First, I am white. It is important to mention that so that I can also identify all the privilege that I brought with me to reading this book.
In the twentieth anniversary edition of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Tatum starts with a 72 page prologue detailing all the ways that race, racial identity development, and race relations have played a part in modern history since the original writing of the book. It is extensively research and meticulously organized. While it is long, the prologue sets the stage as a reminder for why conversations about race need to continue to happen.
Tatum then spends some time defining terms so that all readers can approach the material from the same understanding, and then takes a deep dive into racial identity development. She breaks down her treatment of racial identity development into three categories: Blackness in a White context, Whiteness in a White context, and then Beyond Black and White. By her own admission, the final category should be considered a truncated exploration of Latinx, Native, and Asian identity development as the focus of the book is on Black identity development.
Tatum effortlessly presents not only the psychological theories and interpretations of the psyche but also anecdotes from her time teaching and from her personal social life. One might be tempted to discount Tatum’s presentation of anecdotes in a book that initially sets out to be more clinical than not, but Tatum never presents these anecdotes as proof but only ever as example. She balances the presentation of psychology research articles and interpretations of that research with real world examples that the layman will be able to access.
If you are a white educator, like myself, I highly recommend that you read this book. It will provide insight to how your students of color are interacting with their peers, with you, and with the world at large. Tatum also provides actionable steps that can be taken as an educator to support young students of color in their own self discovery. Even if you are not an educator, Tatum provides guidance to parents of all races on how to have conversations with children about race in a way that a constructive, instructive, and supportive.
HOW-TO BINGO SQUARE