression is when someone makes a comment like “You’re not like other Black people” or when a white person acts surprised that a Black person can afford a big-ticket item at a retail store. Micro-aggressions stem from harmful stereotypes that are often strongest at institutions that lack diversity among students and faculty. When there are a small number of minority students at an institution, the opportunity for disproving stereotypes greatly diminishes.
Micro-aggressions are likely the top form of racism experienced by college-aged Black students at predominately white institutions. In an article written by Adrianna Laforest, she explains her experiences with white students at Stetson, the predominately white institution she attends. She explains why she prefers to be surrounded by Black peers at school: “While I was in high school, most of my friends were white. Then, when I came to college, I ended up having more black friends. I always wondered why this was. But now that I think about it, it is so much easier to transition into college when you find people who you share a lot of similarities with. People who don’t ask why you wrap your hair at night and why you don’t wash your hair every day. People who understand you because they are just like you.”
Having a similar experience at a predominately white high school, I share Adrianna’s sentiments, which is why I decided I wanted to attend an HBCU. Many Black students thrive off of the fellowship they experience with one another at an HBCU. It seems that we are more successful when we do not have to worry about constantly explaining and defending our Blackness while focusing on our studies at the same time.