Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Doctorate in Black and White: Exploring the Engagement of Black Doctoral Students in Cross Race Advising Relationships with White Faculty

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Doctorate in Black and White: Exploring the Engagement of Black Doctoral Students in Cross Race Advising Relationships with White Faculty

Article excerpt


In 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois published his book, The Souls of Black Folk, which he wrote:

   The present social separation and acute race-sensitiveness
   must eventually yield to the influences
   of culture, as the South grows civilized, is clear.
   But such transformation calls for singular wisdom
   and patience. If, while the healing of this vast sore
   is progressing, the races are to live for many years
   side by side, united in economic effort, obeying
   a common government, to mutual thought and
   feeling, yet subtly and silently separate in many
   matters of deeper human intimacy" (p. 78)

While a historical perspective, this outlook provided by Du Bois remains relevant today given the contemporary complexities of race (Barnes, 2003) and as Blacks are still faced with navigating predominantly white spaces and working across race. This is ever so evident in the path to the doctorate where Black doctoral students navigate, often in silence, through a lens of double consciousness (Du Bois) or dual identity. While Du Bois referred to the reality of Black Americans living as both Black and American, his concept translates to the reality of Black doctoral students who live as both Black and doctoral student.

Indeed, only 0.5% of Blacks 25 years and older hold doctoral degrees (United States Census Bureau, 2010). The statistic for Black doctoral degree holders is even more dismal given that Blacks with doctoral degrees comprise only 0.1% of U.S. citizens 25 years and older and only 4.4% of U.S. citizens with doctoral degrees (United States Census Bureau). While the 10-year span, there was lower representation of Blacks among all doctoral degree recipients in 2014 (4.9%) when compared to the 2009 midpoint (5.3%) and 2004 (5.4%) (National Science Foundation). Additionally, in the last five years, Black doctoral degree recipients comprised less degree holders than White, Asian, and Hispanic/Latina/o doctoral degree holders (see Figure 1). More compounding, Blacks are underrepresented among full-time instructional faculty comprising only 6% (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). While there has been this increase in Blacks participating in graduate and doctoral programs, the lack of Black and other underrepresented faculty (i.e., Latina/o and American Indian) ultimately creates greater opportunity for cross-race faculty-doctoral relationships (Barker, 2012) and a greater examination of Black doctoral student experiences in cross-race relationships is warranted.

There is existing literature that provides personal narratives of Black doctoral students and graduates being marginalized, experiencing racism inside and outside the classroom, feeling responsible for raising racial consciousness among White peers and faculty, and developing research agendas on race in a way that overall composition of U.S. citizens with doctorates remain relatively low, attainment trends indicate an overall increase in Blacks pursing graduate education and enrolling in doctoral programs (Allum, 2014). Between 2004 and 2014, there was a 1.8% average increase of Blacks or African Americans who were recipients of doctoral degrees (see Table 1).

This included U.S. citizens, visa holders, and individuals whose citizenship was unknown. There was a 16.9% difference between recipients in 2004 (2,266) and 2014 (2,649) (National Science Foundation, 2014). Although there was an increase within this garners respect from peers (M. Barker, 2012; Cleveland, 2004; P. P. Felder & Barker, 2013; Gasman, Gerstl-Pepin, Anderson-Thompkins, Rasheed, & Hathaway, 2004; Green & Scott, 2003; Mabokela & Green, 2000; Milner, 2004; Milner, Husband, & Jackson, 2002; Patterson-Stewart, Ritchie, & Sanders, 1997). There remain very few empirical studies that capture the experiences of Black doctoral students who are in distinct, cross-race relationships. However, what is a recurring theme across studies is that "Race Always Matters" (McNair, 2003). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.