Nation of isolation – silos of America

Many have blamed social media for the social and political isolation that has virtually wiped out meaningful political speech. Instead of thoughtful discussions, our political lives largely consist of illogical and unhealthy political rhetoric punctuated by angry cries.

While social media most certainly has a polarizing impact on politics in America, this polarization is largely the result of the racial segregation and social isolation that has been imposed on Americans for nearly a century.

Beginning in the early 20th century, federal, state, and local policymakers used various methods to systematically separate neighborhoods by race.

This policy of racial segregation in housing was planned and implemented by federal, state and local authorities, who ignored or even encouraged violence against blacks who dared to cross the color line to live in a white neighborhood.

This policy continues to have devastating negative economic, social and political consequences not only for blacks and other people of color, but for all Americans.

According to the most recent study, only one in four white Americans consider a black person they know to be a close friend or colleague. Most of that 25% probably only have one black friend.

As Chris Rock joked in 2009, “All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. All of my white friends have a black friend.

While it may seem shocking that 75% of white Americans don’t even have a single close black friend, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially to those of us who have reached a certain age.

To the best of my memory, I first met a black person on the first day of third grade at Franklin Elementary. This is more than 10 years after Brown v. Board of Education that the first black student was allowed to attend this white school.

Maybe I wasn’t the only kid who asked his parents if they could be friends with a black person. Perhaps other white children were also told that it was okay to be friends at school, but not to visit each other.

Over 20 years later, our daughter was about the same age when she was invited to a sleepover “across the rails” to celebrate a black friend’s birthday. Several white parents discussed it. Our daughter was the only “white” child allowed to attend.

At that time, “the other side of the tracks” was used more frequently than “n-ville”, but the fear born of the unknown remained then and continues to this day.

A glaring example of racial isolation affecting political discourse today is the debate over the phrase “Black Lives Matter”.

A significant portion of the population misunderstands the expression to mean that black lives matter more than other lives.

Another significant part of the population understands that the phrase means dark living matter just as much as other lives.

The big difference in interpretation is due to the isolation. Schools are more segregated today than they were in the 1960s. Housing segregation remains a serious problem, and Sunday mornings are still the most segregated time in America.

Whites have been isolated in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, jobs, clubs and other places for so long that many have become comfortable denying the existence of racial discrimination.

This isolation is exacerbated by social media, leading to a serious and damaging form of group thinking. Extreme ideas are not contested, beliefs are defended despite all evidence to the contrary, and any difference of opinion is simply not tolerated.

We have become a nation of political silos and echo chambers that ring hollow and prevent meaningful interaction.

To make real progress in America, we must find a way to move beyond racial and political isolation to address the challenges America faces as a nation.

United, we are standing.

– Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for over 50 years. He received his Masters in Political Science from Purdue University after earning a BA in Legal Studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an assistant instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.

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