Self-Segregation in College…it happens

So, I came across this video while reading an interesting article here

I’m on campus almost every day—I work with college students. Meeting new people is one of the things I love about college life. Usually the person is with their friends doing some typical college thing, like studying, eating or socializing. After a while I started noticing how many students self-segregate. Constantly I’d find groups of students solely hanging out with others that looked like them. Sometimes the most diversity I’d see in a day would be among athletes. But then again, there’s a little segregation going on there too. Now this is just my observation. But I’m a fairly nosy girl so I started asking students if self-segregation occurs, and if they had opinions about it.

Not to turn this into a research paper, I’ll just summarize the outcome. Basically, the majority of them unintentionally, self-segregated, it happened naturally within the first few weeks of school. And I think I know why. There’s an overload of newness in college. In general, students leave home for the first time, new roommates, choosing a major, new classroom structure, finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. With everything around them being so different, possibly they’re looking for somewhere to belong. Relating to others create connection–we all know that. And even though it’s superficial, race is one of the first noticeable traits. It’s a commonality, a connection, which generates an immediate sense of belonging.

Another question surfaces as I thought about students need to belong. Are there other areas where this happens? Clinging to a certain group trying to fit in, so to say. Curiosity led me to ask them if their peers played into stereotypes that, we writers, avoid displaying in our characters. They laughed like I had asked a simple question. To them it was. Because they see their peers daily living out what others might call…stereotypical. And you know what, that’s totally fine. Everyone is an individual, yes, but I also believe that certain behaviors and interests are cultural. No one should be ridiculed or labeled as they pursue acceptance or identity.

The issue lies with the belief that stereotypical behavior is less, unimportant, or negative. However, it is horrible if someone assumes a person is a certain way just because of race, gender, sexuality or ability level.

What does this mean for contemporary fiction about college students? How can we include diversity when it’s not always happening in college? I think authors should write whatever they want, so maybe it means nothing. But take a stroll across campus and try writing about what you see.  It’ll only make for a better story! 🙂

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