Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Six

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CHAPTER ONE: "Defining Racism"


I. "Can We Talk?"

A. Assumption: we are all affected by racism.

B. Sources of prejudice: "a preconceived judgment or notion, usually based on limited information" (Tatum, 1998, p.5)

1. stereotypes

2. omissions-- assumptions that people of color contributed little since no mention is made

3. distortions-- Because of social segregation, we often receive secondhand information about others. This information is often inaccurate because it has been shaped by cultural stereotypes.

C. Assumption, which she calls "cultural racism": we live in a racist society that reinforces the idea of white superiority and assumed inferiority of people of color

D. "Internalized oppression"-- a member of the stereotyped group comes to believe in the truth of the stereotype to some degree

E. Even when racism is not an individual's fault, everyone bears a responsibility to do something about it.

1. Note whether one is perpetuating and reinforcing negative messages.

2. Seek out knowledge and positive images of marginalized groups.

3. Examine own prejudices.


II. Racism: A System of Advantage Based on Race

A. Difference between racism and prejudice
1. Racism= prejudice+ power: "system of advantage based on race" (p.7) (i.e., housing, better schools, jobs

2. Racism: a system of institutional policies and cultural messages that is advantageous to white people and disadvantageous to people of color

B. "white privilege"-- white people are not to blame for discrimination, but they nevertheless benefit from it


III. Racism: For Whites Only?

A. If we accept the above definition of racism, people of color can be prejudiced but not necessarily racist.

B. "Active racism" vs. "Passive racism"-- blatant, intentional acts of racial bigotry and discrimination versus more subtle forms, such as laughing at racist jokes, not challenging exclusionary hiring practices, accepting as appropriate the omission of the history of people of color in the curriculum

C. Everyone needs to take an active anti-racist stance. But white people can play an especially powerful role since they have access to the societal institutions in need of being changed.

D. Not all people of color are equally targeted by racism.


IV. The Cost of Racism for everyone

A. Economic-- lowered productivity at the workplace due to racial tension, warehousing human talent, etc.

B. Personal


V. A Word about Language-- race is a social construction, not biologically mandated.

A. Racial identity vs. Ethnic identity
1. Racial identity-- racial group such as white or black

2. Ethnic identity-- based on cultural criteria such as language, customs, shared history

B. White/Caucasian

C. African American vs. Black-- limits of the first is that Afro-Caribbeans, for one, are Black but not originating from Africa necessarily

D. Latino (Latin America) vs. Hispanic vs. Chicano (Mexico)

E. Native American vs. American Indian vs. Indian

F. Asian/Pacific Islanders vs. Asian Pacific Americans


CHAPTER TWO: "The Complexity of Identity"


I. Who Am I? Multiple Identities

A. Identity is "shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts"(Tatum, 1997, p.18).

B. If individuals are members of a dominant or advantaged group, they take their identity for granted. Conversely, if not, then they're made very conscious of their identity because others take notice, especially since they are considered different from the norm.

1. There are seven categories of "otherness": race or ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and physical or mental ability. Each has a form of oppression associated with it: racism, sexism, religious oppression/anti-Semitism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, and ableism.

C. Members of subordinate or disadvantaged groups need to recognize that there are these other forms of oppression. Being able to empathize can be beneficial to the learning process about how to combat inequality.


II. Domination and Subordination

A. The dominant group has the power and authority in society and determines how this power and authority can be used. They reserve the most highly valued roles in society for themselves (i.e., jobs and school).

B. The dominant group is seen as the "norm" of society. As a result, the subordinates are dismissed as defective or substandard.

1. If a member of the subordinate group possesses characteristics generally associated with the dominant group, they are assumed to be the "exception to the rule."

2. The dominant group's way of life is readily seen via television, magazines, books, and newspapers.

a. This information is key to subordinates' survival. But there are drawbacks to attending very closely to the dominants: little time to attend to one's own needs, and internalized oppression, which results in self-doubt or self-hate.

b. The subordinates develop covert ways of resisting or undermining the power of the dominant group (i.e., folk tales, jokes, stories…). But there are drawbacks, such as not learning necessary skills to survive in today's society.

C. There is no hierarchy of oppression. Many of us are both dominant and subordinate.

D. Those who are in the dominant racial category may find it difficult to acknowledge what is being said by and about those who are targeted by racism. That so much injustice exists can be greatly disconcerting.

E. Those who are in the subordinate racial category also need to be vigilant; they cannot overlook the privilege that they may possess, even if it's not race-based. Beverly Tatum (1997) writes, "The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others"(p.27).


CHAPTER THREE: "The Early Years"


I. Preschool Conversations

A. Beverly Tatum (1997) reports that, "Children as young as three do notice physical differences such as skin color, hair texture, and the shape of one's facial features" (p.32). Skin color is the racial feature they are most likely to comment on.

B. Preschoolers tend to overgeneralize.

C. Parents of black children can mitigate or downplay the negative messages about Blackness offered by the larger society.

D. Rather than having open and necessary conversations about race, many parents end up silencing their children. Children who have been silenced may learn not to talk about race publicly, and also they never get answers to their questions.


II. Blackness, Whiteness, and Painful History

A. Beverly Tatum (1997) observes that "Preschool children are quite literal in their use of language and concrete in their thinking" (p. 37). In contrast, adults use symbolic constructs. This difference was highlighted in Tatum's conversation with her son about "black" versus "tan," literal colors versus a color construing a racial or ethnic group.

B. Also challenging is being able to explain to children the legacy of slavery, which has profoundly shaped the experiences of black people.

1. The challenge in presenting this story to her son is how to still make him feel safe, to show him that his African ancestors did resist, and that having white allies is possible.


III. A Question of Color

A. Not until children are six or seven do they finally realize that they can't change their racial group membership.

B. Parents can and do influence their children's relative sense of self-worth regarding their cultural identity via their behavior as well as the language they use.

1. Light skin versus dark skin-- Society tends to favor those who are light-skinned, and that message may end up being internalized. Families, for example, may reject or stigmatize their darker-skinned members; the converse may also be true

2. Using "black" with positive rather than negative connotations

3. Straightening one's hair-- reinforces the notion that straight hair is desirable


IV. "It's that Stuff Again": Developing a Critical Consciousness

A. Children need to develop the ability to recognize social inequality, whether it's racist, sexist, or classist, so that they'll be able to resist and combat it.

B. Children can learn to question stereotypes via discussion about television, books, etc.

C. It's never too late to address how to combat oppression.


CHAPTER FOUR: "Identity Development in Adolescence"


I. Black youths think of themselves in terms of race because the world thinks of them in those terms.


II. Understanding Racial Identity Development

A. William Cross' model: The Psychology of Nigrescence
1. pre-encounter: the child absorbs many of the many of the beliefs and values of the dominant White culture, including the idea of white superiority

2. encounter: something forces the young person to acknowledge the personal impact of racism; usually happens during early adulthood, but can happen even around junior high age-- reinforcing stereotypes via expectations

a. Black children more likely to be tracked in to lower levels

b. Gender can compound the situation-- in white settings, black girls may be devalued or considered less desirable

c. Being poor can also compound the situation-- predominant stereotypical images are that of the teenage welfare mother, the drug addict, etc.

3. immersion/emersion

4. internalization

5. internalization/commitment


III. Coping with Encounters: Developing an Oppositional Identity

A. Signithia Fordham & John Ogbu: the anger and resentment adolescent black youth feel may lead to the development of an oppositional identity, rejection of those attitudes and behaviors associated with being White

B. Problematic is that these youth may be operating under a very limited understanding of what it means to be Black, much of which could be based on stereotypes.


IV. Oppositional Identity Development and Academic Achievement

A. Oppositional identity interferes with academic achievement. For succeeding in school could be considered acting white, and so it could lead to rejection by one's peers.
1. Those who do succeed in school may attempt to downplay it. Or it led to "racelessness," assimilating by distancing oneself from characteristics associated with the subordinate group (in this case, black culture).

2. Instead of becoming "raceless," others become "emissaries," individuals who advance the black cause through their positive example.

B. We need to ask ourselves how academic achievement became exclusively defined as white behavior.

1. Rejecting academic achievement seems to be a post-desegregation phenomena. Although the schools were segregated back then, the black community did celebrate academic achievement. The learning conditions were different, though, with black educators and references to the intellectual legacy of other African Americans.


V. The Search for Alternate Images

A. There is a long history of black intellectual achievement. But students need access to this cultural history, perhaps through ethnic studies courses and ethnic literature courses, but too often such courses are confined to colleges, where students don't always make it to. So this education should happen earlier.


VI. Not at the Table

A. Presence at the table can be taken as an affirmation of one's identity. But sometimes that may lead to rejection of those black adolescents who don't "sit at the table."

B. Although adolescents usually seek out each others' support and advice, adults can also play a positive role in their cultural identity development process.

C. Connecting with one's peers in the process of cultural identity development is important and should be encouraged. For "the ability to see oneself as part of a larger group from which one can draw support is an important coping strategy" (Tatum, 1998, p. 70).

D. Identity is not just race; it can also be gender, social class, geographical location, skin color…


VII. An Alternative to the Cafeteria Table

A. SET (Student Efficacy Program)-- a small number of African American students bussed from Boston to this suburban school were not doing well academically. They became part of this program where instead of conventional study halls and the like, they discussed homework difficulties, encounters with racism, and social issues. This support network resulted in higher rates of success in their classes. They improved in both academic performance and social relationships.


CHAPTER SIX: "The Development of White Identity"


I. "I'm not ethnic, I'm just normal."

A. "Whiteness" is considered the norm, and so it's never a source of examination or introspection.

B. While the task for people of color is to resist negative societal messages and develop a positive sense of identity, the task for whites is to develop a positive white identity and a commitment to a just society.

1. abandon individual racism

2. recognize and oppose institutional and cultural racism

C. Six stages of the development of a positive white identity:

1. contact

2. disintegration

3. reintegration

4. pseudo-independent

5. immersion/emersion

6. autonomy


II. Abandoning Racism

A. Stage one-- contact stage: take for granted white identity as being the "norm"
1. unaware of own racial prejudices

2. think of racism as individual acts of prejudice rather than an institutionalized system of privilege

A. Stage two-- disintegration stage: a growing awareness of racism as a result of personal encounters with said experiences

1. This stage is characterized by discomfort because it challenges the notion of meritocracy, that awards, privileges, and the like are doled out to those who are most deserving.
a. Disengaging-- this discomfort may manifest itself in terms of denying the validity of the experiences, or in physically or psychologically withdrawing from them.

b. Engaging-- or this discomfort may propel the person in to action, working to interrupt the cycle of injustice.

2. The temptation to disengage is very strong due to family and peer pressures.

C. Stage three--reintegration stage: The feelings of guilt or denial may be transformed into anger being directed at people of color, essentially "blaming the victim."


III. "But I'm an individual."

A. Stage three--reintegration stage: Another source of frustration is being judged as a member of a group rather than as an individual. This feeling is especially true for members of white subordinate groups such as Jews (anti-semitism), women (sexism), and homosexuals (homophobia). They are troubled by the assumption that they are privileged and untrustworthy simply because of their white identity. Tatum acknowledges that all white people may not be privileged, but she also encourages them to recognize whatever forms of privilege that they do possess, and to use it to combat racism. The same holds true for people of color who may have privileges due to their socioeconomic status, for instance.


IV. Defining a Positive White Identity

A. Stage four-- pseudo-intellectual stage: "the guilty white liberal(s)" are embarrassed by their privilege, doing everything in their power to distance themselves from other whites and associating with people of color
1. whiteness is a source of shame rather than pride

B. Stage five-- immersion/emersion stage: need for a positive self-definition

1. resource most needed are role models, other Whites who are further along in this process of self-definition

V. The Search for White Allies and the Restoration of Hope

A. Stage five-- immersion/emersion stage: One of those resources is the history of white protest against racism, people who have resisted the role of oppressor and instead been allies to people of color.
1."an ally"-- Tatum writes that an ally will not "help victims of racism, but rather… speak up against systems of oppression and… challenge other Whites to do the same" (Tatum, 1998, p.109).

2. Other resources are support groups composed of white people, particularly as whites are working through their feelings of guilt and shame.

B. Stage six-- autonomy stage: redefining white identity in a positive way empowers one to be an agent of change. It also enables one to be more effective in a multiracial setting.


This page last updated on 11/16/01. Please direct all comments and inquiries to Karen Wong at