Race forum discusses "Black Identity" at U.Va.
Harold discusses University's racial past, calls for increased student diversity
The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Black Student Alliance held a forum Monday evening entitled “Black Identity on the White College Campus” to discuss race relations and self-segregation on Grounds.
Assoc. History Prof. Claudrena Harold, a specialist in African-American history, gave opening remarks, questioning the existence of a single black culture and calling upon students to remember the struggle of black University students during the 20th century — making specific reference to the “Black Bus Stop,” a bus stop across from Monroe Hall utilized by black students in the 1980s.
Both the University’s history and its current demographics make it a definitively “white college campus,” Harold said — and the demographic trends are doing little to combat that label. “There was a time in U.Va.’s history when the percentage of African-Americans was higher than it is today,” said Harold. “The University should do all it can to draw on lessons of recent past when it had a higher percentage of African American students.”
According to a report published by the University for the 2012-13 school year, 28.3 percent of a total 14,641 undergraduates are minority students — including a 12.1 percent Asian population, a 6.5 percent African-American population and a 5.5 percent Hispanic population. Though methodological changes make it difficult to determine precisely how much African-American enrollment has decreased in recent years, it is apparent that it significantly lower than its highpoint in the early 1990s. In 1991, 12 percent of the student body self-identified as African-American compared to 6.5 percent last year.
“We should do all we can do to make sure diversity [on Grounds] is reflective of the state demographic as well,” Harold said.
Virginia’s overall population is 71.1 percent white and 19.7 percent African-American, according to data from the US Census Bureau.
Fourth-year College student Celeste Ansley said there is still a disparity between the experiences of a black University student and a white one. “America has this weird obsession with black culture, and to pigeon-hole blackness, and black people constantly have to prove their blackness,” she said. “[As a white student] I’ve never had this crisis of ‘Am I white?’ because no one challenges me on that.”