Segregation (n): The action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart
I was summoned for jury duty today. The jury duty itself was anti-climatic - four hours of waiting around only to be dismissed before jury selection began. What struck me, however, was the assortment of people around me. Jury duty, along with voting and identification, is the great equalizer. People are summoned regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. The result is a mixture of people that would never be thrown together otherwise.
I go through life surrounded by people that are similar to me. Most of the people that I know I met through school, work, or leisure activities. As diverse as my interests are, there is a limit to how many people I meet or the type of people I meet. The people I associate with on a regular basis share a common bond with me.
People segregate according to shared values, culture, and social status. We do this because identifying with people like ourselves is easy. Friendship is an organic process that develops out of a shared bond; by that standard, most of our friends will be an echo of who we are. I live in a city that echoes this trait on a larger scale – if you tell me your ethnicity and socioeconomic status, then I can make a pretty good guess as to which neighborhood you live in.
Standing in the line at the courthouse, I struck up a conversation with a guy holding a Bible. He was a youth pastor; I asked him about the training a minister is expected to go through. This is not my usual conversation; I felt ill-at-ease, as though I had a big red “A” for agnostic tattooed on my forehead. I am guessing that this youth minister probably felt the same way talking to a woman that seemed clueless about the basics of church leadership.