Why Do I Feel Alone?: How Does A Predominantly White Private School Affect the Mental Health/Well-Being Of Minorities?


Summary Of Video: As an Afro-Latina women attending a PWI (predominantly white institute), I have noticed that I often feel misunderstood and alone. After talking about this issue with a few of my close friends and other minorities that attend my school, I soon realized that I was not the only one experiencing this. Consequently, after learning that this was a universal issue among many minorities, I wanted to know why this problem still exists.


How does a predominantly white private school affect the mental health/well-being of minorities?


Although this school experience is hard to hear about, unfortunately, it is not unique. While doing research, I have learned that for minorities, when they attend a PWI, they have more challenges than just the academic rigor of their school. Additionally, the challenges they face often go over the heads of their white peers.

“The challenges result from having to develop relationships with persons with whom they may have had limited or no contact, learning new values and mores that govern social interactions and the exchange of information, learning different ways of communicating with others, and finding resources that allow them to meet personal needs (i.e., hair care products, cultural foods, places of worship) among others.”

A Student Perspective

Haime B, Class of 2021

In my interview with Haime, she began to share how a PWI has made her aware of the subtle microaggressions and inequality that happen in everyday life. Addionally, she explained how once a PWI is done praising you for what they need, such as advertising, you then are overlooked and your needs do not matter.

“Overall, my time at Head-Royce has been a roller coaster. They’ve taught me to be independent and explore new parts of myself while also setting unrealistic expectations for students, leading to anxiety and stress. Also, being a minority on campus is overlooked, as privilege is tossed left and right towards me and many of my friends on campus. Head-Royce promotes their diversity through pictures on their website but in real life, you don’t see much of it. However, there are a few teachers that take their time to understand and support minorities, such as myself, and help us use our voice. I’m thankful for those specific teachers.”

Ivan G, Class of 2021

In my interview with Ivan, he shared how his personal experience attending a PWI has made him wonder how far the United States has really come. Although we are often taught that the U.S. has changed dramatically since its days of Jim Crow and Slavey, the private school experience has taught him that the systemic oppression is still very real and present. During his interview, he explained how the students, especially minorities, are being treated within the community.

“Students [are] feeling ignored … powerless, [and] are looking for an outlet to speak out about the issues they face at the school. Over the past few years, the administration has failed to address issues of students saying racial slurs, faculty not being held accountable for placing students of color in uncomfortable positions, and not addressing the culture which Head-Royce possesses as a private institution which does not support its minority students. In spite of concerns from students and faculty, the school continues to boast about the school’s “diversity” and system which claims to support students of color and those with intersecting identities.”

Amaya W (lol that’s me), Class of 2021

Looking back on my experience, I have realized that although Head-Royce has been academically and emotionally challenging for me, I have learned how to accept myself and understand my identity. At Head-Royce, I have been placed in many difficult circumstances that have lead me to feel isolated, alone, and sometimes even wishing that I had not been born a minority. Nevertheless, after overcoming those difficult circumstances with the help of my friends and other minorities, I am not extremely grateful to have strengthened my appreciation for who I am, deepened my understanding of my rich history as an Afro-Latina woman, and now having an unbreakable bond between me and the other minorities within my PWI. I also wanted to share a quote that I felt represented my experience at Head-Royce.

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”

Ralph W. Sockman

For Now Response: What Can We As A Community Do?

The main goal with my “For Now Response” is to create conversation and help raise awareness. The two steps that I have listed below, I believe will help everyone move towards starting a conversation around this issue.

1. Confront and Overcome Your Basis

STEP ONE: Move Away From Denial STEP TWO: Move Towards Your Basis STEP THREE: Speak Up and Advocate For Those Who Can’t

2. Speak Up and Speak Out!

After speaking with many other minorities that have/had attended a PWI, the most important thing for them was to have their voices and opinions be heard. If you are in the position of privilege, you need to Speak Up and Speak Out for those who do not have the privilege of being heard.

How Will You Continue This Conversation?

After sharing my research and thoughts on this topic, I am excited to see how you will continue this conversation. Addionally, I would love to know what other issues, related to minorities and PWI’s, people need to be exposed to.

To help me with this, I would love if you could answer a few questions.

  • Were you already aware of this issue? If so, how did you become educated?
  • How do you feel after hearing about the multiple experiences that students of color are facing at PWI’s? Does this motivate you to help advocate?
  • Have you ever reached out to the people of color in your school community? If not, would you now consider it?

Also, feel free to start a new conversation down in the comments.

Work Cited

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  1. April 22, 2020 by Sarah

    1. I certainly was aware of the issue but I am not sure if I was aware how much of an impact it could have on these students. Coming from a fairly small private school with a strong community and equity education my school tries very hard to have some of the more difficult conversations involving students of color. We also have hundreds of clubs that consist of many diversity group and student of color alliances. So although I have never first hand attended these I know about them and they are certainly a part of every day conversations.
    2. I think hearing these experiences made me aware of how much of an impact these things can have on students of color. While I recognized before it was an issue I never heard about all the other school related activities it could affect. I think this certainly motivates me to advocate more however I think the fact that I was not aware of the impacts speaks for itself because I am at a school which says we are “diverse and striving for equity”.
    3. I am not exactly sure what you mean by “reach out” if you mean specifically talking about the issues you highlight in your page then the answer would be no.

  2. April 23, 2020 by Morgan

    Your page really spoke to me. As an African American girl at a PWI, I can’t ignore the Microaggressions that occur on my campus on a daily basis. Thank you for bringing awareness.

    • April 24, 2020 by Amaya

      Hey Morgan,

      I am glad that this page was able to speak to you. At the same time, I am also sorry that you have had a similar experience. I have always been passionate about this topic and I am glad to have a platform to help educate others and help others realize that they are not alone.

  3. April 23, 2020 by Elise

    As a POC at a PWI, the student quotes really resonate with me. The discussion that has come up at my school around is whose role it should be to get this conversation going. There are a lot of students speaking up and bringing awareness to their experience coming from a minority at the school, but there is also a lot of pressure on POC students to always have to stand up for themselves and sort of “represent” the POC student experience when the issue is addressed, especially when they might be the only POC in the classroom. Still trying to figure this out, curious if you have any thoughts on this after your exploration in this area or from your experience 🙂

    • April 24, 2020 by Amaya

      Hey Elise,

      My friends and I have definitely talked about this question. Although we don’t have a solid answer yet, we do believe that if you are in a position of privlage and you are educated on the topic that you HAVE to speak out. From personal experience, I know that it can be very exhausting always having to be the spokes person. In situations like this, it always helps to have someone who is not a POC agree with me and help support me since my voice is sometimes overlooked when theirs is not.

  4. April 24, 2020 by Kelly

    Hi Amaya!
    1. I go to a predominately white private school and that is why I am aware of this issue. Although I do not experience this I am not blind to the struggles and issues people of color at my school are forced to deal with. I have mostly been educated on this issue from my friends who experience it.
    2. After hearing about these experiences that students of color are facing I felt and still feel a great deal of empathy. At my school I try my best to be a good ally but I do admit I could be doing more to speak out as well.
    3. I have reached out to people of color in my school community, and will continue to do so.

    I think you did a great job on this project. It is well researched, interesting, contains several different perspectives, and your voice is extremely strong throughout the whole page. Overall great job!

    • April 25, 2020 by Amaya

      Hey Kelly,

      I am glad that you enjoyed my project! Additionally, I am glad to hear that you have reached out to the POC in your community and that you are planning to continue doing so.

  5. April 24, 2020 by Gayatri

    Hi Amaya! As a POC at a PWI, I found your project very relatable and also quite powerful. I really liked the videos and quotes you included, it made it feel so much more personal. This is an issue that I know has impacted me and many POC around me that I feel like does not get enough attention, so thank you for raising awareness.

    • April 25, 2020 by Amaya

      Hey Gayatri,

      I am glad that my project was able to reach you and help you feel not alone. When I heard about this project, I was really excited to raise awareness on this issue and I am glad that you felt awareness was made.

  6. April 26, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Amaya, though I was already aware of this issue, I learned a lot from your presentation. How might you continue this conversation and your advocacy beyond this conference?

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