The Sharp White Background: An Autoethnographic Analysis of the Experiences of Undergraduate Women of Color
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Throughout my experiences in higher education, I have felt isolated, alienated, and inadequate. At one point I asked myself, are my school experiences as universal as I think they are, and if so, what are the footholds that allow women of color like me to persist in higher education? Existing literature confirms that students of color, particularly women, experience barriers to their academic success because of the white supremacy inherent in academia. Contemporary scholars describe the process of overcoming these barriers as the Racial Opportunity Cost. Using Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality as analytical frameworks, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork and interviews at the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT). Results from the observations and interviews indicated that the white racial habitus perpetuated and validated by educational institutions, including UWT, contribute to the difficulty and isolation women of color experience as undergraduate students. I recommend further research on the experiences of women of color in different capacities (i.e., faculty, graduate students, etc.) within academia and call for reevaluation of the way institutions handle diversity, equity, and inclusion. I suggest that institutions first start with addressing the white supremacy present in their practices and campus culture to make a lasting difference in how women of color experience higher education.