Integration and desegregation—they aren’t the same.

I was listening to a radio conversation the other day, a discussion that evolved out of the Virginia imbroglio but went to the heart of race relations in the United States; i.e., the difference between integrationand desegregation.

​I was listening to a radio conversation the other day, a discussion that evolved out of the Virginia imbroglio but went to the heart of race relations in the United States; i.e., the difference between integration and desegregation.

 

I'm sure I've been one of those people who used the two terms indiscriminately and interchangeably. They are neither; in fact, this country has been good at integration—at making sure that African Americans, Latinos, Muslims—everyone is given equal opportunity to become part of American life. But desegregation, actually making sure that the segregation of races doesn't continue despite attempts to assimilate them, has been more elusive. There remains then this schizophrenic society where minorities work along side of—and in the same jobs as—their white counterparts, but at the end of the day return to different neighborhoods and different cultures. 

I have no solution to offer, though I will say that a new generation is coming to the fore—a generation not mired in the racial distinctions of mine. The problem may solve itself over time, but until then, let's not delude ourselves. Integration is easy, undoing segregation, is a lot more difficult.