The fear of sounding dumb is what stops a lot of black students from sharing their thoughts in the lecture hall. I can say for a long time it held me back from asking questions, sharing my viewpoint, or doing whatever normally would cause me to speak out.
To be able to develop the confidence to speak up in the classroom, I started out taking tiny actions. My initial step was to be comfortable with hearing my voice in a noiseless classroom. Whenever the teacher mumbled his words or was unclear in his thoughts, I would raise my hand and ask, “Can you say that again?” This does not require a lot of forethought nor does it enable someone else to contest or question your stance. It’s merely the universal, “I didn’t hear what the instructor said, and I need explanation.”
The next step was to answer the questions the instructor asked within my head. While another college student was responding, I would answer the query on my own, and also occasionally write down my views. When other students held a viewpoint similar to mine or cited a point I could build off of, I would put up my hand and deliver my opinion. Piggybacking off the students who already had laid the structure to introduce my feedback made me comfortable enough to chime in and offer my perspective in the classroom.
With this approach, I began build the confidence for speaking in the classroom. I started voicing my thoughts and opinions frequently and was not afraid to provide a different opinion from the consensus, as was usually the case.
This lengthy process was definitely worth it. After being able to talk openly in classes with so many people from various backgrounds, speaking in public grew to be rather easy. If you are scared of speaking up in college classes, begin by getting comfortable with solely talking in the lecture hall. Next, continue on to offering your ideas. You’ll witness your own sense of self-esteem boosts every time you do.
Learn how students of color can deal with other obstacles they may encounter in college by checking out the book The Only Black Student at the above link.