Apartheid, Separatist Enclaves and Ghettos

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6634.htm)

The tendency for people to want to live next to others of the same culture can, if unchecked, lead naturally to developing communities which interact very little with the other cultural groups in a society.  There are also examples of political action to separate people from different cultures: apartheid, as practised in South Africa, has now officially ended but there are widespread examples of milder forms such as redirecting housing by ‘racial steering’,[1] to increase separatism and form ghettos.  Ostensibly this separation might be expected to reduce conflict between different cultural groups, but in practice it leads to mutual suspicion and fear; it is politically unstable because it inevitably leads to unfair treatment of one group or another, or at least a perception of inequality, so that it fosters discontent.

In some countries, action has been taken to increase social cohesion by combating separatism.  In 2001, after riots in Britain, the Cantle Report on Social Cohesion found that “many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives.  These lives often do not seem to touch at any point, let alone overlap and promote any meaningful interchanges”.[2]  The report made numerous recommendations for actions to increase the mutual understanding between people from different communities.

In America, the Oak Park Housing Center in Illinois managed most of the housing rentals to successfully maintain Oak Park “as a multicultural, cosmopolitan middle-class community” rather than follow the pattern of block-by-block segregation that had emerged in nearby Chicago.[3]


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[1] The Electronic Encyclopaedia of Chicago describes racial steering and its subsequent prohibition in America on page 1195; this was available in May 2018 at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1195.html.

A British example, Oldham, was mentioned on page of the 2001 Cantle Report (see endnote below).  More extreme examples include apartheid in South Africa and the Jewish ghettos in Eastern Europe.

[2] After riots in Britain, the government commissioned the 2001 Cantle Report, whose full title is Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team Chaired by Ted Cantle; this was available in May 2018 at http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/14146/1/communitycohesionreport.pdf.

The quotation about “parallel lives” appeared at the beginning of the Executive Summary, on page 8.

The report referred on page 70 to ‘racial steering’ in Oldham, a “local authority, which, in the early 1990s, had been found guilty of operating a segregationist housing policy”.

To combat the problem of separate enclaves, the report made 67 recommendations, including taking positive measures in schools to encourage mutual understanding and setting up initiatives to ensure that people from different cultures meet each other and reduce their mutual distrust by working together.

[3] Page 917 of the Electronic Encyclopaedia of Chicago describes the actions taken by the Oak Park Housing Center to maintain a cosmopolitan community.  This has led to residents feeling safer and property values being higher than in many other nearby areas.  This page was available in May 2018 at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/917.html.