When I moved to Mississippi, one of the things I was most curious about was race relations. Never having lived in this part of the country before, I knew that I was basing my impressions largely on stereotypes and media distortions. I wanted to know the reality on the ground. What I found was that many of the stereotypes regarding race were inaccurate. However, I wasn't prepared for the kind of segregation - a different sort of segregation from what we usually mean - that I found.

It did not take me long to discover that Blacks usually associated with other Blacks and that White usually hung out with other Whites. This was not the surprise, as I have encountered this sort of grouping taking place everywhere I've lived. I've always found it unfortunate that there isn't more intermingling, but this seems to be the norm.

The surprise involves the sort of religious segregation I encountered. Members of the predominate religion in this area, Southern Baptist, tended to associate primarily with members of their own churches. It was as if they had a society within a society. Church was not just for Sundays; many families base their entire social lives around their church. Even if they only attended services every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, nearly all their friends were members of their own church.

I also noticed similar patterns among some minority religions. Catholics did the same, albeit to a somewhat milder degree, as did Jews. This was something new for me, something different from what I have encountered in other regions.

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