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Watch OPINION: Politicians who come to our HBCU campuses must understand and recognize our storied history – Latest Politics News


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The Black college students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) share a common bond with other marginalized groups. Our nation’s history is replete with stories of the relentless fight for equitable voting rights.

That’s why, as this struggle continues due to the need to combat various voter suppression tactics, college campuses must play a crucial role in promoting a connection between political leaders and their electorate.

Higher education has the power to formidably facilitate political engagement on campus by supporting greater access to political candidates.

The voices heard, the debates sparked and the connections made can ignite student political engagement.

As researchers on the political socialization of Black youth voters at HBCUs, we can offer critical advice for those seeking to engage with HBCU students. Successful political messaging to this demographic lies in authentic engagement that includes a sincere effort to address students’ concerns and priorities.

Superficial appearances, monologues or insincere support-seeking will not make the intended impact.

Related:  Could colleges make voting as popular as going to football games?

When political candidates embark on message and outreach tours, they must be careful not to alienate the critical yet frequently underestimated population of Black youth voters, who too often feel that they only matter to politicians during election season.

We know this from interviews with over 118 young Black voters at HBCUs, who expressed frustration with politicians who resort to hollow pandering by playing identity politics — for example, “Vote for me because you are Black” — or making superficial statements like “I keep hot sauce in my bag” or “I’ve lit up a joint.”

Such tactics are a turn-off for these young voters, who want genuine conversations about their rights before discussions about what they should do with their votes.

The interviews were part of our recently completed, National Science Foundation-supported research investigating the political socialization of Black youth at HBCUs.

Politicians who invite themselves onto our campuses should prioritize giving students unfiltered access that allows for unscripted interactions and authentic engagement.

Here are some recommendations based on our findings:

First, candidates should strategically engage with youth voters by going where they are. The key to engaging young voters effectively lies in the choice of location and method of interaction.

Instead of speaking in grand auditoriums, candidates should focus on smaller venues — campus cafeterias, quads and student dormitories — to facilitate flexible and genuine conversations.

Second, candidates should emphasize that they want to learn from students during their campus visits. The significance of these visits lies in the lessons imparted by and the feedback received from students — listening to student voices is essential to make visits impactful. Candidates should convey that they believe students can make valuable contributions.

Third, these young voters want politicians to pay genuine attention to their needs and aspirations. As one participant aptly expressed, “Show what you’ve done. Why would I vote for you, if you haven’t done anything in my community that shows me that you’re here for me and not just my vote?”

Finally, candidates should make efforts to keep the momentum of voter engagement going beyond Election Day. Voting is just the beginning, and if candidates gain Black youth voters’ initial support, they may earn enduring support.

Candidates’ campus visits are opportunities for voters and politicians to cultivate trust and foster stronger relationships beyond Election Day.

Engagement is not about pandering or making campaign pit stops; instead, it’s about empowering a generation to vote for leaders who truly champion their causes.

One example: Vice President Kamala Harris has been touring college campuses, including HBCUs, on her  “Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour.”

However, her lecture-like approach, with moderated discussions, seems to be falling short of establishing a genuine connection. If the tour’s goal is to inspire and empower young voters on topics important to their demographic, it should actively include them in the plan.

Related: OPINION: To train the next generation of entrepreneurs, look to HBCUs

Politicians who invite themselves onto our campuses should prioritize giving students unfiltered access that allows for unscripted interactions and authentic engagement.

Politicians need not search far for exemplars, for academics manifest this practice daily in their classrooms. They engage students in open dialogues, affording them the opportunity to pose unvetted inquiries and receive forthright responses.

Postsecondary institutions should help facilitate these connections between politicians and students, thus amplifying youth voter voices in a manner that centers them. Simply giving politicians the chance to be visible on campus is not enough and won’t matter beyond Election Day.

Students want to hear from and vote for leaders who legitimately connect with them and will actively advocate for their causes.

Amanda Wilkerson is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida in the Department of Educational Leadership and Higher Education.

Shalander “Shelly” Samuels is an Afro-Caribbean assistant professor in the English department in the College of Liberal Arts at Kean University.

This story about HBCU students and politics was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.

We update regularly World Latest Breaking News here. We update 2023-11-21 11:30:00 this news story from official website –”

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