Preferred Name

Mayah Bell

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Communication Studies


Kathryn Hobson

Melissa W. Alemán

Carlos Alemán


In this thesis, I use autoethnography to uncover systems of oppression that are rooted in the existing structures and dominant culture of a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). My beliefs supported by various Black scholars infer that some alleged practices intentionally silence communities of color and can impose upon them as they attempt to make sense of their experiences in academia, the work place, and in the home (bell hooks, 1993, 1994; Calafell, 2012; Griffin, 2011; Boylorn, 2011; Hill-Collins, 1989, 1990). Black students, like myself, are potentially withheld from reaching our full capacity as critical thinkers while simultaneously mastering the master’s tools (Lorde, 1984) of navigation at a PWI. By adopting wide assortments of existing literature about Black and Brown scholar’s experiences in the academy, I intend to utilize these models as a means to strengthen the groundworks of my thesis. Further, as I plan to highlight my own lived experiences through narrative, I will use these attempts to accentuate the value of my voice, celebrate the prideful moments, and confront the internalized struggles I steadily wrestle with. Integral components of self-reflexivity, writing, and performance all urge this thesis to explore the various areas that encompass the unique experiences of Black queer, women within the communication discipline. As a rising Black, middle-class, queer femme scholar, I write and reflect on rituals, practices, and cultures of a PWI that impose upon Black and Brown bodies. These practices perpetuated by white supremacy develops the expectation of Black and Brown bodies to settle for the implications of institutional racism and sexism within these spaces. In my quest to disrupt certain practices rooted in white institutions, I seek to examine my own particular positionality to the spaces that impose upon myself. Large questions that serve as the foundational basis are: How do the oppressive systems of an institution affect students of color, including the following: A) atmosphere of on-campus spaces, B) the process of navigation within these spaces, and C) motivation and self-confidence of students of color? Though these questions are not guaranteed to be answered to the fullest, I utilize these larger based questions to serve as a guide for my sense-making and critical connections towards my personal experiences. Additional critical thinking questions that target my intersectionality includes: When and where do I feel the most imposed upon at my PWI? How am I positioned in these spaces? How are these spaces evolving or devolving? How does my intersectional identity influence how I perceive myself; how my lens is shaped? What settings at a PWI make me feel fully liberated to perform all my identities, what factors foster feelings of (internalized) oppression? By posing these questions for critical thinking, I am determined to face my own truth while simultaneously deconstructing the existing hegemonic structures created by white supremacy that are rooted at a predominantly white institution.



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