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The Houston Area Survey
1982-Present
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Racial integration



Racial integration, or simply integration, includes desegregation (the process of ending systematic racial segregation). In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely bringing a racial minority into the majority culture. Desegregation is largely a legal matter, integration largely a social one.

In recent years many historians have come to distinguish between these like-sounding words.. The movement toward desegregation, breaking down the nation's Jim Crow system, became increasingly popular in the decade after World War II. Integration, on the other hand, Professor Oscar Handlin maintains, implies several things not yet necessarily accepted in all areas of American society. In one sense it refers to the "levelling of all barriers to association other than those based on ability, taste, and personal preference"; in other words, providing equal opportunity. But in another sense integration calls for the random distribution of a minority throughout society. Here, according to Handlin, the emphasis is on racial balance in areas of occupation, education, residency, and the like.

From the beginning the military establishment rightly understood that the breakup of the all-black unit would in a closed society necessarily mean more than mere desegregation. It constantly used the terms integration and equal treatment and opportunity to describe its racial goals. Rarely, if ever, does one find the word desegregation in military files that include much correspondence.

Similarly, Keith M. Woods writing on the need for precision in journalistic language writes, "Integration happens when a monolith is changed, like when a black family moves into an all-white neighborhood. Integration happens even without a mandate from the law. Desegregation," on the other hand, "was the legal remedy to segregation." Making almost the same point, Henry Organ, identifying himself as " a participant in the Civil Rights Movement on the (San Francisco) Peninsula in the '60s ... and ... an African American," wrote in 1997, " The term 'desegregation' is normally reserved to the legal/legislative domain, and it was the legalization of discrimination in public institutions based on race that many fought against in the 1960s. The term 'integration,' on the other hand, pertains to a social domain; it does and should refer to individuals of different background who opt to interact.

Although widespread, this distinction between integration and desegregation is not universally accepted. For example, it is possible to find references to "court-ordered integration" from sources such as the Detroit News, PBS, or even Encarta. These same sources also use the phrase "court-ordered desegregation", apparently with exactly the same meaning; the Detroit News uses both expressions interchangeably in the same article.

When the two terms are confused, it is almost always to use integration in the narrower, more legalistic sense of desegregation; one rarely, if ever, sees desegregation used in the broader cultural sense.






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