Self-Segregation on College Campuses

College students from different backgrounds tend to self-segregate into separate racial environments. One professor attempts to help his students examine and cross this type of interpersonal behavior.

| April 2015

  • Student Diversity
    Tendencies to self-segregate because of being anxious about interacting with racial others is highly correlated with lack of diversity experiences.
    Photo by Fotolia/Carlos Santa Maria
  • Taking On Diversity
    Dr. Rupert W. Nacoste shows how we can all learn to meet the challenges of diversity in “Taking on Diversity.”
    Cover courtesy Prometheus Books

  • Student Diversity
  • Taking On Diversity

Dr. Rupert W. Nacoste regularly counsels students at North Carolina State University about their anxieties in situations involving people who are different from them in some way. In Taking on Diversity (Prometheus Books, 2015), he shares students’ stories about dealing with diversity in some way and challenges readers to face these differences. This excerpt is from Chapter 13, “What Did You Just Say to Me?”

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There is no denying that sometimes students come to the university bringing with them people who want them to keep their old patterns of interpersonal behavior. On any campus, students do arrive with old relationships that push for keeping to the old back-at-home ways. That is why one of the goals of my classes is to help these young travelers develop a critical eye about “how we have always done things.” Otherwise, again, we leave them to their own uneducated devices.

In one of our open-class discussions, my students talked about the sadness they feel about their self-segregation. My Latino, White, male, Black, Arab, female, Hindu, mixed-race students talked about the fact that here at college they have a racial mix of acquaintances, but they seldom go to each other’s parties. There are Brown parties, White parties, and Black parties, all manner of segregated social activities.

Hearing lament in their voices, I ask, “Why so much self-segregation?” And they reply:

“We don’t know how to talk to each other.”

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