Part 1: Ancestries
When viewed positively, differences between people can be leveraged for the good of society but when considered negatively, they invoke conflict that has historically pitted man against man in areas of politics, economics and even existence in specific geographic spaces. In relation to geographic space or specifically residential or city dwellings, Nightingale (2012) identifies various elements including class, craft, disease, religion, caste, race or color and even gender, that have been used since the 17th century to perpetuate segregation. Some of the elements are predominant in some situations such as during eras where religion creates segregation by separating the god-king from the people and sometimes applied in combination with other elements like caste as indicated in the case of Indians.

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Others are tied to hatred and fear especially of supremacy and competition like in the case of the Jews, especially in areas of trade and commerce, and whose segregation as well as persecution seems to have begun long before the pogrom days of Hitler. The ancient times are full of situations where segregation, based on race and even craft where various people, as families, established residential areas as a result of the craft they practiced even though this is still shown to cause further segregation between the poor and the rich members of the families. The question remains; why is race or color more prominent than other elements in relation to urban segregation? And can one say that some of the instances of segregation in ancient times were justified?

Part 2: Color and Race come to the City
Conquest and exploration that led to colonialism even in various ancient well-established societies contributed highly to urban segregation especially since the colonialists sought to socially, politically and economically dominate the natives who were relegated to the fringes of society. Walled neighborhoods where natives like American Indians were herded by the colonialists in the late 16th century indicate how urban segregation survived into the 18th and 19th centuries where people of color segregated in their own land. This segregation was further perpetuated through laws that restricted the natives’ movements and ensured that they were under the control of their master.

The confluence of foreigners or outsiders in specific geographical spaces especially merchants and colonialists like Spaniards and the Portuguese, are identified as creating situations which worsened urban segregation, and more so for the natives. Reference is made about the separation of the ‘black’ and the ‘white’ towns where laws were also used to foster racial-based urban segregation with the whites enforcing separation due to a disdain for other races. The outcome, of course, saw the natives driven off to segregated areas where they could not mingle with other races who were considered more superior and civilized with these beliefs, among other punitive ones, being used to foster urban segregation. This begs the question; why were laws and erroneous beliefs used to promote urban segregation and has this practice been carried into the 21st society? And again, why are Muslims depicted as less racial and is this still the case?

Part 3: The Outer Limits of Colonial Urbanism
White towns that were consciously constructed on the basis of racial segregation by actual architects and city planners highlight the relationship between urban segregation and race especially in British-Indian relations. However, the French are identified as being less bigoted against other races or different people, which coincides with their overall strategy of assimilating the locals and natives. With new architectural techniques and incorporation of older designs the new wave of segregation entailed creation of better and stronger structures that could not only separate the superiors and the inferiors but also be a beauty and also for protection. Moreover, urban segregation is shown to have been furthered through propaganda including change in immigration laws to ensure that the superior did not mix with the black population with some areas turning into slums and ghettos mostly for the poor. Instead of focusing on application of new architectural techniques in city and urban planning spanning areas of sanitation, beauty, commerce and even defense among others, it is evident the scourge of racial segregation would be carried forward in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nonetheless, blatant racial segregation reduced drastically as colonialists went back to their mother countries, ushering other bases of segregation especially between the rich and poor. To further understand race and urban segregation, we must ask ourselves; why did modern architects and city planners not anticipate the overwhelming numbers of poor who migrated from the rural areas as had happened in Calcutta? In the first place, were those modern architects really well-versed in modern city planning and architecture considering the advancements that have taken place?

Part 4: Surges of Segregation in the Colonies
Colonialism is seen as one of the major historical elements that fostered creation of residential divisions in relation to city planning based on racial segregation where the British whites dominated the Indian natives and insisted upon their separation of residential dwellings. First of all, the British feared that Indian natives would, in time, rebel against them and thus they had to make sure that they were in areas or strongholds that they could defend and even defeat potential mutinies among other reasons such as the fear of epidemics from the natives. A mutiny did arise which fuelled racial hatred, and even though the British won, they still knew that they were in a precarious position, leading to higher racial segregation including retaking captured areas like the Red Fort, station relocation and ensuring that land matters were under their command. Tied to potential disease pandemics, racial segregation in relation to residential and city dwelling is perpetuated across continents where Asian travellers are shown as being restricted from entering Europe while Chinese migrants are shown as being segregated across color lines.

This is accomplished by diminishing their freedom in their residential areas through fear and potential violence, on the basis of color, race and resources acquired. The begging question is; why are people so afraid of others who are different from them to the extent that they segregate them with regards to residential dwellings? Additionally, why is it that the minority, especially Indians, Chinese and Africans were the most segregated and has this practice continued into the 21st century, albeit in a hidden manner?

  • Nightingale, C.H. (2012). Segregation: A global history of divided cities. Chicago, IL: University
    of Chicago Press.