n— layout: post title: “BookNotes: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” date: 2022-02-20T16:00:00Z — By Beverly Daniel Tatum, Basic Books, September 5, 2017, 9780465060689
Beverly Daniel Tatum packs Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? with great observations and excellent detail. She explains why the black kids sit together and the reasons for lower academic success (not performance, which is generally the same) among various races in the US. I particularly liked her identifying the different generational perspectives of blacks in the US. If you were born in the 1960s, you saw great progress in your early years. If you were born in the 1990s, you grew up with backsliding in social progress. That’s an important distinction.
I really enjoyed this book. I learned a great deal. It gave me motivation to read more about race and ethnicity in the US.
[k844] Conjuring up those memories makes my stomach churn. We student activists received threatening letters in our mailboxes and, in the days of landlines, strange phone calls to our apartments. E-mail, still a novelty, delivered messages about who needed to shut up and die.
Pranks or promises? You never knew. Will someone follow me into a parking garage? Will I meet the authors of the strange letter I found at my doorstep in a dark corner of the library or an unattended bathroom? Will the man in the truck yelling “nigger” at us drive off–or will he hit the brakes, pull over, and teach us a lesson?
[k863] Analysis of CDC data from 1999 to 2014 shows that Native Americans are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.”
[k865] In a study by Claremont Graduate University researchers Roger Chin, Jean Schroedel, and Lily Rowen in which they reviewed articles about lethal police shootings published between May 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015, in the top ten US newspapers, they found that while there were hundreds of articles about 413 African Americans killed by police during that period, there was virtually no coverage of the 29 Native men and women killed during that same period.
[k967] “Being Asian means putting up with ‘acceptable racism’ in America. I experience an incident a week.”
[k1276] And here’s what we must also consider: If a person is twenty years old in 2017, born in 1997, all the critical issues I have written about in these pages thus far are the coming-of-age hallmarks of their generation. Having been born in 1954 in segregated Florida and raised in Massachusetts as part of the Great Migration out of the Jim Crow South, I–and others of my generation–have a long personal history with social progress.
[k1282] Yet for those born in 1997, all of that is something in their history books. Their perspective is shaped by a very different set of events.
[k1339] Most introductory psychology or developmental psychology textbooks include limited discussion of racial or ethnic identity development. Because racial identity is not seen as salient for White adolescents, it is usually not discussed in depth in the texts.
One consequence of this omission that should concern all of us is that educators all across the country, most of whom are White, are teaching in racially mixed classrooms, daily observing identity development in process, and are without an important interpretive framework to help them understand what is happening in their interactions with students, or even in their cross-racial interactions with colleagues.
[k1524] But when I am asked, “Can people of color be racist?” I reply, “The answer depends on your definition of racism.” If one defines racism as racial prejudice, the answer is yes. People of color can and do have racial prejudices. However, if one defines racism as a system of advantage based on race, the answer is no.
[k1789] The history of subordinate groups is filled with so-called troublemakers, yet their names are often unknown.
[k1794] There is a need to acknowledge each other’s pain, even as we attend to our own.
[k1857] This process of affirmation was not new. Since infancy I had talked about how much I liked his smooth brown skin and those little curls whenever I bathed him or brushed his hair. I searched for children’s books depicting brown-skinned children.
[k1860] Especially because we had lived in predominantly White communities since his birth, I felt it was important to make sure he saw himself reflected positively in as many ways as possible. As many Black families do, I think we provided an important buffer against the negative messages about Blackness offered by the larger society.
[k1961] Too often I hear from young African American students the embarrassment they have felt in school when the topic of slavery is discussed, ironically one of the few ways that the Black experience is included in their school curriculum. Uncomfortable with the portrayal of their group as helpless victims–the rebellions and resistance offered by the enslaved Africans are rarely discussed–they squirm uncomfortably as they feel the eyes of White children looking to see their reaction to this subject.
[k2017] Is darkness seen as an obstacle to be overcome, as in “She’s dark, but she’s still pretty,” or avoided, as in “Stay out of the sun, you’re dark enough already?” Is lightness described as defective, as in “You need some sun, girl?” Do we sing hymns in church on Sunday proclaiming our wish to be washed “white as snow”? Even when our clear desire is to reflect positive images of Blackness to young Black children, our habits of speech may undermine our efforts unless we are intentional about examining the color-coded nature of our language.
[k2111] The task of talking to our children about racism and other isms may seem formidable. Our children’s questions may make us uncomfortable, and we may not have a ready response. But even a missed opportunity can be revisited at another time. It is never too late to say, “I’ve been thinking about that question you asked me the other day…” We have the responsibility, and the resources available, to educate ourselves if necessary so that we will not repeat the cycle of oppression with our children.
[k2199] For example, in a study of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina, Roslyn Mickelson compared the placements of Black and White high school students who had similar scores on a national standardized achievement test they took in the sixth grade. More than half of the White students who scored in the ninetieth to ninety-ninth percentile on the test were enrolled in high school Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) English, while only 20 percent of the Black students who also scored in the ninetieth to ninety-ninth percentile were enrolled in these more-rigorous courses. Meanwhile, 35 percent of White students whose test scores were below the seventieth percentile were taking AP or IB English. Only 9 percent of Black students who scored below the seventieth percentile had access to the more-advanced curriculum.
[k2420] However, the questions that educators and other concerned adults must ask are these: What is it about the curriculum and the culture of academic opportunity within the school that reinforces the notion that academic excellence is a largely White domain? What curricular interventions might we use to encourage the development of an empowered emissary identity?
[k2442] He was particularly inspired by learning of the intellectual legacy of Black men at his own college: When you look at those guys who were here in the Twenties, they couldn’t live on campus. They couldn’t eat on campus. They couldn’t get their hair cut in town. And yet they were all Phi Beta Kappa…. That’s what being Black really is, you know, knowing who you are, your history, your accomplishments….
[k2614] Receiving honest feedback you can trust as unbiased is critical to reducing stereotype threat and improving academic performance. How you establish that trust with the possibility of stereotype swirling around is the question. The key to doing this seems to be found in clearly communicating both high standards and assurance of belief in the student’s capacity to reach those standards.
[k2673] We can shift a student’s focus from the anxiety of proving ability in the face of negative stereotypes to the confidence of improving with effort despite the negative stereotypes. Embracing a theory of intelligence as something that can develop–that can be expanded through effective effort–is something all of us can do to reduce the impact of stereotype threat and increase the achievement of all of our students.
[k2727] That life is stressful for Black students and other students of color on predominantly White campuses should not come as a surprise, but it often does.
[k2917] Unraveling and reweaving the identity strands of our experience is a never-ending task in a society where important dimensions of our lives are shaped by the simultaneous forces of subordination and domination. We continue to be works in progress for a lifetime.
[k2940] In fact, more and more organizations are creating opportunities for these meetings to take place, providing time, space, and refreshments for people of color and other underrepresented groups (e.g., women, people with disabilities, those who identify as LGBTQ) to get together for networking and support. Some corporate leaders have found that such interventions (sometimes called “affinity groups” or “employee resource groups”), particularly when championed by a senior executive, support the recruitment, retention, and heightened productivity of their employees.
[k2981] While the task for people of color is to resist negative societal messages and develop an empowered sense of self in the face of a racist society, Helms says the task for Whites is to develop a positive White identity based in reality, not on assumed superiority.
[k2997] There are two major developmental tasks in this process, the abandonment of individual racism and the recognition of and opposition to institutional and cultural racism.
[k3209] If a White person reaches out to a Black person and is rebuffed, it may cause the White person to retreat into “blame the victim” thinking.
[k3219] The resource Bob needs most at this point are not people of color but other Whites who are further along in the process and can help show him the way.
[k3221] Just as Cross describes the period of Black redefinition as a time for Black people to seek new ways of thinking about Blackness, ways that take them beyond the role of victim, White people must seek new ways of thinking about Whiteness, ways that take them beyond the role of victimizer.
[k3290] While of course there is value in cross-racial dialogue, all-White support groups serve a unique function. Particularly when Whites are trying to work through their feelings of guilt and shame, separate groups give White people the “space to speak with honesty and candor rarely possible in racially-mixed groups.” Even when Whites feel comfortable sharing these feelings with people of color, frankly, people of color don’t necessarily want to hear about it.
[k4167] My parents married soon after they came home from the boarding school. They came from different tribes. They left my father’s reservation encouraged by the U.S. government and the boarding school system to find jobs in the “real world.”… The promised jobs never materialized and, stuck between two worlds, the big city and the reservation, the Indian world and the White, my father drank and beat my mother. My mother worked at menial jobs to support us. My life was built on this foundation. I was never parented because my parents, raised in government boarding schools, had nothing to give me. They had lost their languages and retained only traces of their cultures. They had never been parented themselves. Boarding school nurturing was having their mouths washed out with soap for talking Indian and receiving beatings for failing to follow directions.
So this is my legacy and the legacy of many Indians, both reservation and urban…. We are survivors of multigenerational loss and only through acknowledging our losses will we ever be able to heal.
[k4404] In 1923 the case went to the Supreme Court–United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. The judges ruled that while Asian Indians were Caucasians (descended from the Caucasoid region of Eurasia), they could not be considered White and consequently were not eligible for US citizenship. This ruling made explicit the concept of skin color as a bar to becoming a citizen. As the court ruling stated, “It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today,” adding that “the intention of the Founding Fathers was to ‘confer the privilege of citizenship upon the class of persons they knew as white.’” This racial barrier to citizenship was not removed until 1952 when the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act revoked the Naturalization Act of 1790.
[k4473] By these criteria, there is no doubt that Chinese immigrants are a hyperselected group. While only 4 percent of adults in China have at least an undergraduate degree, half of Chinese adult immigrants to the US do, and nearly half of the college-educated Chinese immigrants have earned a master’s or doctoral degree as well, mostly from US universities. Not only are they twelve times more likely than Chinese at home to have a college degree, with a college graduation rate of 50 percent, their education rate is far above the college-going rate among the general US population (28 percent). Because of their higher level of education, they are able to earn above-average incomes in the US.
[k4513] Zhou and Lee found that even Asian students who exhibited mediocre or below-average academic performance were given the benefit of the doubt by teachers and encouraged to improve, and sometimes placed in honors or AP courses without the academic profile usually required for such placement. By contrast, Mexican participants in their study were rarely placed in the honors or AP classes.
[k4890] But the 1983 statute did not abolish the one-drop rule. In fact, when Phipps appealed her case, the state’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, concluding that the preponderance of the evidence was that her parents were indeed “colored.” In 1986, when the case was appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court and then to the US Supreme Court, both courts refused to review the decision, in effect leaving the one-drop rule untouched.
[k5623] It is the cultivation of the capacity to listen that is central to the practice of dialogue. It is on the campuses of colleges and universities that are taking full advantage of their diverse learning environments to create communities of dialogue that I see sites of progress.