Whether true or just media hype, it’s widely believed that attempts to integrate our diverse communities – white and black in America, white and indigenous in Canada – have not only failed, they’ve failed miserably. And so there’s a growing movement afoot, on both sides of the border, to reinstitute a species of segregation. To avoid scenes like the one involving Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, only black cops should police black communities. To preserve their dignity there should be separate commencement ceremonies for indigenous students. And so on.
I find this highly concerning, not the least because ‘separate but equal’ would be as much of a lie in North America as it was in South Africa. Segregation cannot but create inequalities, and/or exacerbate those that already exist.
Of course maybe that’s the whole idea. If you don’t want to be killed for jogging while black, stay out of our neighbourhoods! If you don’t want to be colonised by settler ideology, don’t take settler-informed courses. Or, for that matter, major in settler-informed disciplines. And so on.
Not surprisingly, most of these new segregationists are themselves black or indigenous. But what’s most concerning is the unstinting well-meaningness of their white allies, who are genuinely concerned about black safety and indigenous dignity. And that’s what makes it so difficult to dismiss these initiatives out of hand.
I have no idea whether this new segregationism is going to catch on or go the way of the recent Super-League in European football. What I do know, however, is that once something like this starts its downhill roll, the further it descends the harder it is to stop. Segregation is always easier than integration, but the easier choice isn’t always the right one.