The Logic of Life: Racial segregation

Take a look at this 2 minute video explanation of Thomas Schelling’s Models of Segregation. The model demonstrates that even a mild preference for the colour of your neighbour can lead to extreme segregation.


The moral of the story:

Although we as individuals may be rational and we may be tolerant, the society that we produce together may be neither rational nor tolerant.

Think about this the next time someone tells you that because Barack Obama’s the President, we live in a post-racial society.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora and am a National Campaign Director at I currently live in Washington, DC with my beautiful wife Ellen. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. Today I work at the crossroads of traditional political organizing and online activism. I speak before diverse audiences on empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation though emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet.

4 responses to “The Logic of Life: Racial segregation”

  1. Billione says :

    Thanks for the post! I found it very interesting.

    However, I am concerned about the experiment being biased and relying on the person doing the demonstration. Also, it being based only on color. For example, sure, some of the eggs were out numbered horizontal and/or vertical, but perhaps not diagonally. This would be different if actual people with cultural identities were to be used. There are some brown and/or white “people” who identify with each other based on some cultural elements and not others.

    What would be interesting is if there was a reality show that put 60 people in a neighborhood, based on race, and give them the opportunity to move when and where they wanted within the neighborhood. What would they do then, would they still segregate themselves? What would we call it if they did?

    We would probably just call it LIFE.

  2. Garlin II says :


    Yes, this is a simplified model, but it has value in the questions it leads us to, such as the ones you raise. That’s a sign of sound research.

    It’s important for all of us to realize that ‘segregation’ is not inherently bad. It’s connotation here is bad because it’s rightly associated with its history of systemic discrimination and inequality. But, if people are able to self-separate without the risk/ability to alienate or take advantage of another group, is that a bad thing? Or, is that as harmless as sitting with the other Black kids in the lunchroom?

    The problem, socially & legally, comes from the discrimination, not just the separation.

    One Love. One II.

  3. Billione says :

    I feel you on that. I agree, segregation “is not inherently bad.” I suppose it all depends on who is doing the looking and what they feel about what they see.

    Thanks for the response.

  4. Ojas says :

    Are we as rational as microeconomic models usually assume? Even if not, how much
    does it matter?

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