District Administration December2017 - 10

OnTopic

Beverly Daniel Tatum
By Tim Goral

Why are all the black kids
still sitting together in the
cafeteria?
Landmark book gets updated for a changing world

Visit just about any racially mixed
school and you will see black,
white, Asian and Latino kids
clustered in their own groups. Is
this self-segregation a problem to
address or a coping strategy? Beverly
Daniel Tatum, an authority on the
psychology of racism, says straight
talk about our racial identities is
essential if we are serious about
communicating across racial and
ethnic divides.
Tatum first addressed the question
in her landmark 1997 book, Why
Are All The Black Kids Sitting
Together In The Cafeteria? Now,
20 years later, with the national
conversation about race becoming
increasingly acrimonious, Tatum is
back with a fully revised edition. The
update reflects the rapid demographic
transformation that has reshaped

What was the impetus for updating
the book?
While I was serving as president of
Spelman College I had the opportunity
to travel and talk to people and think
about some of the things I had written
about in the book. I felt that 20 years
later some of it needed to be updated.
When I retired as president in 2015, it
seemed like the perfect post-presidential
project to work on.
So much has happened in 20 years,
but then you could also say that so
much has happened since you wrote
the prologue to this book in March.
Yes. This book goes a little bit past the
inauguration of our current president.
And there's a lot that's happened since
then, of course-Charlottesville in particular. But I was happy that I was able
to include information about the events
leading up to the election and certainly
the 60 days after the election. Certainly
the tenor of what's happening in our
country, I think, can be traced back to
that 20-year period if not before.
You cite the statistic that every day
the size of the U.S. population increases by more than 8,000 people,

our country, as well as the election
of Barack Obama, the rise of Black
Lives Matter and the early days of
the Trump presidency.
10 December 2017

DAmag.me/still

and nearly 90 percent of that growth
consists of people of color-not just
African-American but Asian, Middle
Eastern, Latino and so on.
Certainly one of the things that I
wanted to do was to expand the discussion of identity issues for populations
of color that have grown significantly
since that first book. 2014 was the first
year that the U.S. population of schoolage children was 50 percent children of
color. And, as you've pointed out, that's
not just black kids.
When I'm using that phrase children
of color I'm including the Latino population, which is the largest population
of color today in the United States-
close to 18 percent now. And the black
population is about 13 percent. The
Asian-American population-which includes people from China, South Asia,
India and so on-is about 6 percent.
Every race and ethnicity in this country has a sense of identity, but you
say that's often lacking in the white
population. You describe a white girl
who, when asked about her identity,
replied, "I'm just normal." Is that
part of the problem?
It is a lack of awareness. But I want to
say that the lack of awareness that white
people often have around racial identity
is similar to the lack of awareness that
anyone in a dominant group is likely to
have. When you are on the margin, you
are more aware of that identity because
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration December2017

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District Administration December2017 - Cover3
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