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Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race 5th Anniv., Revised Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465083619
ISBN-10: 0465083617
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Anyone who's been to a high school or college has noted how students of the same race seem to stick together. Beverly Daniel Tatum has noticed it too, and she doesn't think it's so bad. As she explains in this provocative, though not-altogether-convincing book, these students are in the process of establishing and affirming their racial identity. As Tatum sees it, blacks must secure a racial identity free of negative stereotypes. The challenge to whites, on which she expounds, is to give up the privilege that their skin color affords and to work actively to combat injustice in society. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

This insightful exploration of the varieties of Americans' experience with race and racism in everyday life would be an excellent starting point for the upcoming national conversations on race that President Clinton and his appointed commission will be conducting this fall. Tatum, a developmental psychologist (Mt. Holyoke Coll.) with a special interest in the emerging field of racial-identity development, is a consultant to school systems and community groups on teaching and learning in a multicultural context. Not only has she studied the distinctive social dynamics faced by black youth educated in predominantly white environments, but since 1980, Tatum has developed a course on the psychology of racism and taught it in a variety of university settings. She is also a black woman and a concerned mother of two, and she draws on all these experiences and bases of knowledge to write a remarkably jargon-free book that is as rigorously analytical as it is refreshingly practical and drives its points home with a range of telling anecdotes. Tatum illuminates ``why talking about racism is so hard'' and what we can do to make it easier, leaving her readers more confident about facing the difficult terrain on the road to a genuinely color-blind society. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 5th Anniv., Revised edition (January 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465083617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465083619
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Junlei Li on January 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As you review all the "reviews" thus far written, you get a sense that Dr. Tatum's book has gotten people thinking and taking stands. I appreciate the straightforwardness with which Tatum introduces her subject -- racism. Sure, we can disagree with her definitions and use of rhetorics. But she made the definition clear and prominent enough so that we can disagree. It is hard to measure oneself by a wishy-washy yard-stick. Tatum provided a solid yard stick by which you may examine your own stance, assumptions, and conclusions. In reading the reviews, especially the critical ones, it struck me that even those who strongly diagreed with Tatum understood her basic premises and her arguments. It is upon that understanding that we can disagree. I applaud the author for clearly laying out her arguments on a controversial issue.

The main strength of the book, to me, is in fact the redefinition of racism. You don't have to agree with it, but you do now need to examine whether a "system of advantage" exists and if it does, whether it should be included in the definition of racism. I am neither white nor black, so I cannot speak of black/white issues in first-person. But I come from a family with four generations of academics. The system of school, academia, and education benefits me greatly, and I suit the system particularly through my upbringing. By analogy, I am open to the idea that past explicit systems of racial inequality do not lose its effect in a mere generation or two, especially for the black race. (Sorry to be imprudent, but Comedian Louis C.K. had this great line about, "White people want to add 100 years to every year it has been since slavery.
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Format: Paperback
Not until recently have I, as a 20-year-old white American college student, really become aware of the extent of my own white privilege and what it means to be white in America today. Even the fact that I was able to go for so long without recognizing the significance of race in my life is a manifestation of my white privilege. Children of color, however, are generally confronted by the fact of their race at a much earlier age. Their process of identity development differs significantly from that of most white children. This is the issue psychologist Beverly Tatum discusses in her book. She opens with the question that forms the book's title: "Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?" It is common to see high school students self-segregate, socializing in groups composed mostly of others of the same racial background. But why is this?

Because Tatum herself is a black woman, she predominantly addresses the identity development of black individuals. She cites psychologist William Cross in describing the stages of development: pre-encounter, when young children simply absorb the messages they receive from those around them, not yet having reason to question them; encounter, when an individual first becomes aware of racism through some "event or series of events that force the young person to acknowledge [its] personal impact" (55); immersion/emersion, when the individual works actively to learn about and affirm their own racial identity; and internalization/commitment, when the individual has established a positive personal identity for him/herself. Throughout, Tatum offers explanations for the behaviors many black adolescents may engage in which may puzzle their white counterparts, including the reason for student self-segregation along racial lines.
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Format: Paperback
This book ended up being both informative and intersting, a set of adjectives which frequently do not walk together.
However, Dr. Tatum has masterfully tackled a controversial topic, explained it in a perfect blend of academic and common-sense language, and put forth a pro-active plan for thinking which is innovative and exciting.
This book starts us from the beginning by deconstructing the very ideas of "white" and "black," and by discussing the terminology itself. From there, she begins to talk about social models of behavior and more complex ideas, but she never loses the "essential" nature of her subject.
Dr. Tatum's book is perfect for anyone who ever plans to have children or who works with them, because it deals with the effects that race relations have on kids. This under-studied field is, in my opinion, one of the most important because it is children who are harmed the most by polarized race relationships. Dr. Tatum discusses tools for dealing with children throughout the book, citing practical examples and giving the reader a place to go from the last page of the book into real life application.
Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Tatum explains beautifully many previously undiscussed aspects of race relations in America. But she also goes beyond what IS to explain WHY it is. Her explaination of how each of us develop our own sense of racial and ethnic 'self' provides great food for thought. Tatum's background, area of expertise, experience and sensitivity combine to make her the perfect author of such a work. She gave me insight into my own long-held feelings of guilt about being a benificiary of white priviledge. Particularly poignant were stories of how she discussed racial issues with her own children as they were growing. Every chapter so intrigued me that I would like to read an entire book dedicated to each of the topics.
In a perfect world, this book would be required reading for all Americans and should be assigned to every high school student in this country. I don't remember the last time I was as moved by a book and I can't wait for her next one! Thank you, thank you, thank you Dr. Tatum! Each of us who is ready to take a look inside ourselves and be completely honest about our own biases needs to read this book! It will make us better Americans, better humans and better friends.
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