The targeted group is forced to reside and function in separate spaces from the dominant group.
Segregation primarily takes place in four realms of a community: 1. Housing, 2. Education, 3. Employment, and 4. Social Mixing, including sex and marriage.
Segregation is implemented, sustained, and enforced both officially through formal laws and government policies and privately through the policies of businesses, churches, neighborhood committees and other community groups.
- State-Sponsored Segregation – The government passes laws limiting the rights, freedoms, and opportunities of the targeted group. These laws might dictate where members of the group are allowed to live, which public services they are allowed to use, who they are allowed to marry, where they are allowed to go to school, and where they are allowed to operate a business.
The most extreme form of segregation occurs when governments isolate members of a targeted population into concentration camps.
A few examples:
- An overview of Nazi concentration camps
- An overview of Chinese concentration camps persecuting the Uighur minority
- A short documentary investigating the concentration camps persecuting the Rohingya in Myanmar
- A partial list of American Jim Crow laws
- A partial list of Nazi-era laws targeting Jews
- Nazi Nuremburg Laws
- A partial list of South African laws limiting the rights of Black people under Apartheid
- Red-lining in the US
- American Laws banning interracial relationships and marriage
- South African Law banning interracial relationships and marraige
- Nazi laws banning interracial relationsihps and marriage
- School Segregation in the US
- Homelands and Townships in South Africa
- Native American Reservation systems
- Race-based Immigration Restrictions
- Caste laws in India
- Organizational Segregation – Segregationist practices are conducted and enforced by the policies and decisions of businesses and community organizations.
- Employment discrimination – Employers refuse to hire people from targeted groups and justify their decisions by pointing to the qualifications applicants from the dominant group.
- Housing discrimination – Banks and real estate companies conspire to ensure that homes in certain areas are not purchased or rented by the targeted group, and/or that loans or government assistant programs are not made available. This is rationalized as a way to maintain high property values in exclusive neighborhoods. The targeted group is denied access to various opportunities to generate wealth through property ownership, which has been historically a crucial means of investment for social mobility.
- De Facto Segregation – Individuals voluntarily choose to live, work, and spend time with members of their own group. People who identify with one another often bond through shared experiences. Newly-arrived immigrant groups often live near one another in order to establish a familiar, comforting, and welcoming neighborhood for one another. De facto segregation is not oppressive if everyone has the same access to public benefits and opportunities and faces no discrimination. It is problematic only if groups become exclusive and insular to the point that they fail to recognize the common humanity of others and then organize to deny others safety, autonomy, connection to others, or the freedom to pursue personal and professional fulfillment.
People in power often deny that official and organizational segregation exists by claiming that all segregation is de facto segregation.
Why is Segregation in the interest of people in power?
- By creating an environment with significant obstacles to social mobility, industries that require low-paid, unskilled laborers maintain a steady supply of workers. If a group is segregated into an area with poor schools and limited access to bank loans (to buy property or start a business,) there are limited opportunities to make money and to find higher paying jobs.
- It’s cheaper for people who run and profit from systems that serve the public to collect as much money (through taxes or billing) and provide as little service as possible. If a group is isolated and cut off politically, they can be charged or taxed for services and protections but will have few avenues to appeal to authorities when that service is only partially provided or denied completely.
- Resources like housing, jobs, and educational opportunities are often viewed as a scarce resource. Dominant groups often characterize success as a zero-sum competition for access to these resources. Thus, through private and public means, they take as many of those resources for themselves and limit the opportunity of others to attain them.
- People fill their psychological needs in ways that are both healthy and unhealthy for themselves and for society. For example, we all need to feel safe, so some might take care to wear seatbelts while driving (healthy) while others might carry weapons and threaten anyone who seems dangerous (unhealthy.) Similarly, people may fear others who are superficially different from themselves and then seek strategies to keep those people as physically and psychologically distant as possible. Thus, segregation is an extremely unhealthy way to fulfill the psychological need of safety.
How to Dismantle Segregation:
- Pass laws protecting people from discrimination and fund the necessary agencies to ensure that they are fully enforced. Empower watchdog groups to
- Pursue housing policies that diffuse universally accessible low-cost housing throughout a community.
- Use court systems to demand equal protection of the laws (guaranteed in the US by the 14th amendment).
- Create education policies that serve all students equally.
- Overhaul real estate practices to ensure equal access to both housing and financing.
- Generate cultural artifacts (books, tv shows, movies) that emphasize the common humanity of different groups in order to undermine the toxic narratives that help fuel segregationist policies.