'Girls': Real Problem Is Racial Segregation

Lena Dunham
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
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.

Salamishah Tillet is a rape survivor and co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that uses art to end violence against girls and women. She is also an associate professor of English studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship, Racial Democracy, and the Post-Civil Rights Imagination. She is working on a book about civil rights icon Nina Simone.

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