9: Safe Spaces or Spaces of Control? Racial Tensions at Predominantly White Institutions

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This chapter explores minority students’ experiences university-sponsored safe spaces and programmes designated for students of colour, to develop a deeper understanding of the complex pathways students of colour must navigate and negotiate to survive at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) in the US. Many minority students appreciate the goals of these spaces and programmes to promote diversity and inclusivity at PWIs. However, many also question how these may act as a mechanism to segregate, thus potentially rendering the experiences of racialized discrimination and violence invisible to the larger campus population. The chapter draws on an ethnographic study of a population of ethnic minority students at a university in the US Midwest, and the role and use of safe spaces in how they navigate their presence in the institution. The chapter concludes that universities need to openly acknowledge that racism and hate exists on campuses, and work with students of colour to develop measures to alleviate hate.

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