Segregation No Longer Exists
Ben Adler writes a wonderful defense of Girls, the critically acclaimed HBO dramedy. Adler deftly demonstrates how critics of the show’s lacking diversity are wrong; he goes as far to posit that criticism regarding the show’s nonexistent portrayal of race shows how “simplistic and self-satisfied liberals can be when talking about race and cities.” It’s a brilliant observation about the reality of racial dynamics and one that Tanner Colby makes about Mad Men.
Perhaps we should be less concerned about how (accurately) television sometimes portrays racialized relationships and more concerned about how segregated our society remains. It’s a bit amusing to demand that fictional accounts of how we live ours lives be more idealized and diverse than our reality. Of course, diversity is not the same as integrated. City living is quite diverse but also very segregated and stratified, two words we try our best to avoid.
Baltimore City is a perfect example. Despite being a majority African American city, social segregation allows residents to escape this reality. The city is 65 percent African American, while the public K-12 school system is nearly 90 percent African American; yet Hampden Elementary/Middle School is nearly 90 percent white–the result of social and racial segregation.
As Adler notes, Girls is a “fairly accurate portrayal of the social segregation that is rampant in our society.” Rather than killing the messenger, it might make sense to question the systems and institutions that reproduce segregation and stratification.