Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Both a question and a book by Beverly Daniel Tatum, this addressed the developments in racial identity that occur during adolescence. My friend Kate recommended this to me a few years ago and as a teacher it's one of those questions that sometimes comes up; as a white person (I don't like the capitalized version. It's somehow offensive to me.), I have limited insight (regardless of effort, some things I'll just never fully comprehend) into the self-segregating tendencies of teenagers. Tatum, who is Black, speaks to the developing racial identities of adolescents and posits that no matter how supportive the environment is, racism exists in the world and as a result, kids need a similar peer group to relate to. Not that it has to be their only group.
Tatum also believes that in a society where we define racism as "a system of advantage based on race," only whites can be racist. While everyone is capable of racial prejudice, white people are the only ones who "systematically benefit from racism." Which, I guess, makes sense. I don't know if I've invented ideas out of guilt, like reverse discrimination at some institutions or the idea that a sympathetic white friend can be just as good as a same-race friend, but I do recognize that there are still underlying messages in our daily lives, workplaces, and in media that are highly prejudiced.
Finally, she asserts that there are three options for whites: active racism, passive racism (laughing at jokes, letting discriminatory practices go without protest, avoiding difficult racial issues), and actively anti-racist. I'm really enjoying this book and while I like to put myself in that last category, I hate the feeling that I'll just NEVER "get it" because I'm white. This book makes me feel like an outsider, which I guess I am, and which I guess is how many people of color feel regularly. But hey! I don't like that. I am a person of color, in my actual skin tone, in my personality, and in my beliefs. I feel like calling everyone else people of color is exclusionary in a sense.