Speaker puts segregation in the spotlight

If campaign promises and early moves hold true, the incoming Trump administration will be a clear step backward on civil rights and desegregation in the United States, according to a Princeton University professor, who will bring his cautionary message to campus today.

“I don’t see any hope for progress in next two years – and we will see back-sliding on a number of fronts,” said Douglas Massey, a Princeton Sociology professor, who will deliver the inaugural Balakrishnan Distinguished Lecture in Population Dynamics and Inequality entitled, Segregation and the Perpetuation of Poverty, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the McKellar Room, University Community Centre.

Long linked to issues like poverty and other quality of life issues for mainly minorities, segregation is a major feature of human societies. Massey will speak to the subject by describing ways it promotes disadvantages across time, lifecycles and generations.

“Segregation is a main factor in concentrated poverty,” he continued. “When this happens, you create harsh, disordered and often violent environments. Exposure to this over the long term undermines health and well-being in a number of different way.”

While black/white segregation has declined on average in the United States, Massey said those figures are misleading, as some major metropolitan areas have not seen a decline at all. Cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago are the source of many of America’s most pressing urban problems. In addition, cities such as Los Angeles and New York are starting to show levels of segregation amongst Latino populations comparable to historic levels as seen by black populations.

The Trump campaign was belligerently racist, especially toward Mexicans, and, as Republicans control both houses of Congress, “racially conservative people will be in positions of power,” Massey stressed. By way of example, he pointed to the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, whom Massey calls “a well-known racist.” In 1986, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship because of alleged racist remarks.

While Massey’s research focuses primarily on the United States, his lecture will touch on segregation around the world, including Canada. With levels of segregation lower than its neighbour to the south, Canada still has issues of segregation and concentrated poverty.

The inaugural Balakrishnan Distinguished Lecture in Population Dynamics and Inequality is presented by the Department of Sociology. The lecture series was established through a donation from professor emeritus T.R. Balakrishnan, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Department of Sociology.