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Racism and Racial Trauma in Doctoral Study: How Students of Color Experience and Negotiate the Political Complexities of Racist Encounters
University of Pennsylvania (2010)
  • Kimberly A. Truong, Northeastern University

In this study, I examined the lived experiences of students of color who have dealt with racism and racial trauma in their doctoral programs. Also, insights into how these students navigated, negotiated, and resolved the political complexities associated with racist encounters are offered. Guided by Critical Race Theory, theoretical perspectives on Navigational Capital, and Mellor’s (2004) Taxonomy of Racism Coping Styles, a phenomenological approach was used to explore how students of color navigated their way through doctoral studies despite having experienced racism and racial trauma. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 26 participants who self-reported having experienced racism and racial trauma during their doctoral studies. Participants were recruited from doctoral institutions nationwide; each current student was in her or his second year of study or beyond. The sample also includes six doctoral graduates of color who had attained their degrees within the past three years. Eleven themes emerged from the data analysis relating to how doctoral students of color experienced racism and racial trauma. These themes are (1) onlyness and isolation; (2) identity intersectionality; (3) differential support and investment; (4) low expectations, high standards; (5) role of funding; (6) exploitation of students; (7) neglect; (8) devaluing of research on race; (9) reproduction of racism by people of color; (10) cumulative effects of racial microaggressions; and (11) violations of institutional and federal policies. The data analysis on how doctoral students of color coped with the racism they experienced resulted in findings that comprise three categories: (1) internal responses; (2) controlled responses; and (3) external responses. Findings from this investigation may inform institutional policymakers and the practices of postsecondary educators and administrators who endeavor to create inclusive and safe environments to support, retain, and graduate doctoral students of color. Implications are offered for prospective and current doctoral students of color to expose them to politically effective strategies that helped others resolve the racism encountered during their doctoral journeys, promote their self-preservation, and ensure persistence toward doctoral degree attainment when confronted with racism and racial trauma.

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Citation Information
Kimberly A. Truong. "Racism and Racial Trauma in Doctoral Study: How Students of Color Experience and Negotiate the Political Complexities of Racist Encounters" University of Pennsylvania (2010)
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