, Volume 4, Issue 3-4, pp 171-192
Date: 14 Sep 2012

Fitting In: Segregation, Social Class, and the Experiences of Black Students at Selective Colleges and Universities

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Abstract

We analyzed qualitative data gathered at a selective urban university with a large black student body. We found that black students from integrated backgrounds welcomed the chance to establish friendships with same-race peers even though they were at ease in white settings, whereas students from segregated backgrounds saw same-race peers as a source of comfort and refuge from a white world often perceived as hostile. These contrasting perceptions set up both groups for shock upon matriculation. Students from an integrated background were better prepared academically and socially, but were unfamiliar with urban black culture and uncomfortable interacting with students of lower class standing. Students from a segregated background were surprised to find they had little in common with more affluent students from integrated backgrounds. Although both groups were attracted to campus for the same reason—to interact with a critical mass of same-race peers—their contrasting expectations produced a letdown as the realities of intraracial diversity set in.