Good segregation?

Politics and Current Events

Part of being a “cultural mosaic” (hold the eye-rolling until I’m done, please) necessarily assumes some level of difference. If it wasn’t so, we would have a “melting pot” instead. Difference isn’t a bad thing; belonging to a certain group based on that difference – ethnic, religious or otherwise – isn’t bad, either.

So when does it get bad? When the word “segregation” enters into the discussion? It certainly brings some awfully negative connotations with it: ghettos, white-only bars/buses/schools etc. But is it possible that what makes that kind of segregation bad is that it’s forced? When it’s one group saying to another, “you stay there, we’ll stay here” out of hate, or fear, or both.

So is it possible that there’s good segregation?

The Star ran an article today about a housing subsidy in York Region for buildings that limit residency to certain religious and ethnic groups (specifically, one Italian, one Jewish and two Muslim). Not surprisingly, the issue brings up issues of segregation and discrimination, basically that certain groups of people are getting subsidized rent ahead of thousands of other seniors and families who are on waiting lists simply because they meet the ‘minority’ requirements of these buildings.

Two key questions:

Q. Why are the buildings allowed to rent to only certain groups?

A. The buildings are often built by that particular community through fundraising and volunteering. Plus, the buildings are required, among other things, to provide culturally-specific programs in the building. Not much different than the way we segregate some schools, I suppose.

Q. Is the housing subsidy discriminatory?

A. Critics say ‘yes,’ because taxpayers’ dollars are going into facilities that aren’t open to everyone. Supporters say ‘no,’ because it’s seen as a “leg up” for these minority groups, plus the Human Rights Commission says the buildings aren’t discriminatory.

Setting aside the housing subsidy issue for the moment, I’d like to focus on the buildings themselves. If there is such a thing as “good segregation,” do these buildings fit the bill? Shouldn’t people be allowed to live, or study, in facilities that are catered to their beliefs or cultural practices?

Part of me would like to say ‘yes.’ Another part of me worries that although we have the right to segregate ourselves willingly, it seems counter-productive somehow. Aren’t fear and hate born out of ignorance, and doesn’t segregation breed ignorance?

Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio, who helped raise funds for the residence built for seniors of Italian descent, was quoted in the article saying “people feel more comfortable among their own.”

This should worry you. You should not feel comfortable hearing that people feel more comfortable among their own, however true it may be. Because even in the instances when we choose to segregate ourselves, we’re still saying, “you stay there, we’ll stay here.”

I write, therefore I procrastinate.


Funnily enough, the date of my last post was also the exact day Zip sent me American Graffiti – and it has taken me the same amount of time, almost to the day, to watch it as it has to post again. I did, however, organize my closet in the interim. So, feeling thoroughly ashamed to be one of those sporadic ‘oh-I’m-too-busy-to-blog’ bloggers, I’m going to stop making notes in my organizer about all the things I want to blog about, and actually post something.

That concludes my unnecessary, somewhat random, prologue.

During the International Festival of Authors in Toronto late last month, I collected some favourite quotations from a series of Q&As with various authors compiled by Star book critic Geoff Pevere. Why? Because sometimes thinking about what being a writer is like, or what it means, instead of actually putting pen to paper (read: fingers to keyboard), is just easier.

Also, if you read all the Q&As, you may notice that I favoured the authors who tended to have disorderly habits – no one wants to read about a successful writer who is productive and never stares out a window when they should be meeting a deadline.

B.C. crime writer William Deverell:

Q: How do you get started writing? How do you avoid getting started writing?

A: In this trade there is no time clock to punch, you must exert a will of iron. Typical fall day: I leave for my writing studio promptly at 10, imbued with determination. But I can’t help notice the weather is fair, for a change it’s not raining, so perhaps a walk in the woods might invigorate the mind, and the field mushrooms are out and perhaps one should gather some for dinner. Ultimately, after a couple of hours of this hard discipline, I take my bag of mushrooms to my studio and sit down to keyboard. But first I have to turn on CBC 2 and listen to the news, and that’s followed by the Brahms second symphony, and it would be insulting to the master not to listen. And in the meantime, of course, there’s that unfinished chess game on the computer that might just sharpen the mind. (I have yet to fall prey to Internet addiction only because I have banned all phones from my studio.) Suddenly yet another hour has passed, and I sense the first tremblings of panic disorder, and finally bring up the chapter I’ve been working on, and begin to read, edit, compose – and then just as suddenly it’s 7 o’clock and I’m late for dinner and in deep s–t and I race to the house, forgetting my bag of mushrooms.

Q: What is the optimal creative atmosphere?

A: (…) Dreaming. Faulkner is said to have divorced his first wife because she could not understand that when he appeared to be staring idly out the window he was actually hard at work.

Q: Do you actually like writing?

A: I used to practise law, when all I dreamed of is what I happily do now.

Nova Scotia author Shandi Mitchell:

Q: Where do you write?

A: I have two work spaces: 1) A beautiful studio that overlooks the canal. No phone or email. This is where I am supposed to write. 2) My upstairs, 7 foot x 8 foot, ½ story office. A quarter of the room is comprised of a closet. The only place to stand up straight is under the peak. There are phones, emails, TV, husband, dog, and my only window looks onto the street, which is under construction. This is where I tend to write.

Q: Do you actually like writing?

A: I like having written. The act of writing itself can be a gruelling, soul-ripping, self-doubting, mind-crushing mountain to climb, interspersed with glorious moments of flight. But once done, I can’t wait to go again.

U.K. author Iain Pears:

Q: How do you get started writing?

A: Guilt is the best motivator; the trick is to let it build up until you feel like a total useless wretch. Then you can get down to work out of sheer self-disgust.

Q: Do you actually like writing?

A: Sometimes. Especially when I consider the alternatives.

On second thought, I don’t think my prologue was that random, after all.