When most white people talk about segregated communities, they think of communities with many black people or other racial minorities. Most white people believe that minorities have mostly same-race friends and that they need to be racially integrated with the rest of society. However, this is a false assumption based white people’s tendency to notice people’s race only when the people are not white. The typical white person notices race when passing through communities of colour, but she rarely thinks about race when she is surrounded by all white people. If the typical white person is in a group setting with mostly white people but one or two token non-white people, the typical white person perceives the group as “diverse”.
If the typical white person is interested in reality instead of her personal observations (which would be prone to her subconscious racial biases), she may discover that her worldview is distorted. Yet another study, Campus Diversity Important Predictor Of Interracial Friendships, shows that of all racial groups, whites are the most segregated:
A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly found that campus racial and ethnic diversity is important in predicting friendship heterogeneity, and that minorities have higher predicted friendship diversity than whites.
As school diversity rises, predicted friendship diversity also increases, although whites still have lower predicted levels of friendship diversity than minorities. However, this relationship shifts as schools become more diverse, with whites having nearly as diverse friendship networks as minorities on the most diverse campuses.
These studies that show that whites are the most segregated are important, because white people often criticize minorities for living in so-called “ethnic enclaves”.
For example, the main argument of critics of the Africentric school in Toronto was “Segregation has no place in our public schools.” By “segregation”, these critics mean schools with too many students of colour, not schools with too many white people. When children of colour grow up in racially diverse schools but with whites as the racial minority, most white people perceive this as more problematic than when white children grow up in schools where children of colour are even sparser.
The Toronto Star article from May 20, 2008, Serving students in culturally clustered schools, portrays racial segregation as endemic to visible minorities. The photo of the article about racial segregation in schools shows a school with mostly South Asian students, whereas the statistics in the article reveal that most of the segregated schools are the white-majority schools:
Schools in Stouffville, for example, where 93 per cent of residents are white, are likely to have less diverse classrooms than Markham, where 65 per cent of residents belong to a visible minority, half of them Chinese.
Almost half of Mississauga residents are people of colour, as in Toronto and Richmond Hill – in Orangeville, 90 per cent of residents are listed in the census as white. And it varies even within communities.
The census tract around Claireville Junior School near Finch Ave. W. and Martingrove, for example, is 80 per cent visible minority, and more than 40 per cent South Asian, whereas the families around, say, Blythwood Junior Public School near Eglinton and Bayview are more than 90 per cent white. In Halton Region, where Milton has seen an almost 800 per cent jump in the percentage of visible minorities in five years, “students need teachers who are both mirrors and windows,” said diversity co-ordinator Suzanne Muir. “They need a mix of same-culture role models and also teachers different from themselves to help them see the world in a different way.”
With the growing waves of immigration, schools dominated by a particular culture pose a challenge educators cannot ignore, says Jim Grieve, director of education for the Peel District School Board.
“We opened a school a few years ago where about 99 per cent of students were Punjabi – and pretty much from the same region; it was so interesting,” said Grieve.
(Emphasis mine. I’m not sure if Grieve’s number is a personal estimate, a hyperbole, or an actual statistic, as it is unclear whether he—a school director—was involved in conducting the study. Generally, the Peel region is on average 50.0% white/not-visible-minority, according to Statistics Canada.)
The fact box on the right of the article purportedly shows diversity statistics, but the statistics are framed in such a way that makes whiteness invisible. For each regional statistic, a note in parentheses indicates the “largest group”, but “largest group” actually refers to the largest visible minority group, not the largest racial group, which are (non visible minority) whites for 15 of the 17 regions. According to the numbers in the fact box, the region with the highest percentage of visible minorities is Markham, where 65% are visible minorities, whereas the region with the highest percentage of people who are not visible minorities (i.e. people who pass as “white”) is Halton Hills, where 96% are white. However, this 96% number—and the numbers 95%, 94%, 93%, 93% again, etc.—are not shown explicitly; the fact box portrays 65% as the extreme because it is the highest percentage of visible minorities. By using the whites as the background to foreground people of colour, the fact box portrays visible minorities as being numerous, when the reality is the opposite.
“Black teacher”* Ainsworth Morgan criticizes the focus on students of colour over white students:
“No one walks into schools with all white students and all white staff and asks how those kids will assimilate in a diverse world when they graduate. Why do we ask that about schools that aren’t white?”
* That Ainsworth Morgan is a “black teacher” and that Jaideep Kaur is a “South Asian teacher” is relevant, but they should also mention that Jim Grieve is a “white director of education”. However, calling a white person “white” bothers most white people.