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Response to “People Like Us” Essay

In the essay “People Like Us”, Brooks states that maybe we are indeed a diverse nation when considered as a whole, but when you look at us on the community level, we are homogenous. Brooks describes numerous ways in which Americans separate themselves from one another. Overall, I agree with the points made by Brooks and can draw many similarities to my own life. For example, when Brooks describes how our towns or cities can become racially homogenized.

“People Like Us” begins by Brooks giving some examples of how people isolate themselves. Many people think of race when they think of diversity, but that is not the only aspect described by Brooks. He takes a look at racial, geographical, background, and work place diversity. People are very capable of finding the seemingly smallest differences between themselves. They will even make some of their biggest life choices based off of these differences. By drawing these subtle distinctions we continue to surround ourselves with people more and more like us, causing certain areas to have certain characteristics.

Brooks goes on to state that our cities and neighborhoods are becoming more and more like themselves. He says that when a place becomes grouped with a certain trait or attribute it gets multiplied and becomes more and more true. Brooks goes on to say that this isn’t some tragedy that we are trying to avoid. In fact, he goes as far as to say that we love this segmentation, and that it actually makes us happier. We feel more comfortable when we are surrounded by people who we consider to be like ourselves.

Brooks then says that even though we seem to strive for racial integration we are, in some cases, becoming more segregated. Reformers have been at work for years to end housing discrimination, but trends are showing that, even though people of different races can live amongst one another, they are choosing not to. People separate themselves by race. By doing this, they begin to give certain places a reputation for being home to a specific race. As these reputations start to develop they become facts reinforced by people choosing to live with people like themselves.

Next, Brooks supports his idea by describing the ways in which we can be divided into demographics based off of where we live geographically. There are many companies that direct potential business owners to the best place for them to market their product based off the tendencies of those who live there. He explains that it really is quite amazing how easily we can be split into these groups. Once again, our tendencies to associate ourselves with those who are similar to us are made apparent.

Brooks moves on to explain that not only do we separate ourselves by minute differences, race, and geography, but also by our own backgrounds. People will group themselves based off of their education level or class, for example. If someone has had a similar past to you, you will be more likely to want to be around them. People are drawn to one another based off past experiences.

Perhaps the places in America that speak the most of diversity are actually some of the least diverse, Brooks explains. He is talking about our country’s elite universities. It seems they go on and on about striving for diversity, and claim they readily accept it. Brooks illustrates that this is not the case, especially for the educators. Our universities’ faculty members seem to be almost exclusively liberal.

Brooks displays concerns for how we seem to isolate ourselves with those who are like us. He points out that when we so deeply immerse ourselves in communities that reflect ourselves, we fail to see the other sides. We do not get the other points of view. Our own ideas and beliefs are only reinforced.

I agree with many of the points made by Brooks in his essay. I can personally relate to his statement that we tend to congregate with people of our own race rather than branching out. I grew up in the small community of Independence, Iowa. We had a population of roughly five-thousand people. Almost all of that population was accounted for in the numerous white families. When I was growing up it was very rare to see someone in town who wasn’t white. I never really had much exposure to people who didn’t look like myself. In fact, the only minority in my class was a Mexican boy whose parents were immigrants. Even though my town had an obvious lack of racial diversity, the thought of why had never crossed my mind.

When I was in fifth grade a black family moved into town with a boy that was put into my class. He did all of the same activities as me and even lived in my neighborhood. We quickly became friends. Over the years, I got a front row seat to many instances of people who were not tolerant or understanding of other races. My friend would often get singled out at school by other kids because his skin color was different than ours. Sometimes, people would even shout racial slurs at him when we were walking down the street. These events got me to think about why we were a predominately white community. It wasn’t just some coincidence. It was that way for a reason. Most of the members of my community chose to live there because we were mostly white. People of different races scared them or made them uncomfortable. Being with people who were like them gave them a sense of belonging and comfort. He and his family being there ruined their security blanket.

They brought in experiences, ideas, and lifestyles that were different from their own. Waterloo, Iowa is a city that was roughly twenty minutes away from me. In my area it was known as the “black town”. There is a large black community there and it held a reputation for exactly that. When I was a sophomore in high school my friend and his family moved there. They said it was because of more job opportunities, but after reading Brooks’ essay I wonder if the ideas described by him somehow applied. I now think that that maybe they moved there because Waterloo held a reputation for being home to people more like them. This is exactly what Brooks meant when he explained that places’ reputations for being home to a certain race only get intensified.

I believe that Brooks’ points about our tendencies to group ourselves with similar people are valid. When I look round at my own life I can see examples of what he was talking about. Brooks’ ideas do a good job at explaining why many aspects of our lives are the way they are. He states that we should ask ourselves if we even care that we have this sort of sheltered life. Brooks says that maybe there is nothing we can do about our tendencies for homogeneity, but perhaps we can try to lead diverse lives. In conclusion, I think we enjoy living in our own little homogenized groups, and because of that we will never become a truly integrated and diverse country.


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