What are facts about segregation?

Americans generally think of segregation as a problem in the southern United States, where after the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Plessy vs. Ferguson, a series of laws made the mixing of the races illegal in schools or hospitals or theaters and even restricted blacks from drinking from "white only" fountains or using "white only" dressing rooms in department stores. But the reality is that over the centuries, many cultures have practiced segregation in one form or other.

There are two basic types of segregation: de facto, referring to cultures where it is the custom or habit to stay away from a particular group or restrict their access to certain services; and de jure, referring to actual laws which prohibit and criminalize the mixing of certain groups. South Africa, for example, had de jure segregation under the name "apartheid."

In America, southern states also practiced de jure segregation until 1954, when the Supreme Court rules in Brown vs. the Board of Education that de jure segregation was unconstitutional. But sadly, while on paper Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed segregation in America, it persisted. Many states, including some up north, continued to practice de facto segregation, restricting black people to certain neighborhoods, denying them access to certain occupations, and not admitting them to certain schools, even when they were qualified to attend. There were no longer any laws on the books, but prejudice endured, enshrined in custom and in stereotype.

The same tendencies to segregate can still be seen in some other countries too, where a particular racial or ethnic or religious group is feared and ostracized, even though, technically, such actions may not be legal.