‘Girls’: Real Problem Is Racial Segregation

The Nation's Salamishah Tillet says that housing and school segregation are why the cast of HBO series is all white.

Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

By now, most HBO fans are aware that the channel’s newest show, Girls, is monochromatic in terms of race. The Nation columnist Salamishah Tillet argues that the show’s lack of color isn’t a product of writer-creator Lena Dunham’s racism but, rather, of the racial segregation used in New York City schools and housing areas.

Segregated friendship also has structural origins. In their 2006 report, “Residential Segregation and Interracial Friendships in Schools,” sociologists Ted Mouw and Barbara Entwisle found that patterns of friendship segregation seem to parallel those for residential segregation.

For young people, “residential segregation is important because it results in school segregation,” Mouw and Entwisle write, “which restricts opportunities for interracial friendship.”

Unfortunately, most American school districts are decreasing their efforts to desegregate schools, while school segregation is rising for Africa-Americans and Latinos. And with the conservative Supreme Court revisiting the constitutionality of affirmative action this summer, we can assume that this tragic trend will continue on college campuses across the country.

Read Salamishah Tillet’s entire op-ed at the Nation.