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"Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity
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"Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  5,371 ratings  ·  361 reviews
Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it's not just the black kids sitting together-the white, Latino, Asian Pacific, and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups, too. The same phenomenon can be observed in college dining halls, faculty lounges, and corporate cafe ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 17th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 1997)
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Jarrod Jenkins
Completely awful. Tatum's book is thinly disguised racist propaganda devoid of actual statistics or legitimate quantification of the state of race relations in modern America. Worse than that, it does great harm to the ongoing struggle of race relations by crying wolf, mucking up the lines of communication, and creating resentment where none would otherwise exist.

Because she won't or can't point to empirical evidence of racism such as earnings per unit of time worked when adjusted for education,
...more
Melanie Russo
As a caucasion mother of an adopted african american son...this book was a MUST READ. It teaches us how to have effective and constructive conversations about race. Recent generations of caucasions have taught their young children to avoid using race to describe other people. Unfortunately, all this does is create a society frightened to discuss race. Without effective communication on this topic, we will never achieve true peace and equality among different races and cultures.
Siri
Think you're not racist? THINK AGAIN. Hahaha sorry had to write that bc I felt like it was a catchy phrase to get you to read this review. ANYWAY... this gets 5 stars for content, not writing, but the content is sooooo valuable that it deserves a 5-star rating so everyone will read it. At times it might get a little pedantic, BUT if you can put your uber-white, privileged, upper-middle-class ego aside for the duration of this book, you will learn a LOT about WHY THE HECK all the black peole DO s ...more
Sps
Nov 14, 2012 Sps rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 300s
A useful read.

When advantaged people claim that since they aren't actively persecuting anyone, they aren't actually on the top of the hierarchy, I want to share Tatum's clear explanations and examples. E.g. "If a person of color is a victim of housing discrimination, the apartment that would otherwise have been rented to that person of color is still available for a White person. The White tenant is, knowingly or unknowingly, the beneficiary of racism, a system of advantage based on race. The u
...more
Bonnie
I was angry pretty much the entire time I was reading this, until the last two chapters about races other than black people, and biracial kids, respectively. I want to have a list of both pros and cons, but I might not have been able to see past the red to find any insights in this book. So on with the cons!

1) By chapter 3, it becomes evident that the author views the black kids sitting at the cafeteria as a POSITIVE thing. This makes the book, not about ending voluntary racial segregation, as I
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Scott Rhee
The title of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, is a question that probably crosses the minds of most, if not all, people who observe a high school lunch period, but it often goes unasked at the risk of sounding “racially insensitive” or “racist”.

Tatum’s book helps to provide one theoretical answer to the question; an answer that is logical and intuitive but one that is, unfortunately, fraught with controversy. To some, Tatum’s book is a
...more
Kenghis Khan
All in all it was a worthy read. It articulated a lot of ideas I've been having about how white Americans just don't notice race. It also provided a plausible account about why black adolescents seek out the friendship of other blacks. Tatum also sought to provide concrete solutions.

But the book had some serious short-comings. For instance, Tatum's quantitative evidence for the persistence of racism is ambiguous. She sites a study that notes that black ethnicity or hispanic origin is the single
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Lauren
Ahistorical, psychologically reductivist piece of crap. I knew as soon as she claimed that Cleopatra was black that I wasn't going to like this book - she continuously fails to recognize race and other identities in the proper context, has a weak understanding of race as a social construct, and uses silly anecdotes to get across every point without citing relevant theory (or citing it properly, anyway - I cringed at her use of bell hooks). She tops it off by inserting a section called "beyond bl ...more
Saxon
Jan 02, 2008 Saxon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: you; the white american. and my dad..but that isnt going to happen
As an important and foundational addition to the conversation of race in America in the last 10 years, Tatum's "Why Are All the Black Kids..." is a balanced mix of research, theory, and personal experiences that is easy to read and extremely accessible.
Tatum not only attempts to answer the question of her book but also touches on race issues beyond the black/white paradigm. Overall, Tatum constantly emphasizes the need for constant dialogue amongst not only white Americans with minorities but am
...more
Paige
I'm giving this one five stars, mostly because I think just about everyone should read it.

I was already familiar with many of the concepts and ideas put forth in this book (thanks, Tumblr), so I'm not sure how it would come across to people running into these issues for the very first time. I found Beverly Daniel Tatum's tone to be straightforward, friendly, and sensitive. The book was smoothly written, she doesn't often get bogged down, and she covers a lot of ground. I learned some new stuff,
...more
Shane Woolf
Thought provoking. Preachy and condescending. However, before giving this book a rating and a thorough review some thoughtful consideration (and maybe a re-read) is in order.

But I wonder, if I disagree with Tatum, am I a racist? If I agree, am I still a racist by way of my whiteness and white privilege? Can I be less racist by becoming more aware of my inherent racism? Or does that just make me more racist? Is it even possible for a white person to be UN-racist under Tatum's definition of terms
...more
Trish
I'm sure this is a great book for a college age white kid who grew up in a predominantly white area. There is a lot of stuff here that would be beneficial to those who have not yet been exposed to many racial conversations.



However, to a middle aged person living in a racially diverse city (Oakland), there was not much in this book for me. I am not the target audience. In Oakland, we talk about race, argue about race, and ignore race in turn. In my child's classroom there are: "American" white;
...more
Rae Hittinger
I Really like this book. It was recommended to me at a District meeting about unpacking racism in the classroom. I find this book to be compelling, thought provoking, and an enjoyable read. With short chapters it is an excellent bedside reader. The author uses research as well as anecdotal evidence to discuss the process of racial identity development from childhood to adulthood among us folks in the US of A. She has a specific focus on the Black and White issue, but Tatum also embraces a broad ...more
Geoffrey Benn
**This review was written for my college teaching blog, prospectiveprof.com**
"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Dr. Beverly Tatum is not a new book - it was first published in 1997. However, as the dust of Ferguson settles, it is clear that its subject - understanding racial identity in America - is still critically important. The book, which I strongly recommend to all Americans, looks at what it means to live in a racist society, discusses the idea of privilege,
...more
Rob
The first portion of the book focuses on being Black, and coming to terms with what Dr. Tatum, and many others in the Black community, see as America's inherent racism.

This part of the book talks a lot about "White Privilege." If you don't know what that is, basically it's that feeling that society is designed to fit you, and that causes you to take a lot of things for granted, and to not be sensitive to other people's feelings.

My whole problem with Dr. Tatum's point of view is that it focuses o
...more
Debs
I had wanted to read this book since it came out in the late 1990s, because I had often wondered about this very question. I grew up in a Boston suburb that was part of the METCO program, a well-meaning but poorly executed way of integrating schools by bussing in African American students from Boston. I had some friends of color in high school, but thought of them as exceptions to the rule of the METCO kids, who I saw as an angry bunch who mainly kept to themselves AND always sat together in the ...more
Karen
This book presents the basics of race relations in the United States and racial identity development. While I tend to prefer meatier books in terms of research, the anecdotal evidence and case studies are powerful. Tatum has written a well-researched, unapologetic book that explains the realities of living as a member of a minority group in the United States. While the book is largely centered on Black-White relations, she also points out that most people are both victims of oppression and benef ...more
Régine Michelle
Jul 03, 2007 Régine Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ppl who attend schools where there is a racial majority
I first read this book in high school. At the time it was very a propos since racial identity issues were constantly in question at the elite New England prep school I attended. When I heard Dr. Tatum as a senior I was even more impressed by how closely her work spoke to the experience of so many and can be used as a tool to enlighten those skeptical or unwilling to think through the complexity of how race and education interrelate.
Karen
I am currently taking a graduate course on the psychology of race. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and angry about some of the journal articles we were reading. Then I found this book. Ms. Tatum delivers the same information in a way that is not offensive to anyone, even if you don't agree with everything she says. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in racial identity development or interracial understanding.
Nenia  ♥ The Armchair Librarian  ♥
This book should be called "Why White People Are Innately Racist, And How To Make Them Feel Like Shit About It."

I would like to address a few of Dr. Tatum's "facts." (Italics paraphrased approximations of Beverly Tatum's actual words.)

White people are always 'passively racist' unless they are actively being antiracist.

I'm sorry, but what? Should I really have to go around and apologize for everything "my people" did? Not all white people are the same, you know. I know everyone distinguishes betw
...more
Emily
Race can be a difficult topic to discuss, fraught with landmines that well-intentioned people can stumble onto unwittingly. Dr. Tatum bravely dives right in and, using personal experience in addition to her professional research and perspective, provides a valuable framework towards better understanding others and more effectively broaching these sensitive discussions.

The title of this book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" initially caught my eye, probably because
...more
Rachel
This is an excellent book on racism and racial identity. It's very readable and would a great first book for someone just learning about the concepts of white privilege and institutional racism.

The author walks the reader through the development of one's racial identity (both black and white) from pre-school through adulthood, with every point backed up with research. I think her section on "white identity" will be truly eye-opening to a lot of white people who read it. I've taken quite a few wo
...more
Herbie
Jan 23, 2008 Herbie added it
- That in study after study, when job search committees evaluate identical (theoretical) white and black resumes, they see the white candidate as more qualified, or a "better fit." This discrepancy becomes more and more pronounced the stronger the candidates are. Two weak candidates will be seen as just as weak. Of two middle candidates, the white candidate will be perceieved as slightly better. Of two very strong candidates, the white candidate will be seen as significantly better.

So affirmativ
...more
Cristin
This is an incredibly illuminating book that should be read and re-read by as many people as possible. Beverly Daniel Tatum breaks the psychological development of racial identity into several fascinating stages.

Clearly, racism is not a topic easily broached; Tatum approaches its volatile nature with what can only be described as an intelligent, confident, comprehensive and collected grace. There is nothing to fear when this topic is being addressed by an author so capable as she.

This book is t
...more
Tina
Dec 26, 2007 Tina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all white people
Shelves: non-fiction
A great book on racial identity -- v. interesting and informative. Even the stuff I was already familiar with, Tatum explains in such clear ways and gives lots of helpful examples, which I think will be useful when it comes to me teaching/talking about this stuff with other people. Tatum has experience as a university president, professor, and psychologist, so she's coming at this from a lot of angles. She is also extremely well read and well researched in this area, and she sites lots of studie ...more
Jill
We chose this book for book club, and I do think that we will have an interesting discussion. However, I don't know that I necessarily learned anything new from reading it that I can bring to the table in our discussion.

Look, race relations in America will always be a timely and relevant topic, for better or worse. But this book was written in 1997. That was pre-9/11, pre-Obama, pre-a LOT of things. There are a whole lot of new issues and incidents that have come up as a result of a shifting wo
...more
Rachael Moss
This is an important book for all Americans, examining the concept of race and its influence in all American lives. Indeed, this book has an agenda: to inspire all readers to become aware of their individual attitudes in hope that awareness will inspire more informed actions, reactions and decisions. Tatum's writing is clear, conversational and oftentimes humorous. She draws from her own life and sometimes from her sons' experiences. She also employs decades worth of empirical research. She rela ...more
Marjorie
A general overview of how Americans' racial identity and views form and develop at different life stages. I found the parts on young children helpful, though of course the research is all ten years out of date. The first chapter gives a good overview of racism, bias and white privilege.
Chris Murphy
You got to love anytime in life when that anti race message gets taught in a racist way. The black kids sit with black kids. They could get up and sit with whites. But we won't discuss that much. We will discuss why the white people wont get up and sit with the blacks. 80% of racism comments basically is a minority being racist towards white for being racist, then they de-edify there own race by making themselves look like a victim who cant overcome. Look 250 years ago a white guy bought your an ...more
April Helms
My checking this book out around the time of the unfortunate incidents in Ferguson and in Cleveland was a bit of a coincidence. I actually obtained this book at the library because I saw the title on the list of books for a newly formed book group and was intrigued. This book was published in 1997, but everything in it is still relevant today. In a way it's rather sad that the points and issues in a book that's 17+ years old are still problems today. Tatum's book packs a lot of information in le ...more
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Why Are Black Kids Sitting Together??/ 3 89 Nov 12, 2013 03:24PM  
  • Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
  • Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States
  • White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism
  • The Skin That We Speak : Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom
  • Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
  • We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools
  • Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School
  • The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
  • White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
  • Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
  • Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White
  • The Possessive Investment In Whiteness
  • Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
  • American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
  • The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege
  • Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
  • Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
Beverly Daniel Tatum is the president of Spelman College. She is a psychologist and writes on race relations.
More about Beverly Daniel Tatum...
Can We Talk about Race?: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation Assimilation Blues: Black Families In White Communities, Who Succeeds And Why Social Construction Of Race, Ethnicity And Diversity Daring to Educate: The Legacy of the Early Spelman College Presidents

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“It is important to understand that the system of advantage is perpetuated when we do not acknowledge its existence.” 4 likes
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