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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Segregation and Desegregation: Some Unintended Consequences

Forced segregation. Self-ghettoization. The prevailing ideology behind forced segregation in the US was that the 'majority' citizens (whites) should not live in proximity to the minority (black) citizens. The term 'self-ghettoization' was used by sociologists to explain, simply and generically, why immigrants tended to live in the same neighborhood. Certainly, forced segregation and self-ghettoization are related, reinforce each other, and have the same result of separation from the mainstream. But there is also an implied distinction between the two concepts: forced segregation connotes powerlessness and a decree from above; self-ghettoization connotes a sense of choice. In fact, there was a great deal of freedom and choice and social richness created within the bounds of segregation. And, despite laws abolishing segregation in theory (housing, schools, etc), de facto segregation never went away.

A recent story taken from one of the NPR blogs, Code Switch, discusses the dearth of entertainment options many African Americans face in integrated and/or more affluent communities, often the result of there not being a critical mass of black consumers in a given location, with opinions and preferences not being solicited. Listening to this broadcast is sure to generate discussion and ideas: there were many interesting comments.

Clifton L.Talbert
The social richness and diversity found in towns, especially in the South, during the era of segregation also bears pondering. These towns often had a doctor, lawyer, other professionals as well as blue collar and agricultural workers. Several books* also provide context and insight into the issue: Clifton L. Taulbert's book Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored; Toni Morrison's Home; Paul de Barros's Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle.







*If you wish to purchase any of these books, please consider doing so via BlackPast.org's Amazon banner at the top of the home page. BlackPast.org receives a portion of each sale.

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