Simply defined, segregation means separate. Not inferior to or less than…just distinct. Segregation of people and groups is more broadly defined as the social division of human beings based on any number of factors including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, and class.

In this entry, we will define a new type of segregation which has its roots in the belief that if people hold different views, they must oppose, dislike, and even hate others. It is based on the premise that, if you don’t think like me, you are less than me. We branded this new concept, “segregation-of- thought.” It encompasses all of its predecessors, but its indignation lies not in the difference of qualities and characteristics of people or groups, but merely in the difference in thinking about them. The late Charles Krauthammer (a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post) wrote, “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

It appears that our current society is not programmed to tolerate differences in thinking. The social media highway is full of bullies that attack others by posting mean, unkind and outright hateful responses to messages that reflect differing views. Why is this practice of hating the way others think so prevalent? Here are some speculations:

  1. People are not forming their own opinions, rather allowing (and preferring) that others tell them how to and what to think. In the work-world, use of protocols are replacing use of professional judgement. Studies on education in colleges and universities indicate that students want to be told what to do rather than problem-solve.
  2. Institutions that taught self-worth and the worth of others are waning in popularity. Statistics of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (collected between 2013-2016) show that membership in those organizations have lowered between 6 – 10 %. Contemporary research also shows the decline in churches. One source reported that every year 4000 churches close and only 1000 new ones open.
  3. Organizations with limited or extreme viewpoints are gaining traction and membership. Supporters view their philosophy as the only correct one. Allegiance to such belief systems conveys a false sense of identity because members are not allowed to think independently of the organization.  Political groups on the extreme right or extreme left are such examples.

Losing personal face-to-face interaction has created a breeding ground for segregation-of-thought. An article in the Wall Street Journal showed that animals who live in small groups (2-50) have the largest brains. Those who live in groups of hundreds have the second largest brains and solitary animals have the smallest brains. Is it possible that we are limiting the potential of our own brains by the reduction of in-person interaction? The intimate interpersonal social action that is being replaced by the impersonal social technology…a concept we named “once removed” is creating changes in how people think. The larger the group, the more people seem to align with the thinking of the group instead of exercising their own decision-making capability.

How do we remedy the ill effects of segregation-of-thought? The solution for segregation was integration…bringing together what was once divided. Applying that theory, people will have to integrate their thoughts and actions by learning to:

  • feel comfortable with their thoughts and beliefs (and not cower to gain acceptance by other);
  • embrace differences; and
  • restore and maintain their commitment to their values (taught by family, church, scouting and others).

The late Senator John McCain was a perfect example of an individual whose strong and complete sense of self, made it easy for him to work with others who had differing views without losing his own perspectives or feeling threatened. This is an example of “integration-of-thought!”

What do you think? Do you have a topic that you would like us to address in a future blog? If so, email us at info@SocialWorkInfo.com

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