Researchers have consistently documented a range of racialized inputs and outcomes in U.S. higher education. Those dynamics appear especially salient, and their consequences especially pronounced in the U.S. region often referred to as the Deep South. This overwhelming body of evidence, including the documented patterns of racial segregation in Deep South higher education, disparate opportunities and advantages, and inequitable outcomes, offers less insight on how Black students make sense of their experiences. This study used explanatory mixed methods to document racialized differences in campus experiences and to understand how Black students made sense of and navigated those racialized experiences. Our quantitative results point to educational disparities, both in terms of experiences and perceptions of the campus climate. The qualitative findings indicate that Black students made sense of those disparities by conceptualizing of racialized treatment as a benevolent preparation for the ‘real world,’ by internalizing and reproducing hegemonic discourse, and by rationalizing their experiences as developmentally necessary. We offer implications for higher education faculty and staff, who must work to disrupt these racialized and white supremacist patterns in higher education.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.