What’s Dating & Friendship Like for Black Women in the Ivy League?


April 23, 2014 • Inspiration


On Black Women Cliques and Dating in the Ivy League

As you all know for the past few weeks, I’ve been intrigued by the experiences that I’ve gathered from women of color who have attended Ivy League univiersities. My original article was featured in MadameNoire here:  Black Women In The Ivy League: “Everything’s Not Always So Pretty At The Top

Recently, someone left a comment on the Madame Noire article that I HAD to share with you all. It’s something that I didn’t really talk about in my original article and is something that I KNOW many of my counterparts experienced during my time at Princeton. Though I had boyfriend, who didn’t attend Princeton, I will say, from what I observed, many of my black female friends had a hard time finding dating prospects. Also, my main social circle couldn’t be labeled as the ‘black girl circle’. I spent most of my time with my dance group, so a lot of my friends stemmed from this circle. However, as the president of Princeton Caribbean Connection, I did interface with many of the affinity groups of color on campus. I found that if we worked together and formed partnerships, doing things (and making strides) as a community of color on campus would have been much easier.

The commenter talks about exclusivity within the women of color circle and DATING.

Here’s what “seoulsista18” shared with me:

As a Columbia University WoC class of 2013, I can say that I, too, experienced all of these things and more during my four years of school–despite being in the true and dynamic cultural melting pot that is New York City. Most ethnic cliques (including black ones) were exclusive, unwelcoming, and oftentimes fraught with internal cattiness and strife. Black girls were divided further into black Caribbean girls, black African girls, black African-American girls, etc. all of whom appeared equally disinterested in letting “others” into their circles. In the end, my friend circle became the no-label black people; those from obscure partially ethnic tribes in developing countries, the mixed kids, and the black outliers. People who didn’t fit into other predetermined “black” boxes. And there were many of us.

Anyway. One thing I’m surprised few of these women mentioned was the extreme lack of dating prospects in Ivy schools. I don’t know about other Ivies, but I managed to make it through four years at Columbia without a single campus date. And I’m sad to say that I knew quite a few women of color who had similar experiences. I don’t know exactly what to attribute this deficit to, but I do know that throughout these same four years, I found it difficult to watch black men (our precious few educated and driven young black men) consciously opting to date exclusively non-black women. I was appalled. It seemed like the higher up the ladder black men climbed in the Ivy league, the farther they seemed to want to distance themselves from the black female. I daresay it made me resentful.. Simply because I just grew tired year after year of seeing so many beautiful and amazing black women sitting out weekend nights in the library hanging back while our black men paraded around campus with a host of Latina or white girls on their arms. I could go on about this forever, but long story short, I may as well have gone to an all-girls school. Don’t think it would have made a difference.

So, let’s start this discussion.

Here are my questions:
Do you think that in schools where there are less black females, the cliques that form within the “diverse circuit” can be extremely divisive?

Why do you think that dating can be hard for black women at these type of institutions?

Ladies? Fellas? I want to hear your responses to this. Just leave a COMMENT below!


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  • Thanks for sharing, Rana. Firstly, I’d say that cliques are a human phenomenon, so a sociologist would expect to find them expressed in social structures of any ethnic group in colleges. Secondly, the high level of insularity which seems to exist among black/brown women on ivy league campuses (according to you & seoulsista18) may be an insidious aftereffect of a long history of racism in this country; and/or it may result from continued racism on ivy league campuses today. Racism is a double-edged sword coming from the bad attitude of one group and creating reactions in the other group. This togetherness among your female peers may itself be off-putting to young black men on campus. [My comments are offered w/respect & I may be completely wrong.]

    • Very insightful comment. I’m not too sure what the answer to that is, but what my friends and I found was that when we go to other campuses, the awkward dating culture did not exist to the extent that it did at Princeton. I wonder if it has something to do with the low black female and male ratio. Not too sure. This is def. something I’d love to explore further.

  • Rana, I read through your well-written article at ‘MadameNoire’ and I see that racism and sexism are indeed issues on ivy league campuses, causing feelings of otherness among your peers, though your respondents were basically glad for their ivy league education.

    • Yes, I think these feelings of “otherness” we have come to accept as part of the process of receiving an Ivy League education.