Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Author
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Author Basic Books $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-465-09127-0
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-465-09129-4
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-4587-5918-4
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A clinical psychologist and professor at Mount Holyoke College, Tatum (who is black) brings some worthwhile perspectives--developmental psychology and racial identity development theory--to issues of race. Thus, she observes that, when asked for self-definition, whites take their race for granted, while students of color do not. She notes that adults don't know how to respond when children make race-related observations, such as confusing dark skin with dirt. Answering the book's title question, she explains that black students, in late adolescence and early adulthood, are first grappling with ""what it means to be a group targeted by racism,"" and thus seek solidarity in an ""oppositional identity."" Such solidarity often remains necessary, even in corporate settings. She observes credibly in her chapter on affirmative action that the ""less-qualified"" person is usually seen as black, not a white woman, and suggests that whites are more likely to favor their own in cases when the minority applicant is equally qualified. However, she argues that only poorly implemented affirmative action programs promote the unqualified; her treatment of this issue is too pat, as is her treatment of affirmative action in academic admissions. Tatum recommends all-white support groups to work through feelings of guilt and shame regarding racism. She also calls for more dialogue about race; such dialogue, however, would likely have to include such touchy subjects as questions of race and crime in order to be fruitful. Author tour. (Sept.)
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