Charles

Racial Integration & Cities

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I was having a chat with a friend last night by the river Thames in central London and we were admiring the skyline - many new skyscrapers shooting up and other amibitious projects besides. My friend commented that 'This is amazing, but it's just not on the same scale as American cities' - namely New York, and spoke of how streets lined with buildings towering above you. I've never been. The notion being discussed was roughly - what is the greatest city in the world - the pinnacle of human civilization?

I challenged him - what about cohesion and integration - you look at France with its urban ghettos and Germany, where the idea that a brown skinned man of Asian descent being accepted as German is laughable. London is surely the most integrated city on the planet? I vividly described my journey out that evening where I'd seen an old white man - presumably a war vet, sitting on the tube and smiling with delight at his half-somalian grandchild bouncing on his knee. Not an uncommon sight - we have a very large, increasing mixed race population.

These people generally have as much a sense of national identity as the next man does. I live on a street with a thorough mix of white, brown, black, yellow and all shades in between and besides the friendships and businesses that form roughly on lines of ancestral language/culture, there is no racial grouping - certainly not overtly. There are, however, districts in London with a heavy concentration of one group - though usually along religious lines - the orthodox Jewish community in seven sisters and strong, insular Muslim communities from which, it saddens me to say, our homegrown suicide bombers hail (the labour government is finally doing a U-turn on multiculturalism I'm glad to report).

So what about America? I've heard of the Ghettos and I'm aware of a division of communities in places - certainly that there are large swathes of the south where interracial marriages are frowned upon. I haven't been though, I haven't seen it - my knowledge comes from the experiences of friends and family and from what I have read in the media/literature. My friend had travelled there and very much confirmed the picture - you had Italian Americans, African Americans (not so sure about Arab-Americans?) , and such groups readily identified as American first and their distant roots second, but you still had racial groups living in their own communities and not mixing half as much they did here - even in the big blue cities. (Perhaps San Francisco or Los Angeles are exceptions?).

At any rate, I'd be interested to hear people's thought on integration - the degree you think it's happening in the US, whether it matters and what it reflects. Also, which city is the pinnacle of human civilization? Washington DC - Colbert's chocolate city with a marshmallow center & a gram-cracker crust of corruption! ;) ?

(I certainly think a degree of cultural grouping adds a bit of spice to a city - I'd miss China town! But racial/culture/religion?)

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The notion being discussed was roughly - what is the greatest city in the world - the pinnacle of human civilization?

I challenged him - what about cohesion and integration - you look at France with its urban ghettos and Germany, where the idea that a brown skinned man of Asian descent being accepted as German is laughable. London is surely the most integrated city on the planet? I vividly described my journey out that evening where I'd seen an old white man - presumably a war vet, sitting on the tube and smiling with delight at his half-somalian grandchild bouncing on his knee. Not an uncommon sight - we have a very large, increasing mixed race population.

I thought of your story here as I was reading this news report today, about how for political reasons Britain is refusing Israeli planes to refuel in stopover landings while bringing munitions supplied from United States bases. As a result the planes have to carry a substantially smaller load of needed supplies in order to make the trip without the stopover.

I wondered if your thoroughly integrated war vet noticed the absence of Israeli planes as he was "smiling with delight at his half-somalian grandchild." Integration as the "pinnacle of human civilization," indeed. ;)

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In terms of being the most integrated city, from my experience, I would say London, New York City, or Hong Kong.

In terms of the pinnacle of human achievement, I cannot decide between New York City and Hong Kong. Hong Kong's buildings, in my opion, are more beautiful than New York's, but New York is on a much more massive scale.

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I wondered if your thoroughly integrated war vet noticed the absence of Israeli planes as he was "smiling with delight at his half-somalian grandchild." Integration as the "pinnacle of human civilization," indeed. ;)

I don't want to give the impression I think integration is the yard stick by which to measure civilization and I certainly never said it was the "pinnacle of human civilisation" - we were discussing cities and what factors contribute to their greatness. My point being that perhaps integration factored in, that it was a certainly a reflection of civilization beyond a certain point, the unfortunate state of abject racism many parts of the world live in. Your clearly peeved at the British for geopolitical reasons. I wasn't looking to get into a debate about the Israeli conflict.

Have you heard of the Henry Jackson Society? If your interested in people advancing that sort of agenda they're the closest thing to PNAC (Project for a New American Century) in the UK.

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I don't want to give the impression I think integration is the yard stick by which to measure civilization and I certainly never said it was the "pinnacle of human civilisation" - we were discussing cities and what factors contribute to their greatness. My point being that perhaps integration factored in ...

Maybe this is just my day for misunderstanding -- today it seems to be happening a lot -- but since you essentially started and ended with "what is the greatest city in the world - the pinnacle of human civilization," and the only discussion in the paragraphs in between was about integration, it did seem to me that you had chosen racial integration as the foremost criterion for the city which represents the pinnacle of human civilization. Sorry if I was mistaken.

Have you heard of the Henry Jackson Society? If your interested in people advancing that sort of agenda they're the closest thing to PNAC (Project for a New American Century) in the UK.

I know "Scoop" Jackson, but I never heard of that society before. I just took a quick look at the link you gave, and that group looks quite horrid to me.

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