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Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  21,613 ratings  ·  1,646 reviews
Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication a ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Basic Books (first published 1997)
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Cheryl Kuhl-paine
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, nonfiction
White people: This is not a Racism 101 book. Don't read it if it's your first, second, or even third book on racism. It won't help you. You'll feel attacked and guilty, and write a self-centered, whiny review about how the author is so reverse-racist, and how there's only really one human race, and how you're really just tired of people talking about "privilege" and "racism" and blahblahblah...

If you're past that stage of indoctrinated colorblind racism, past the knee-jerk reactionary self-defen
Melanie Russo
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Apr 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
An informative book that focuses on Black kids’ racial identity development while also addressing a range of topics including affirmative action, how to have conversations about race, and the racial identity development of Latinx, Native, Asian, and multiracial folks. Beverly Daniel Tatum is an intelligent and accomplished psychologist which shows in how thorough and well-researched this book is. She breaks down complex topics like multiracial identity categories and aversive racism in an access ...more
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have learned that a sincere, though imperfect attempt to interrupt the oppression of others is usually better than no attempt at all
This is a really useful book for white people as it lays out the 101 on how racism works and is full of advice for would-be allies. Tatum explains how and why white people often fail to be good listeners and to do useful ally work, and how we could do better, with very generous empathy. She explains things that white people can get away with ignoring and so often
Aug 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reading-with-ld
This is just AWFUL. She attempts to redefine racism (if you're white, you're racist). Her racial identity theory may hit home (I'm biracial), but it is too narrow. Blacks do not have the monopoly on discrimination, identity issues, fitting in, etc. I'm tired of what is clearly and historically a *human* experience being claimed as a black experience. A rejection of education is not a result of discrimination, it's primarily a cultural choice. This "acting white" idea promotes a false dichotomy. ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is an informative book about the racial aspect of identity development. I am giving it a mild recommendation because I did not find it life-changing. But despite being a book about social issues published in 1997 (with an updated edition in 2003), it has maintained relevance. It is primarily geared toward parents and teachers, with a focus on child and adolescent identity development: how to raise non-white children in the U.S. with a healthy sense of themselves, and how to raise w
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
As a black woman who was a black kid who sat at the table with the other black kids... Brava Dr. Tatum. A seamless and thoughtful examination of the implications of race in our formative social settings. This book gives valuable insights into how identity establishment and esteem is necessary to healthy social development. She approaches the very relatable snapshot of black kids at the table and dissects it with purpose and precision. This book should be read by all educators.
Scott Rhee
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Ashley Marie
I actually borrowed this one from the church where Mr Hubz works. It's been imploring me to pick it up for months, and tbh I found the title off-putting; it sounded like a question a white parent would ask, and I wasn't interested in some white person's ideas about race. Then I checked the back and realized the author was a Black woman. Now I'm interested, but I'm reading too many books as it is. Soon, I promised myself, but let me wrap up a few things first.

And then between the news about Ahma
Dec 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: race-culture, 2011
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
Kenghis Khan
Jun 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

In the 20th anniversary edition, it’s sad how little has changed in 20 years. In 2020, it’s even more depressing.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
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;
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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,
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
Emily Philbin
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've gone back to this book quite a few times, jumping through chapters, revisiting chapters, highlighting sections. I finally just sat and read it cover to cover so I can get the whole perspective. It has helped and will certainly continue to help me engage my students in conversations about race and privilege in my Silenced Voices class. It's also a good reminder for me that I am only scratching the surface...the student will have to work to continue the conversation in the future...but we hav ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This does not go to the top of the pile of anti-racism books. Even for the subset of books by psychologists who do workshops.
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. From the perspective of an author who does workshops, facilitated dialogue is the solution looking for the problem of difficult conversations. In the epilogue on this 20th anniversary update, the hope lies in the U. of Michigan model program of dialogues, where the outcome is that some students report increased com
Mrs. Brim
This has taken me a while to read but that time is needed to process and reflect on the information Tatum provides. I also have been pretty quiet on my updates about it, but it was truly a personal journey -- it left me vulnerable, scared, enraged, sad, and hopeful.

This should be required reading for Teacher Candidates and in Education Curriculum. It may be one of the most influential books I read in my career and lifetime. The updated, 20th century edition has expanded chapter on additional ra
Rae Hittinger
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kim Clifton
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I liked reading about the development of racial and ethnic identity, I was disappointed the book didn't focus on education. (The title suggests more!) I still learned a lot, just not what I expected! ...more
Erika B.
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This was so incredibly insightful, sobering, and hopeful. Jam-packed with research and academic papers, Dr. Tatum does an incredible job of explaining the phenomenon mentioned in the title, as well as many other aspects of racial development, identity, and issues. I am really sad that I read a library copy of this book, as there are so many things I really needed to underline so that I can refer to them later. Fair warning that this is a very 'academic' book- reminds me much of a book I wou ...more
Nicole momming_and_reading
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ain't nobody got time for this right now. ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Everyone should read this book
Nehrlisa Behrmann
This is such an insightful and important book.
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Beverly Daniel Tatum is the president of Spelman College. She is a psychologist and writes on race relations.

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