Racialized Microaggressions, Internalized and Intersecting Oppressions, and Identity Negotiation among Students of Color at a Predominately White University in the US Southeast

Abigail Reiter

Advisor: Dae Young Kim, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Joseph Scimecca, Paul Gorski, Leslie Hossfeld

Research Hall, #162
October 31, 2016, 10:00 AM to 07:30 AM


Race, as Delgado and Stefancic (2001) stress, is a structuring agent that greatly affects the experiences and even the well-being of individuals in US society. While American education has been considered a driver for equality, racism and race-based inequities are significant components of this institution, creating qualitatively different daily and cumulative experiences and outcomes for students based on race. Not only is it important to uncover how race and racism are manifested in educational institutions, but it is also necessary to better understand the intersecting oppressions that work alongside race to create particular experiences for brown and black students. Using Critical Race Theory Methodology and relying on the counter-narratives of 31 students of color collected during 9 focus group meetings in the spring of 2014 at a predominately white university in the US Southeast, this study finds that these students are emotionally, academically, and socially affected by microaggressions, namely subtle and overlooked forms of racism and other intersecting oppressions in various campus settings. Sue et al (2007) defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group.” Through such verbal and behavioral cues, brown and black students continually encounter white normativity and “otherness” throughout campus. Respondents also experience stereotype threat and reveal a social and cognitive burden of reconciling and juggling a complicated identity as students and persons of color, while also internalizing the oppressions they encounter daily. Findings indicate a need for effective training of professors in recognizing their cultural biases and stereotypes they are reinforced through their interactions and curriculum. Sincere and effective awareness efforts need to be implemented on campus for students and faculty, and should replace superficial attempts at diversity awareness that often reinforce racial and other inequities and differences.