Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Susan Bush-Mecenas

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Darneika Watson-Davis

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Frances Gipson

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2024 Alexis Thrower


Black females, higher education, intraracial, relationships, sense of belonging, stereotypes

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Education | Higher Education


While existing literature has extensively documented interracial stereotypes faced by Black individuals, this study delved into the lesser-explored realm of stereotypes emanating from within the Black community itself. This dissertation explored the experiences of Black female college students in predominantly white educational environments, focusing on the pervasive influence of intraracial stereotypes. Grounded in phenomenological inquiry and guided by Black Feminist Critique, the research investigated the impact of these intraracial stereotypes on relationships, sense of belonging, and coping strategies among Black female college students. Four research questions guided this dissertation: What are the intraracial stereotypes experienced by Black female college students? How have these intraracial stereotypes shaped their experiences and relationships with Black faculty, Black peers, family members, and the Black community? How do intraracial stereotypes about Black female college students shape their sense of belonging? Lastly, how do Black female college students manage tensions arising from intraracial stereotypes? In-depth semi-structured focus groups were held with 31 Black female college students in Southern California. This study also found that Black female college students experience stereotypes (or microaggressions) from within their racial group across Black family members, Black peers, Black faculty members, and the broader Black community that paralleled their academic intellect or pursuits to whiteness. In addition, this study revealed that even if participants were met with stereotypes from within the family unit, familial support for education was the most prevalent across all eight focus groups, while academia placed a heightened sense of dissonance on friendships (five focus groups), particularly when the participants’ friends did not attend college. On the college campus, participants expressed equally in six focus groups how they experienced both supportiveness and dissonance in their Black academic relationships. Participants also shared how they experienced dissonance in their academic relationships with non-Black peers (five focus groups), often implying that they were made to feel academically inferior, solidifying the overarching conceptual framework of this study in which same-race stereotypes of Black female college students often parallel broader interracial stereotypes that undermine Black academic intellect. These stereotypes may or may not affect and shape their sense of belonging, but when they do, the result is what most focus groups (five) described as isolation and questioning how their behaviors may not align with what their Black counterparts identify as “Black.” When participants’ sense of belonging is not affected by these stereotypes, it may also contribute to their academic resilience to continue to thrive and remain ambitious in the wake of adversity. This is important to note as all focus groups explored where they felt the greatest and weakest sense of belonging. Across all focus groups, participants expressed feeling unwelcome in academic spaces from their non-Black counterparts and some of their Black peers. By contrast, participants understood their need to belong and find affirming Black peer spaces in academic and non-academic settings (the most cited coping strategy across seven focus groups) to combat the negative messaging of intraracial stereotypes. While these stereotypes may undermine the validation of Black excellence, participants exhibited unwavering commitment to their Black identity and academic resilience. To that end, the results of this study call for increased awareness to address these stereotypes, the creation of safe spaces within higher education institutions, and further research into similar stereotypes across diverse racial and gender groups. By shedding light on the experiences of Black female college students navigating intraracial stereotypes, this research contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges they face in predominantly white academic spaces and often in lesser researched predominantly Black spaces both on and off campus.