Bizarre. This morning on NPR's Weekend Edition: a sociologist tries to explain to Linda Wertheimer, without using the word "segregation," that the relief workers will be intentionally racially segregating the emergency shelters. I think the link is here.
She's going on about how people want to be with their own "cultural group" and how tensions will be lower that way. This may or may not be true, but what's interesting to me is the linguistic somersaults she's putting herself through to avoid saying "we will segregate the shelters."
If it's true, as she says, that people will naturally assume a spatial distribution of cultural attributes that minimizes tensions (okay, she didn't say it that way, but trust me, my way makes a lot more sense than what came out of her mouth), then why not just allow people to find their own spots instead of assigning seats, so to speak?
Sure, it's less orderly to install people that way---even if you give general instructions like "try to fill up from the back to the front" and even if you employ "ushers" to guide late arrivals to empty pockets and spots---but if one of your overriding goals is to reduce tension and if one of your theories is that people will reduce tension themselves by picking their own neighbors, then perhaps it's a reasonable tradeoff.
It just seems weird to assume that two families will get along okay if they are forced to sleep next to each other, only as long as they are the same race.