International Journal of Social Policy & Education

ISSN 2689-4998 (print), 2689-5013 (online)

Black Voices in White Spaces: Learning to Listen to the Voices of Students of Color at Predominantly White Institutions

Mark A. Shaffer, Kerri Tobin & Kenneth J. Varner (Kenny), Ph.D.


African American students who attend Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) likely have very different experiences than the students in the majority white population, but their experiences are not well-researched. This qualitative study uses a Critical Race Theory lens to investigate how black students describe their time at PWIs. Interview data yielded several common experiences of participants that we grouped into three main categories: fitting in, safety, and coping strategies. The results mirror current literature on the subject but also extend knowledge in two distinct areas. The information gathered from the students strongly suggests that PWIs need to listen to their students’ narrative accounts of their experiences and effectively address issues of racism. Further research is needed to articulate fully how universities can proactively address issues and reduce the impacts of racism and social ostracism on students who are in the minority.