Does society purposefully create segregation? Segregation is a very touchy subject. It is quickly linked to discrimination and inequality, which gives it a negative connotation. Whether we would like to admit or not everything has pros and cons. Pros and cons which could be used for social benefits. Could it be that in some aspect, society by design propagates segregation? And do we as individuals sub-consciously segregate in our benefit?
Let’s start with the definition of the word and it’s etymology.
Generally segregation is defined as:
- The separating of person, group or thing from others. The dividing of people or things into separate groups kept apart from each other
- The separation for special treatment or observation of individuals or items from a larger group segregation of gifted children into accelerated classes
- The enforced separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means
- The separation of allelic genes that occurs typically during meiosis
The verb ‘segregate’ has its origins in the Latin words secretus and grex/ ger. With secretus referring to “set apart, withdrawn; hidden, concealed, private”. Grex being herd or flock and ger having “to gather” as its meaning.
What is of note is that it originally referenced the separating of the godly from the sinners, so it was in play as a religious notion.
From it’s origin one can possibly conclude that it has had a negative capacity from the beginning but looking at its definition it could be applied in a morally/ethically neutral fashion. As the ending of segregation in the United States, Apartheid in South Africa and other similar social constructs, are relatively recent, the negative connotation is strongly engrained into the human collective consciousness.
But even with this connotation, forms of segregation still occur under a positive guise. For example gated communities which are said to be erected in order to ensure safety. Or housing areas that are designated to certain income norms. Examples such as these are the low hanging fruit as these are discussion points worldwide. Before I go into the societal aspect let us take a look at it on a micro personal level.
Do all of your friends interact with each other? Do you regularly bring them together? Chances are that many of you answered instinctively no. Is there malice in your distinction of friend groups? Definitely not! You simply recognise that your different relationships serve different purposes, interests, cultures and the list goes on.
How does your closet look like? Are books and clothes together randomly mixed in? Probably not!
These are but 2 simple examples on how you apply segregation to create an order to your life and surely you can come up with many examples as to how segregation eases your life and empowers you and those around you. You apply segregation on various levels not out of malice but out of practicality, empowerment and sometimes protection.
Now let’s zoom back out to society. In many cases forms of segregation are applied in the same manner as we do in our private lives. Schools with different educational levels, different religious buildings/structures, different interest groups and the list goes on.
These different forms of segregation carry with them various pros, for example cultural protection, economic empowerment. Pros such as these and others stimulate us as a society to apply segregation. The downsides of segregation rears its ugly head when it is in forced form and people have little to no choice in the matter. This is not only on a societal level but also on a personal level. Take a moment and examine your segregation habit/routine.
Are there instances wherein your segregation routine/habit can be detrimental to yourself and others or (un) intentionally create forced segregation situations? Analyse the purpose and ensure that it still benefits yourself and those around you.