A new study from the University of Pennsylvania highlights how some black male college students are thriving on mainstream campuses while pushing back against racial stereotypes.

James Wanda, a senior at Pennsylvania’s Lafayette College and one of only two black computer science majors in his class, says at times he has felt pressure to succeed not just for himself, but for his entire race.

“I realized if I fail, in some ways, it means that people might take that as wither confirmation that other black students will fail, or as a sign that they might fail,” said the 21-year-old from Arlington, Virginia.

The new study is written by Shaun Harper from the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He surveyed more than 140 students at 30 institutions that are considered predominantly white.

Among its findings were that black male students gain confidence by taking on campus leadership roles that change the way they are perceived among white peers and faculty.

“White students get to be students and learn; students of color have to deal with racial stress,” Harper noted in an interview. “As they become more skilful at not internalizing low expectation, it frees them up from this distraction.”

Many of the black male students surveyed got their start as campus leaders through involvement in principally black organizations before taking on such roles in more mainstream school groups. As they became involved on their campuses, they said, their days were more structured, they were more focused and their grades improved.

Studies show that everyday racial slights can be a factor in rates of graduation among black males. Findings from this study challenge white students and faculty to confront their biases and share the burden of eliminating racial incidents on campus.

Associated Press

Image via Pexels.

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