Being African American in a predominately white institution like LSU, I have noticed how separated students are from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. I have also noticed how easily people migrate to the people that look like them. I often wonder why that is.

There are cultural divisions going on in today’s society that aren’t as eye-opening as they were in the ‘60s. For example, when I walk through the Quad, I look at the groups of people and notice how segregated they are. The only section of the Quad that doesn’t seem segregated is the area where smokers gather. That sounds like a joke.

When I applied to a predominately white institution, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I applied to get better opportunities for my major and to attend the Manship School of Mass Communication. No one told me how big of a cultural shift it would be, or how it is so divided. I did want to experience getting to know people who are different from me and have friends from different ethnic backgrounds. I just didn’t know it was going to be so hard.

When I first arrived at the University, my first friend was also African American, from Atlanta and in the same major as myself. I didn’t try to find anyone different at all. I stayed in my comfort zone. To this day, I am upset about that because I didn’t branch out to find different people during my entire first semester. I let my own beliefs and insecurities get in the way.

Another form of separation I’ve found at the University is the ranking of how races are viewed, with some being “better” than others. I never realized how strong white privilege was until I got here. Growing up, I always saw everyone as equal, and I didn’t ever feel affected by white privilege until I got here.

During my first semester, I kept going back and forth wondering if I made the right decision in coming here. I am not just writing this based on what I have witnessed or what I just feel. I write this because I have actually been involved. From dining halls to tailgates to home games, I’ve had encounters with the race who are meant to attend a PWI in the first place.

In the dining hall, my things have been removed from my seat so that they can sit there and refused when I asked for my seat back. I’ve gotten smoke blown in my face on purpose and then laughed at afterward. During a football game, a white man told someone who appeared to be of Hispanic descent that he will still think about him when President Donald Trump deports his family.

Countless times I wonder why I did not go to a historically black college—wondering why I chose to come somewhere where I don’t seem to belong. I soon realized the reason I chose to be a mass communication major. I chose this major to have my voice heard and to make a change. I see now that I had to encounter these obstacles to become better and stronger in my field. Even though I was angry while it happened, it did open my eyes for change.

Our first step should be desegregating campus. Students should give speeches at Free Speech Plaza about how they feel and spread positivity to one another. We should rid ourselves of separated GroupMe’s. I get that these are made to get in contact with “your people,” as it is hard to find one another and not lose your true self in the black community. I understand, but we could make one with everyone from different races, as well.

We are making a mistake continuing to separate ourselves, and we are too often stereotyping.

I believe that history is what separated us from each other. If we didn’t focus so heavily on history and what our ancestors did to each other, then we wouldn’t see each other as different. I am not saying we should throw history away, because that is where we come from. However, we don’t ever speak on where we could be now and how to create a new history. Children aren’t born racist — they learn from adults. It’s not too late to change our views on one another. It starts by stepping out of your comfort zone and learning about those who seem different than you.

Te’Kayla Pittman is a 19-year-old mass communication freshman from Atlanta, Georgia.

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