Coping with racism: Exploring experiences of the post-apartheid generation of Black students at an historically Whites-only university in South Africa


This study explored how the post-apartheid generation of Black students cope with institutional racism and overt acts of racism at an historically Whites-only university. The experiences reported by Black students indicate that racism can manifest in various forms across different aspects of their lives. These experiences encompass institutional, academic, social, and emotional realms of their lived realities. N=6 Black students were interviewed to explore their experiences of racism and their coping mechanisms, using semi-structured interviews. A transcendental phenomenological research design underpinned the study in its focus on the shared lived racial experiences of post-apartheid Black students in an historically Whites-only university. Thematic analysis (TA) was used as a method of data analysis to elucidate these experiences. To align with the aim of the study, the analysis of gathered data employed a thematic approach grounded in social stress theory. The findings reveal that overt acts of racism and institutional racism perpetually afflict Black students, in post-apartheid South Africa. Five themes, and one overarching theme of coping defences were generated: academic determination, boldness, physically and emotionally escaping, faith, support, and inclusion. Fundamentally, the findings demonstrate that Black students adopt both adaptive and maladaptive defences of coping with their experiences of racism, with perpetual psychological costs to their emotional and academic functioning.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v9i2p61

Keywords: Racism; post-apartheid; ‘born-free’ Black generation; coping with racism; historically Whites-only University, social stress theory


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