Segregation is when groups of people live or work separated from each other, usually because of their race or ethnicity.
The opposite word for segregation is integration. This is when different races and ethnicities live among each other, all mixed up.
New York City is a strange city because there are people from over 200 countries who live here, but people often live in segregated neighborhoods. For instance, most black and Latino people live in the northern area of Manhattan. The section of Manhattan below Central Park contains lots of white folks. There are some neighborhoods that are mainly Chinese - like Flushing, Queens or Bensonhurst, Brooklyn - and there is an Indian neighborhood called Jackson Heights. Immigrants tend to find the neighborhood (area of the city) where people of their race or ethnicity live and they move there.
If you look at the map of Detroit in the article, you will probably be shocked to see that black people live in the south part and white people in the north part.
Here is an article and a series of maps about how racially segregated the USA is.
Vocabulary from the article:
race / ethnicity: if you are from China, your race is Asian, your ethnicity is Chinese. If you are white and from Poland, your race is white and your ethnicity is Polish. I am a 3rd generation American, but because the origins of my family are in Germany, I am often called a German-American (even though my father and his father were born here).
worrying racial divides - troublesome forms of segregation; the newspaper implies that racial divisions in the USA should be a cause for concern.
impossible to shift - impossible to change; to shift something means to move it, usually sideways
while New York appear more racially diverse - should be: while New York appears more racially diverse
racial tensions - if you feel tension you feel uneasy or nervous, so racial tensions are negative feelings that people have when thinking about or dealing with people from other races
at a peak - at their highest point
Charleston massacre - a massacre is when a group of innocent and defenseless people are killed. In Charleston a crazy white guy killed several black people in a church
a string of black deaths - a number of black deaths
census data - every 10 years the USA takes a census. This means every American has to fill out a form and submit it to the government. On the form every person at an address has to be listed. The purpose of the census is to determine how many people live in certain areas so that they can be represented in the Congress. For instance, if 1.5 million people live in an area, they might get 2 Congressmen. If 800,000 people live in an area they might only get 1 Congressman. Population changes a lot in the USA so the census happens every 10 years to decide how many Congressmen/women each area of the country will get.
a stark division - very strong, bold, striking
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