BI FORUM: Don't Forget the Women
With so much media attention focused on the plight of young African American males, I fear that the experiences and challenges African American females face often go unnoticed. This seems to be especially true for those attending predominantly White institutions. As a follow-up to my article, "Where the Boys Are," appearing in the Spring 2000 issue of Black Issues In Higher Education, I felt compelled to make sure that I, too, did not commit the unpardonable sin of ignoring our young women.
Our young women carry the burden of simultaneously being ambassadors for the race and cheerleaders for our young men. They encourage our males to get involved in university life so they can somehow ease the feelings of alienation.
Although African American females don't talk too much (at least not with me) about the dearth of African American males at our institution, I cannot help but believe that there are several serious social consequences to this issue. In the words of one African American female, "Finding a man is a challenge because your choices are limited. First, because not many Black males are admitted to the university and the numbers are getting smaller and smaller. So the number of Black women and men is disproportionate. Many African American women feel that African American men are doing a good job surviving and that they should be given credit for being here because they could be involved in so many things that have nothing to do with going to school."
Over the past several years, I have asked African American females in my sociology class to write papers and to conduct mini research projects and interviews with other African American students about their experiences at the University of Virginia. Through their findings and my own conversations with female students in the Office of African American Affairs, I am getting a better understanding of what it means to be a Black female here.
Two third-year students, Miya Hunter and Chantale Fiebig, voluntarily e-mailed their thoughts to me. They seem to fully understand that the socialization of African American females into womanhood is a complex process, and that the mother-daughter relationship, in particular, is central to understanding their experiences at a predominantly White selective institution. They both agree, as do many others with whom I have talked, that in order for African American women to feel comfortable with who they are at UVA (or any campus), they need to feel strongly supported at home. …