Magazine article Diversity Employers

Today's Black Collegians

Magazine article Diversity Employers

Today's Black Collegians

Article excerpt

Today's African-American college students want job security and a decent standard of living, but many report also having a pressing need to make a difference as tomorrow's leaders.

They have their work cut out for them: Growing disparities between middle- and lower-class African Americans magnify the erosion of advancements associated with the progress of the last 35 years.

Following the zenith of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, decades of marked achievement netted modest gains for African Americans. Black poverty rates have tumbled from 42 percent to 24 percent. The number of Black elected officials has increased exponentially, as have the percentages of Blacks with college degrees.

Nevertheless, recent reports from Columbia, Princeton and Harvard universities show a huge pool of poorly educated Black men becoming ever more disconnected from mainstream society. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains twice that of the overall national rate.

Add into this mix the HIV/AIDs epidemic, and poor healthcare and public education, and it's enough to make an optimist cringe. These trends have some Generation Next students wondering about their future and preparing for leadership roles. The BLACK COLLEGIAN asked a dozen students about life and concerns on campus today. Several also shared their take on tomorrow and how they intend to make a difference.

From complacency to understanding

A full scholarship and first-rate nursing program lured Brandii Daniels from St. Louis to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. However, the need to better understand the social ills that confront many African Americans steered her to major in psychology.

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The self-described natural caregiver says an epiphany helped her develop the mantra that "you really can't heal people until you understand them and where they're coming from."

"America is good at diagnosing problems, but as a society we fail to address the underlying issues," says Brandii, 21, a senior. "I grew up in the inner-city where people smoked crack and abused drugs, and now that I'm starting to understand why, I've stopped judging them."

If inner-city patients were given comprehensive care, many suffering from depression or mental illness would receive a proper diagnosis and course of treatment, instead of being dismissed because of the environments that they come from, Daniels says.

Too often, there's no real emphasis on healing people, she contends. But in order for that to happen, she says, African Americans and their medical providers must stop being passive and start challenging the subtle racism that lingers in the health care system, as in other social spheres.

Even at Creighton, with its 17 percent minority student population, Daniels encounters day-to-day biases.

"On any day I can walk down the [student union] and hear rock music, country music--basically every type of music other than what I like to hear." Daniels says she has come to understand the phenomenon as "white privilege. It's like a polar bear in a blizzard--you don't see it until it bites you in the ass. This may not be racism when compared to the '60s and '70s, but the subtlety doesn't make it more right," says Daniels, who wants to become a traveling nurse.

"People are afraid to be seen as the angry Black man or woman, but for change to happen--in hospitals or society--it's going to take courage and leadership."

More than marches

Kouri C. Marshall doesn't have to make the five-hour trip from Southern Illinois University's posh Carbondale campus back to his hometown of Peoria to remind him that he's come a long way. The occasional trip back home also reminds the first-year law student how much farther he has to go.

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Raised by his mother in Peoria's housing projects, he is motivated to reach back and help others. …

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