Assumed to be Black: A critical examination of being ascribed a racial status on a predominately white campus

Shontay Delalue King Francis, University of Rhode Island


Colleges and universities continue to add diversity and internationalization as major components of their strategic planning efforts. Students from various racial, ethnic and national backgrounds are expected to live and work together in an intellectual environment while bringing with them various views of race and culture that are maintained through varying myths and misconceptions. This study looked at the technical and cultural definitions of what it means to be 'Black' in the U.S. and the stereotypes of being classified within that racial category for college students from Africa and the Caribbean. ^ The racial designation of 'Black' used in the study is based on the U.S. legal and cultural definition (Davis, 1991) from the 2010 Census that states, "A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as 'Black, African American, or Negro' or reported entries such as African American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian" (Humes et al., 2011). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the federal government department responsible for maintaining racial categories, states, "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically" (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). ^ Although some refer to the United States as being 'post-racial', Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie highlights the experience of race and class in the U.S. and the social implications of being classified as 'Black' in her 2014 novel "Americanah". To understand the essence of the participants similar lived experiences with race, I employed phenomenology. The results were analyzed using a critical race and racial formation theoretical lens. ^ The findings confirmed that the way in which the participants defined 'Black' was in conflict with the cultural definition of 'Black' in the U.S. The data yielded information that suggests the participants felt that 'Black' in the U.S. had a negative connotation and was synonymous with African-American—an ethnic group they did not identify with and held preconceived notions about. ^

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black Studies|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Shontay Delalue King Francis, "Assumed to be Black: A critical examination of being ascribed a racial status on a predominately white campus" (2014). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3619438.