Is Toronto growing more divided by race and economics?
On the heels of a summer of gun violence, a pioneering American expert on segregation and its social ills warns that Toronto is heading the way of U.S. cities, where segregation still approaches that of South Africa during apartheid.
Douglas Massey told a University of Toronto audience of 200 last night that Toronto is becoming increasingly segregated along racial and economic lines, at levels social scientists would consider more than worrying.
"They're not yet the conditions in American inner cities," Massey, a sociologist at Princeton University, said in an interview. "But there are troubling indicators Toronto is moving in the direction of segregation and a concentration of poverty.
"Some alarm bells probably should be going off," he added.
For more than 20 years, Massey has studied and helped define segregation, and he is the renowned authority on measuring it. He has testified before Congress on the subject.
Segregation leads to all sorts of social problems, especially a deepening poverty that perpetuates violence, stress and health issues.
Looking at Toronto data since 1981, mostly census figures, Massey found that segregation of visible minorities — especially blacks — is rising, as are poverty and class segregation. Blacks are more and more prone to live in neighbourhoods with other blacks, and increasingly with other minorities.
"When you put these things together, a geographic concentration of poverty is a likely outcome. That leads to a self-perpetuating cycle that we see in the United States," Massey said.
Segregation in Canada does not approach the extreme divisions seen in the U.S., where 70 per cent of urban blacks remain "hypersegregated" — isolated in all-black neighbourhoods in the most disadvantaged parts of a city — or highly segregated in conditions that mimic those produced by apartheid in South Africa.
Some segregation may be voluntary. But black segregation in Toronto, Massey argues, is now at levels where such explanations are inadequate.
In the U.S., even affluent blacks such as lawyers and doctors remain segregated, suggesting that class and poverty are not solely the issue. Studies have shown that racism and discrimination in the housing market were major factors in where people ended up living.
Eric Fong, a professor of sociology at U of T, agrees segregation is increasing in Canadian cities. His research has shown that visible minorities have a decreased chance of finding a place in desirable neighbourhoods, but he doesn't go so far as to blame racism.
Segregation is more hidden in Toronto than in the U.S., he hinted. We don't see "miles-long" segregated urban blocks as in the U.S., but smaller segregated "pockets."
However, "the general statistics tell us that poor blacks, in particular, experience higher segregation compared to other poor members of other groups," Fong said. While segregation remains a lesser problem in Canada, it may not always be.
"Now is the time to act," Massey offered, "to make sure that conditions we observe in a place like Detroit or Newark don't happen in Toronto and other Canadian cities."
Massey also said black-focused schools debated in Toronto should be avoided. "The public sphere should not be in the business of enforcing or promoting segregation because it invariably works out to the disadvantage of segregated people," he said.
He added if blacks in Toronto wanted a segregated school they should be able to have it.
Hat tip, Hyphenated Canadian!