Racial Identity and Black Students' Perceptions of Community Outreach: Implications for Bonding Social Capital

By Lott, Joe L., II | The Journal of Negro Education, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Racial Identity and Black Students' Perceptions of Community Outreach: Implications for Bonding Social Capital


Lott, Joe L., II, The Journal of Negro Education


This research investigates the impact of racial identity on Black students' perceptions of community outreach. Colleges and universities are steadily forming university-community partnerships. Research has not fully addressed those indicators that may influence relationship-forming between Black students and Black community members. The sample includes 276 Black students who attended either a historically Black college and university (HBCU) or a predominantly White institution (PWI). Hierarchical regression analyses found that the Black racial identity scale's (B-RIAS) pre-encounter stage negatively predicted and a combination of the immersion-emersion and internalization stages positively predicted community outreach. This study has implications for shaping university-community agendas involving Black students and Black community members, and it offers a unique framework to think about Black students' civic participation.

BACKGROUND

The idea of racial uplift through education in the Black community is a historical mandate that was promulgated by many scholars. Communal education was one approach that W. E. B. Du Bois advocated, which embodies a learning process through close contact with students, teachers, administrators, and community members (Aldridge, 1999; Du Bois, 1903/1994). The first historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) engaged this approach to empower members of the Black race to access educational, political, social, and economic resources. Teaching was the primary outreach function at these institutions of higher learning. While building community was a central aim, many of the teaching and learning philosophies to achieve that aim centered on the historical Du Bois and Booker T. Washington debate, as Du Bios argued for a liberal arts education and Washington argued for a vocational education (Anderson, 1988).

In the 19th century, Du Bois's ideologies permeated the educational philosophies of HBCUs, such as, Talladega, Fisk, and Howard (Anderson, 1988). Washington's vision influenced Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute. These two institutions were known for their agricultural extension programs, which assisted Black farmers (Anderson; McGee & McAfee, 1977). In addition, the state-supported colleges' 1890 land grants vision aligned with Booker T. Washington's ideas, since many offered agricultural services and education for rural and urban Black communities (Martin, 1962).

During the 20th century, there was an increased impact of Black colleges' community outreach initiatives. In the 1930s, Tougaloo College, located in Jackson, Mississippi, sponsored a Boy Scout troop and 4-H clubs, drilled a well for drinking water for the neighboring community, and offered that community infirmary services (Campbell & Rogers, 1979). Howard University's law school played a significant role in educating the lawyers who contributed to the political strategies culminating in Brown v. Board of Education (Brown, 1954; Kluger, 1975). These are just two examples of Black colleges that were involved with educating Black students and providing outreach to the community.

Presently, Black students are represented in both predominantly White institutions (PWIs) and HBCUs. While some of today's university enterprises do not necessarily promote racial uplift, many universities give substantial attention to preparing students for community engagement (Checkoway, 2001; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003). This idea of communitybuilding, outside of the university, includes, but is not limited to, working with, preserving, and establishing closer community relationships (Maurrasse, 2001; Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003).

Black student involvement is essential to this developing relationship, because students are the one group that will provide civic leadership to Black communities. One factor that may influence Black students' experiences and participation are their perceptions of community outreach. …

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