Segregation can be simply defined as the separation of certain groups within a society, often differentiated by race, religion, income, social class, or language1. This separation may be physical, such as residential living or use of public facilities, or social, such as the prohibition of inter-racial/ inter-religious marriages. Segregation can be split into two sub-categories: de jure and de facto1,3. De jure segregation is mandated by law, and this type of segregation has been present throughout history in places such as the Southern United States, South Africa and presently with gender and religious segregation in some Islamic states. However, de facto segregation is more often demonstrated in modern societies. De facto implies that segregation occurs “through mechanisms such as social norms, economic stratification, or specific qualifications for work”5. Gender segregation is the most common, and perhaps benign, type of segregation demonstrated in our daily lives, and is evident in separate bathrooms, gyms and other facilities based on assumptions on what is appropriate and accepted in a particular society5.
Ideas about formally organizing society around racial differences become prevalent in the late 18th century2. Race as a differentiating characteristic or source of power did not always directly correlate with segregation2. In societies incorporating slavery it was common to believe that the interaction between whites (usually the slave owners) and other races (usually the slaves) would somehow elevate these perceived inferior groups, and interracial living was idealized2. In another view, allowing non-whites to live in separate neighborhoods and acquire independent facilities was prevented as it would allow slaves to gain a sense of autonomy as well as provide an opportunity for an organized rebellion2.
Segregation has been evident throughout the 20th century in supremacist policies in the United States, South Africa, and various European colonies2. These ideas travelled across oceans and colonies, producing a lasting impact on the global dynamics and ideals of human equality2. The roots of modern segregation can be traced back to the territorial efforts to claim land and define boundaries by ethnic groups within cities during their early development2.
There is arguably a natural tendency for people to be drawn to others who share a common culture, nationality, occupation, language, income level or religion, in both social interaction and in places of residence3. There are degrees of de facto segregation, but government policy will often be made to prevent this obvious split in order to promote unity amongst citizens3. On the other extreme, government policy has been the primary enforcer of more severe forms of segregation3. The policy of apartheid was heavily enforced in South Africa from 1948 until 19912. Apartheid was conceived and enforced by a white Afrikaner government, segregating whites and non-whites in marriage, area of residence, opportunity for employment, in use of public facilities and access to private and public services2. Other parts of the Western world were not immune to these archaic and brutal practices2. The Jim Crow laws and one party white supremacist regimes emerged in the United states in the 1890s2. When these innately racist and oppressive laws were enforced they ensured the segregation of public amenities, schools, and banned inter-racial sex and marriage2.
The term “segregation” originated around 1550, meaning the “act of segragating” from the Latin segregationem4. The term “segregate” , from the Latin segregatus, a past participle of segregare, meaning to “separate from the flock, isolate, divide”4. Segregare can be further divided into se meaning “apart from” and grege, related to grex, meaning “herd or flock”4. The term segregate was often used in relation to the religious idea of separating “the flock of the godly from the sinners”4.
1. Mayhew, Susan. "segregation." In A Dictionary of Geography, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 21 Oct. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/ 9780199231805.001.0001/acref-9780199231805-e-2750
2. Nightingale, Carl H.. "Segregation." In Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 21 Oct. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/ view/10.1093/acref/9780195176322.001.0001/acref-9780195176322-e-1422
3. Scott, John, inasdf and Gordon Marshall. "segregation." In A Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 23 Oct. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/ view/10.1093/acref/9780199533008.001.0001/acref-9780199533008-e- 2046
4. segregation. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/segregation (accessed: October 21, 2012).
5. "segregation." In Dictionary of the Social Sciences, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 23 Oct. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195123715.001.0001/acref-9780195123715-e-1498