There will be a segment of the population who will never be able to understand where author Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., is coming from in the book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And although the book was published in 1997, it says something about American culture that the book is still just as timely in 2015.
This book is for you if:
- You are the co-worker who deals with other co-workers who would rather avoid talking to you than admit that they can’t remember or never learned your “long” or “not normal” name
- You hear the term “that’s racist” from people who don’t quite understand what racism really is
- You feel invisible when a raise or new job opportunity comes around
- You have attended colleges and universities and had the feeling that you’re being singled out or completely ignored
- You struggle with finding education courses or media portrayals that represent positive aspects of your culture or race
- You have complex opinions about Affirmative Action
- You don’t understand why people of the same race tend to be cliquish even on a diverse campus or workforce
- You’re a parent who is having a hard time explaining race to your children
And for anyone who doesn’t fit the description above, this is a remarkable publication that tells the side of those who fit the above categories.
Tatum does not hold back in exploring issues in American society when it comes to gender and race. Although the focus of the book is on the issues that minority races deal with, there are countless anecdotes with non-minorities who either debate her opinions or question the accuracy of her opinions. This helps because anyone who is reading a book filled with statistics, short stories and opinions about how race affects the workforce, school system and one’s personal life is going to be challenged along the way. Tatum could’ve easily told her side without mentioning the counterargument, but by including other people’s opinions she’s given those who may disagree with her an opportunity to speak up.
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” is not just about the divide between some groups within African-American and white society. The book also explores some of the cultural and racial issues that other minority groups face, specifically Asian Americans and Native Americans. Concerns, questions and studies about Hispanic culture are also an important part of the chapter “Critical Issues in Latino, American Indian, and Asian Pacific Identity Development: There’s more than just Black and White, you know.”
But what would a book on race be without taking on the complex issues that biracial children face, specifically since interracial relationships have continued to jump from a few hundred to millions. (Although the book was written in the late ’90s, USA Today reports that over 5.4 million people are opposite-sex married couples.) With the recent popularity of Bill Duke’s follow-up documentary “Light Girls” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN and ongoing discussion about Duke’s previous documentary “Dark Girls,” the chapter “Identity Development in Multiracial Families: But didn’t the children suffer?” will strike a chord.
There were a couple of moments within the read that had comments so blunt that a reader had to reverse back to make sure she said it. If you’re looking for a politically correct read, this isn’t it. Tatum told her truth. And every bit of her truth was backed up with a reasonable and credible source or first-hand experience to confirm her points. You may not agree with all of her opinions or you may co-sign each one, but it’d be impossible not to respect the lengths she went to in order to explain her views.
This book was such a good read that it’s worth buying and reading again.
For more of Shamontiel’s recommended books, check out Shamontiel’s Bookshelf.
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