The Racial Battle Fatigue of Black Graduate Women in the Academy

The Racial Battle Fatigue of Black Graduate Women in the Academy

Ivanna D. Colon-Alverio (St. Cloud State University, USA) and Tiffany D. Flowers (St. Cloud State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4626-3.ch004
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Black graduate women (BGW) are among the fastest-growing groups within higher education, and they make up the most significant number of students of color at graduate and undergraduate levels. Indeed, they outnumber other groups of color by two to one. This systematic literature review identifies three significant themes impacting their experiences: racial battle fatigue, intersectionality, and lack of mentorship. Recommendations are highlighted as institutional acknowledgment and support, creating mentoring opportunities and pathways to healing and freedom. Additionally, coping mechanisms are explored in the chapter.
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The experiences of Black women in higher education have either been silenced or left unaddressed (Bowie & Kenney, 2013). This systematic literature review examines Black women's status in higher education. A systematic literature review is a calculated plan to review the current literature on a topic. It explores the breadth and depth of a subject and explores the gaps in the literature to make recommendations (Xiao & Watson, 2019). For this review, the authors used key search terms as Black graduate women in higher education and African American graduate women in higher education. To capture the full range of this topic, we included journal articles from various disciplines from higher education, mental health, college counseling, and psychology, to name a few.

Moreover, electronic databases like Google Scholar, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO, and respective library search engines were used in this review. The researchers utilized backward searching to get a comprehensive list of articles. This chapter uses the term graduate to describe the master's and doctoral level experiences. While reading the abstracts, the authors omitted any articles not based on the United States education system. Three issues emerged from the remaining pieces: racial battle fatigue, intersectionality, and coping mechanisms. In addition, three recommendations were made based on the gaps: institutional acknowledgment and support, creating mentoring experiences, and pathways to healing and freedom (Table 1).

Table 1.
Issues and recommendation results
Racial Battle FatigueInstitutional Acknowledgement and Support
Coping MechanismsHealing and Freedom Pathways

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Care: Different activities a person can do to rejuvenate themselves during a stressful period.

Microaggression: Subtle verbal and nonverbal insults that are targeted toward marginalized people.

Predominantly White Institution: Colleges or universities that historically did not admitted Black people or other marginalized groups. These institutions usually have a large population of White faculty, staff, and students.

Healing Community: A therapeutic group formed to buffer harmful psychological affects due to being in predominantly white spaces.

Tokenism: A symbolic effort to represent underrepresented groups in organizations.

Intersectionality: A place where multiple identities converge, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.

Imposter syndrome: It is a psychological phenomenon where one believes they are a fraud and incapable of doing high-level work despite having previous achievements.

Systemic Racism: Racism that is embedded into everyday systems such as education, criminal justice, and the banking systems.

Race-Related Stressor: Strain or tension due to the experiences of belonging to a racial minority group.

Racial Fatigue: Mental and extreme tiredness resulting from navigating racial microaggressions on a daily and consistent basis.

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