"Staying black": An analysis of outcomes of the pressure to demonstrate one's racial connectedness

Date of Completion

January 2003


Black Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Education, Higher




This study analyzes black college students' reported experiences of pressure to demonstrate their racial connectedness to other blacks while living away from home and attending a predominantly white university. Studies of black students' academic performance reveals that some black students who academically excel are accused by other blacks of “trying to act white” and of disassociating themselves from the black community. My sample consists of 48 African-American and Caribbean descent sophomores and seniors who attended the University of Connecticut at Storrs. I assessed these students' levels of espoused loyalty to other blacks, their levels of interactions with other blacks, and their experiences of pressure to demonstrate their connectedness to other blacks. ^ Approximately one-quarter of the sample reported being chastised for “trying to act white” and were encouraged by friends and family from their home communities to “stay black” and “not forget their roots.” An unexpected outcome of the chastisement was that students who were accused of “acting white” did not increase their levels of interaction with other blacks to reaffirm their connectedness to the black community. Thus, the chastisement resulted in creating the opposite intended effect of severing relations between the black student and his or her network of friends or family from their home communities. ^ Two additional findings emerged from the study. First, some Caribbean students demonstrated an ethnic connectedness to people of Caribbean descent, rather than a racial connectedness to the larger black community. Thus, students in my study faced multiple pressures to demonstrate their connectedness to groups to which they belonged. Second, I discovered that the pressure to demonstrate one's connectedness can impact all aspects of blacks' lived experience, and is not a function of one's distance from the local black community. ^