14 October, 2006


Parallel lives

Janice Turner wrote last week about people tending to stick with their own ethnic group, even in otherwise relatively intergated and friendly contexts.
My sons’ inner city primary could not be more diverse, yet in the playground you usually see mothers chatting in groups restricted to their own race and class. That is not to say there is hostility. Far from it: there is much kindness, cordiality, respect, many smiled hellos. Just rarely deeper intimacy: that is reserved for those who understand you best, with whom you feel most at ease; those, it seems, like you. Likewise the children gravitate — for the most part — towards friendships with those from similar backgrounds.
I saw a striking example of this while waiting for a train the other day. On the opposite platform was a large group of teenagers, probably about 16 years old. They were conservatively and uniformly dressed and most wore identical garish lime green jumpers, so I guess it was a school trip of some kind.

They had fallen into three distinct groups, chatting within each group. In the middle, a loose group of four or five kids of mixed gender and race. To the left, a group of five Black girls. And to the right, a group of five White girls.

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