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Black students: ‘Whiteness’ of U. North Carolina campus is ‘traumatizing’

Why would someone subject themselves to a four-year-long “traumatizing” experience if it was within his power to avoid it?

That should be asked of the African-American students featured in a recent Daily Tar Heel article about the “adjustments” students of color have to make upon arrival at the University of North Carolina.

Although the racial demographics at UNC are largely in line with those of the nation as a whole, some — like The Black Student Movement President Aaron Epps — say it’s difficult to get used to so many white people around.

“It’s just a different pool at UNC,” Epps says. “It’s hard to navigate a very, very inherently institutionalized white space.”

Student Alex Robinson agrees, noting UNC’s resources for transfer students like her are “very predominantly white”: “It was really intimidating, because even in these spaces that were ‘geared toward me,’ they were very much so predominantly white, and honestly I was really uncomfortable.”

Epps and Robinson come from a predominantly black community and black schools respectively.

From the story:

Robinson said at Carolina she sometimes finds herself being the only Black person in the room, and therefore she feels the obligation to constantly be a representative for her race.

“I feel like it’s traumatizing to have to be in these spaces and have people say ignorant things to you, or about you, or about your race, and having to correct them constantly and having to educate them,” she said. …

While the number of Black students admitted to UNC remains stagnant, Epps said Historically Black Colleges and Universities nationwide are experiencing increased enrollment.

“HBCUs overall are seeing a boom in students who are enrolling, and obviously that means Black students are enrolling, which is great because overall, our community is becoming more educated,” he said.

Epps said predominantly white institutions like UNC are not seeing the same type of enrollment boost because students of color feel more welcome at HBCUs.

“When we have literal racist statues that commemorate oppressors of the very students that we are allowing into this institution, students are not feeling like they belong here,” he said. “Like they aren’t feeling like they have a place, like they are fully embraced, and so they’re going to want to go to a place like an all-Black institution.”

Imagine how a student from Dickenson County, Virginia would feel upon arriving at, say, North Carolina Central University. But … certainly the student would know in advance what to expect, right? And wouldn’t then whine about it to the student paper … ?

Thankfully, Epps and Robinson don’t represent a monopoly on black feelings at UNC.

Chris Faison, coordinator for UNC Men of Color Engagement, said “At Carolina, the environment is helpful to students that come from minority-majority backgrounds because the world is different than what we grew up in, although we may feel isolated, or students may feel isolated, it’s a taste of what the world is like.”

Faison added “the fact that my position exists” shows U. North Carolina “wanting to get it right.”

But it takes student Chuka Akpom to break through the usual diversity PC-speak with some basic common sense:

“In order to maximize the diversity of my experience, one, and two, my network, I just thought it would make the most sense to expand my circle and to build connections that are outside my comfort zone, to talk to people that I wouldn’t necessarily talk to on a daily basis.”

What a concept — actually taking the term “diversity” at face value!

Read the full article.

MORE: Black prof: Minority safe spaces do more harm than good

MORE: Northwestern plans to quadruple safe spaces for black students

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.