The United States is More Segregated Than You Think

Nearly 40 percent of white Americans only have friends of the same race and about 25 percent of non-white Americans have friends who are “exclusively” from their own race, an ongoing Reuters poll reports. When the poll considered a “broader circle” of acquaintances and coworkers, it found that 30 percent of Americans do not mix with those of another race.

I was startled but not so startled by the poll’s findings. I grew up in the Bay Area, a region known for its diversity. The Reuters poll notes that California and the Pacific states are indeed where people of different races are most likely to be mixed “when it comes to love and friendship.” My parents are both second-generation Chinese American: on my father’s side, almost everybody married someone who is Chinese or Asian. On my mother’s side, while a few relatives have partners who are Chinese or Asian, the majority are not. My husband Jim is an Irish American New Jerseyan.

In contrast to my experiences while living in California and now in New Jersey, Jim and I found ourselves being stared at when we lived in St. Louis, Missouri in the late 1990s.The Reuters poll found that some regions of the United States are more segregated by race, with the South being where the lowest percentage of people have more than five acquaintances who are of a different race than their own.

More than a decade after we lived there, St. Louis remains very segregated. A 2012 report from the Manhattan Institute found that it is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, with African-Americans and minorities living in different parts of the city and its surrounding areas than whites and facing wide disparities in education and economic circumstances.

With white Americans on track to become a minority in some regions (Hispanics are predicted to make up the majority of Texas’ population by 2020), the poll’s findings seem likely to change before too long. Reuters also found that one-third of Americans under the age of 30 are in a relationship with someone who is from a different race, while only one-tenth of Americans over the age of 30 are. Only one out of ten adults under 30 say they have no family, friends or co-workers who are of a different race.

Those figures are a sign of progress. Nonetheless, even in a diverse community, people of different races may only intermix to a certain extent. White students are in the minority at the school where I teach in Jersey City (but most of the faculty and administration are white, as is the case at most colleges and universities in the U.S.). But after the student newspaper ran a story on interracial dating last spring, I received a couple of queries from students who seemed to marvel at the fact that, yes, my husband is white and that I considered this no big deal.

As the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman more than revealed, race and topics like white privilege in our educational system and in the workplace remain highly charged. We’ve elected a black President twice but reports of racist remarks about him and “mock-lynchings” are sickeningly routine. Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, the U.S. remains significantly segregated along racial lines and still not sure how to reduce, and end, inequality.

Photo fro Thinkstock

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90 comments

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

we had 2 african american students in ym graduating class, 5 total in my highschool. So me having few friends who are black is more from lack of opportunity. I met people of all colors when bartending, and was able to widen my horizons

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson2 years ago

you want to experience diversity, hang out at Seattles Hempfest......all cultural groups are represented....join the party.....

Karen E.
Karen E.2 years ago

Living in a world of diversity opens up a whole new world of learning: new ideas, travel experiences, new cultures, lifestyle, cuisine etc. Choosing friendships within one ethnicity only keeps doors closed. Choosing friendships with people from other cultures opens new doors to new possibilities in life. Options are endless. It is sad to see people who opt to limit their options in life.

Cynthia F.
Cynthia F.2 years ago

Interesting post and comments...thanks for sharing, Kristina!

Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

We need real harmony for the human society; please take the lead

Margarita G.
Margarita G.2 years ago

Thanks!

Karen H.
Karen H.2 years ago

Our parents encouraged us to make friends with everyone--no matter what race, culture or religion. My Catholic and Jewish friends explained their religions to me. My African American friends introduced me to new music and foods. I took a semester of Japanese and met some wonderful people.
I agree with Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He had an emblem called the IDIC, which stood for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. It's fascinating to learn new things and meet new people.

David Bly
.2 years ago

Mark K.
"The comment on Zimmerman is ludicrous.... he is no more "white" than Obama."

What people don't know (or pretend to not know) is that until the Trayvon Martin situation Zimmerman always self-identified as "white". It wasn't until he was in trouble (and likely coached by his attorneys) that he suddenly cared about the Hispanic side of his family.

Either way, he was a bigot and cold-blooded killer.

Jim N.
James N.2 years ago

Funny that the first paragraph calls out white people. "Those white demons won't associate with other races." It takes two to tango. If no blacks want to be our friends, that's their fault. As Obama said, you can't shake hands with someone who has a clenched fist.

Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric2 years ago

I know that, many people do