One of Beverly Tatum’s major topics of discussion is racial identity. Racial identity is the meaning each of us has constructed or is constructing about what it means to be a white person or a person of color in a race-conscious society. (Tatum, pp Xvii) She talks about how many parents hesitate to talk to their children about racism because of embarrassment and the awkwardness of the subject. I agree with her when she says that parents don’t want to talk about racism when they don’t see a problem. They don’t want to create fear or racism where none may exist. It is touchy subject because if not gone about right, you can perhaps steer someone the wrong way. Another theory she has on racial identity is that other people are the mirror in which we see ourselves. (tatum pp18) “The parts of our identity that do capture our attention are those that other people notice, and that reflects back to us.” (Tatum pp21) What she means by this is that what other people tell us we are like is what we believe. If you are told you are stupid enough you might start to question your intelligence. When people are searching for their identity normally the questions “who am I now?” “Who was I before?” and “who will I become” are the first that come to mind. When a person starts to answer these questions their answers will influence their beliefs, type of work, where they may live, partners, as well as morals. She also mentions an experiment where she asked her students to describe themselves in sixty seconds. Most used descriptive words like friendly, shy, intelligent, but students of color usually state there racial or ethnic group, while white students rarely, if ever mention that they are white. Women usually mention that they are female while males usually don’t think to say that they are males. The same situation appeared to take place when the topic of religious beliefs came up. The Jewish students mentioned being Jewish, while the Protestant and Catholics rarely mentions being so. These responses all led to one common ground. They are all examples of groups who are seen as more dominant or of a more advantaged social group not mentioning so. They don’t seem to think that they belong to a more dominant or advantaged group than the others so why mention it.
She goes on about Affirmative action in the workplace and the views and opinions of all different kinds of people. Tatum believes in Affirmative action because of the many encounters and experiences she had witness and encountered. She goes on to say, “ Affirmative action is needed to lessen bias in the paid labor force because affirmative action is the only legal remedy in the United States for discrimination that does not require the victims (or someone with a stake in their welfare) to notice their condition and come forward with a grievance on their own behalf.” (Tatum pp 123) In my opinion Affirmative action is a touchy subject, just like abortion. There are places where it should belong and places it shouldn’t. I think it should be implemented in places of business where needed. For example if two candidates for a position are interviewed for a job and one happens to be white and the other black, and the black candidate is obviously more qualified for the job but doesn’t get the job then that is a place where Affirmative action needs to b added to the system. It is sad that something like Affirmative action even had to be thought of but it is a reality that racism still exists and probably will continue to exist unless something is done to abolish it. I think she makes a good point about Affirmative action but needs to reconsider when saying it is needed almost everywhere.
The last point I will discuss is the point she makes of certain terms being misused, terms that she has heard directed towards her as well as others. Tatum thinks that the world is wrong for using derogatory as well as slang terms, which may be offensive to other ethnic, religious, or any group for that matter. She states that she prefers the name “Black” as opposed to the name “African American”. “I refer to people of acknowledged African Descent as Black…The term is more inclusive than African American because there are Black people in the United States who are not African American –Afro-Caribbean’s, for example-yet are targeted by racism, and are identified as Black.” (Tatum pp 15) Her reason for this is that people that are for example Afro-Caribbean’s are not African Americans but would probably be classified as so. I do agree with her on this. I think that people should be called and recognized as they wish. Although like she also stated, different people prefer different names for their ethnic group so how are you supposed to know what to refer someone by who you haven’t even gotten to know.
In conclusion I would like to say that this book has opened a new way of thinking to me. Almost, I would say a new perspective on a couple of my views about racism. The book kept me thinking, “Was I right doing this, should I say that, or is what I do everyday ok?” I am glad I read this book because I now have a better understanding of racism, why it happens and when and where it comes up. As I asked myself before “are we free from racism?”, I think not. Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? I still do not know. But what I do know is that things do need to change is this great world of ours so that everyone can become comfortable with there race, religion, ethnic back round and just plain who they are. As Gandhi once said, “ Wee need to be the change we want to see happen.” “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.” (Tatum pp Xi)
Beverly Daniel Tatum; Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria; Basic Books, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299; 1997
1) Why does she seem like a racist herself?: She always is talking about how white people benefit so much from things they don’t even realize they benefit from. Well how about all the special groups and organizations that are set up just for black people. I think she should take another look at our society before she says that white benefit so trememdously. I am not saying whites do not benefit more but she really, really drills this opinion and I disagree. 2) She seems like she is telling everyone they way they should think: I don’t get why she is so hung up on telling people who they should call what, and what they should do about it. Half of her book is about letting people feel free to be who they are, being proud of ones back round, and having a mind of your own and thinking for yourself. 3) Why does she believe so much in Affirmative action?: If Affirmative action was to be implamented then white people would be discriminated just because they were white. If she is trying to abolish racism, causing racism towards another race isn’t solving the problem.