Sunday, August 11, 2013

Many Americans Have No Friends of Other Races, Poll Reveals


Last week, Reuters released a real interesting poll that revealed how segregated parts of our society remain.

According to the poll, nearly forty percent of white people have no friends of other races. Nearly twenty-five percent of non-white Americans can say the same thing, except for those non-whites in the Latin community, where only ten percent report not having friends of different races.

Not surprisingly, Americans age thirty and younger report a higher percentage of friends of different races. In fact, about one third of Americans in this age bracket have a partner or spouse of a different race, compared to one tenth of Americans over 30.

As I said, I found this poll to be interesting in that it confirmed some things I’ve noted anecdotally.

  • I’ve attended funerals of a white friend’s relatives and found myself the only person of color there.
  • I’ve attended family gatherings of a white friend and found myself the only person of color there.
  • I’ve attended weddings of a white friend and found myself the only person of color there.

My husband has the experience of being the only white person at some family gatherings, it’s true, but we both have other mixed couples (his cousin and her husband; my cousin—herself of mixed race—and her husband) on the family free, and both of us have friends of different races.

Still, the poll makes me wonder. Taking my husband completely out of the equation, I honestly can’t imagine having no friends of other races. How does that happen exactly?

In my Sociology 101 class (great class; probably one of the most engaging courses I've ever taken, seriously), I remember the teacher telling us that friendships are based much more on proximity than we’d like to admit. Think about it. Haven’t you ever lost touch with friends darn near the moment you switched jobs or neighborhoods? I know I have.

And even though many neighborhoods and churches remain segregated, most workplaces contain some diversity. Depending on the industry and the location maybe not a whole lot, but some. And so this poll tells me that folks have to almost go out of their way to remain surrounded by people who look like them.

What does it tell you?

6 comments:

  1. i think it continues to show that people feel most comfortable with those that look and think the same as they do. Not suprising and not racist

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    1. I gotta say I think it's a little surprising in this day and age. But more importantly, what are the implications? Can we really have discrimination-free workplaces, for example, if people want to continue to self-segregrate? Cause when it comes right down to it, our preference for being with those "like us" says something about our feelings for the "other," and usually not anything good.

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  2. I honestly find it odd and a bit uncultured that people don't have a more diverse set of friends but rather a premise of their friendship is based on how someone looks. I have always had friends of multiple ethnicities without really giving much thought to the amount of melanin in their skin. We all simply had common interests and lived in the same neighborhood or worked at the same company. I couldn't imagine how dull life would be only socializing with one type of person.

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  3. You can look at the numbers and say look how far we have come. Forty percent is a minority. The truth is we have more in common besides race and that is beginning to show up in many places in society. I fellowship where the majority is white but there is a good representation of black and yellow (colors).

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  4. "And even though many neighborhoods and churches remain segregated, most workplaces contain some diversity. Depending on the industry and the location maybe not a whole lot, but some. And so this poll tells me that folks have to almost go out of their way to remain surrounded by people who look like them."

    The workplace doesn't necessarily have anything to do with friends. People can have perfectly acceptable relations with others at work but not invite them over for dinner or invite them to a wedding and call them a friend. So this poll doesn't really actually say anything about people remaining surrounded by people who look like them. It doesn't say anything about who people are surrounded by. It only says something about who they consider to be friends, and even that doesn't mean much, since what exactly "friend" means is pretty vague. All in all, a pretty useless poll that serves more to give people numbers to throw around than to inform anyone of anything real.

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    1. Hello, Anon. I can't agree. The poll takers don't have anyone of another race whom they self-identify as a friend, regardless of their definition of "friend." That's meaningful.

      Granted, the poll results fit within my experience of the world, so I could be biased.

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