MATT OUELLETT: Welcome My name is Matt Ouellett and I'm the executive director of the Center for Teaching Innovation here at Cornell. And is this too loud? OK. All right.
So some of you may know that the Center for Teaching Innovation is a new unit on campus, but I want to, for the folks who've been at Cornell for a while, I want to reassure you that all the outstanding folks in academic technology and the Center for Teaching Excellence are still here. They're here and poised and ready to help us with all of our concerns around teaching and learning.
I want to, before I begin the formal introduction to Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum this afternoon, I want to take a moment and thank some of our colleagues on campus and in the Ithaca community who co-sponsored the event this afternoon. At Cornell, these offices include the Engagement Initiatives, Faculty Development and Diversity, Academic Diversity Initiatives, and the Cornell University Graduate School.
So thank you all for joining together with the CTI to bring Dr. Tatum here. On a more personal note, I'd like to think Theresa Pettit and Leslie Williams, who did an enormous amount of work to make the day successful. So Leslie, are you here? OK. Leslie's working. So when you next see Leslie, please thank her. Oh here she is, OK, thank you, thank you, thank you.
So in my experience, the best introductions are brief, and they get the heck out of the way of the keynote speaker. So I'm going to try to both honor Dr. Tatum's prodigious accomplishments and scholarly success with an appropriate introduction, but then I'm also going to shift gears at the end and talk a bit more personally, if that's all right with you.
OK. So one of the things that we know about Dr. Tatum is, as a clinical psychologist, her areas of research include racial identity development and the role of race in the classroom. Now just a quick show of hands, how many folks googled Dr. Tatum's CV or resume or accomplishments before you came today? Show of hands? OK, well then this is appropriate. I'll say more.
So Dr. Tatum uses real life examples and the latest research to make compelling arguments for the need to foster open dialogues about race. And she gives her readers a new lens for understanding the emergence of racial identity as a developmental process experienced by everyone. We all have a role to play in this dialogue.
And her work explores the social and educational implications of the growing racial isolation in our public schools. Her definitive books on race relations include, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race. The initial publication was in 1997. How many folks read it when it first came out? Yeah, some of us are old enough to have read the first edition.
So also there was a follow up book in 2007, Can We Talk About Race?: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation. Additionally, Dr. Tatum is the author of Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community, which came out in 1987.
Dr. Tatum has a number of awards of which I'm only going to give you the highlights. So she's been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including ones from Bates College, Bowdoin college, Washington and Lee University, Mount Holyoke College, Westfield State College, Bridgewater State College, Salem State College, and Wheelock College. That's exhausting. In 2005, Dr. Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field of education.
In addition to her contributions in the context of academe and higher education, Dr. Tatum is also a much sought after respondent and discussant in the national press. You may have, in fact, seen her referenced in articles in The New York Times, in The Boston Globe, in the Christian Science Monitor, Time Magazine.
And just to prove that there is no sleep for the gifted, as recently as yesterday she had an op-ed in the LA Times. So if you haven't had a chance to read that yet, you can google that later this afternoon. It's title is "America is more diverse than ever before, but its schools are growing more segregated." It's a very interesting op-ed piece.
So in addition to this kind of work in terms of creating dialogue and conversations nationally, Dr. Tatum has also served as co-chair of the Early Education Commission of the United Way, has been a member of the White House board of advisers on historically black colleges and universities, a director of Wesleyan University, her alma mater, chairman of the American Council on Education, Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equity and Education, served on the board of directors for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, as well as on the Council of Independent Colleges.
So clearly Dr. Tatum is a highly skilled administrator and college teacher, but also is a much sought after colleague and collaborator on national initiatives, both at the federal and college levels. She's also had-- serves as a member of the board of directors for Teach for America and is a Trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Also, as she just recently pointed out to me, her publisher made her reduce her bio to three lines, which I, of course, have not followed.
It is worth taking a note that in 2014 she received the award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology, the highest honor presented by the American Psychological Association and her home discipline. So a hero at home as well as abroad, which is well earned.
Dr. Tatum took her degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Her MA and her PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. [LAUGHS] I know, we have a lot of connections with Ann Arbor, apparently. And additionally, she holds an MA in Religious Studies from the Hartford Seminary, not surprising.
So before-- so I'm going to end with the formal remarks there, but there's much more to learn about Dr. Tatum. And I encourage you to google her later, because there are lots of interesting things to continue to discover. But I want to shift gears and talk a bit more personally.
Because I think part of Dr. Tatum's contribution to the scholarship on race and education is that she brings a holistic view. It's not just empirical research to her. It's real people's lives. And when you have an opportunity, if you haven't already, to read her book, you'll see that it's over, and over, and over again, she brings real life examples to vivify the points that she's trying to make.
So like 14,000 other people in the United States, I follow Dr. Tatum on Twitter. Does anyone else follow Dr. Tatum yet? A couple. I highly encourage you to explore it. Mostly because I think, as I've said to Beverly personally, she does the best job I've ever seen of someone who uses Twitter as a forum for teaching and learning.
Initially, as she described it to me, she started because her undergraduates at Spelman College were concerned about not having enough access to her and not quite knowing where she was. And so she used it as a way to engage them in a really beautiful, lovely teaching and learning relationship. So she would post where she was and what she was doing related to Spelman College, and they would write in, mostly positive comments I think.
But also some, we wish you were here. Glad you're doing that, but also wish you were here. And so what she was able to do was, I think, in a very lovely way, sustain a relationship with her current undergraduates and colleagues at Spelman, but also with a broad network of Spelman graduates that are really, I would say, global. They're really pretty much everywhere. Just a quick note, any Spelman grads here? Yeah, we've got a couple, OK. Holler out, absolutely.
Spelman's in the house. So she really uses Twitter to build and sustain relationships, and that's very unlike most people who use it in a promotional, self-promotional kind of way.
The other thing is that Beverly and I have been colleagues since the '90s. We were both in what's called the Five College Consortium in the Pioneer Valley. I was at UMass Amherst, as were a couple of people in the audience. We were overlapped at Mount Holyoke, at Smith, and at UMass Amherst. And I count myself as one of the legions of undergraduates, and graduates, and colleagues who would count Dr. Tatum as one of the most outstanding and gifted teachers on a campus anywhere today.
I have told her many times, personally and privately, all of the many ways that she's influenced my approach to teaching. It just happens that we both teach about race and race relations in the United States. But it would be true, I think, across disciplines. So I think that Dr. Tatum brings to our conversation this afternoon one of the most essential elements for the Cornell community, which is to think about ourselves as an ongoing dialogue. I hope that when we conclude today that it will just be the beginning.
Quick interjection, how many folks were able to join us for Dr. Higginbotham yesterday afternoon? Yeah great. Well, I told him I was going to do this, so this isn't a surprise. But can anyone remember what Dr. Higginbotham's call to action was at the end of his presentation? This is not a test.
All the way back, yes.
MATT OUELLETT: OK, my hearing is shot. Could you shout it out one more time?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE] what you say now, with your back against the wall, [INAUDIBLE].
MATT OUELLETT: Yes, speak out. That was the bottom line. Speak out, don't be silent. Express your First Amendment rights in whatever manner and format that's appropriate for you.
And I think that our conversation today with Dr. Tatum will continue that opportunity to think about, as she has in her own career modeled so beautifully and eloquently, how do we take action. How do we take the ideas that vivify our curiosities and our intellectual interests and bring them out into our lived lives and our communities? So please join me in welcoming Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Thank you so much, Matt, for that very warm and gracious introduction. And thank you all for coming out this afternoon. I'm really delighted to be here. And I want to say a particular thank you to Professor Higginbotham, who I did hear yesterday. And as he was speaking, I thought, well, this is great to be able to speak the next day, because I think of this as a continuing conversation in many ways.
I am excited to be here at this moment. You heard that my book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race, was just released, the 20th anniversary edition was released on Tuesday, September 5. So not quite 10 days old yet. And I am on a book tour, and so Cornell is one of my first stops. So I'm very excited by that.
And I want to tell you that, when I tell people, or as I was working on the book, when I told people that I was working on a 20th anniversary edition of this book-- you heard the title, I'm going to repeat it, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race-- they typically responded with two questions. Is that still happening? We know the answer to that question is yes, at most places, they are still sitting together, and other groups as well.
And then the second question was, are things getting better? So that is what I'm going to focus on today. Are things getting better. If the answer to the first question is usually yes, they are still sitting together, then what does that tell us about the answer to the second question, are things getting better?
What does better look like? That's a more complicated question, and that's what I'm going to talk about this afternoon. I want to start by telling you that I have some prepared remarks, as you'll see.
But then there's going to be about, I hope, about a half an hour for questions. And so I hope you'll be thinking about that, because the Q&A is always my favorite part. So I look forward to your questions and our dialogue.
So what has changed, for better or worse, in the last 20 years? And what is the implication for how we understand ourselves and each other in reference to our racial identities? And if we are dissatisfied with the way things are, what can we do to change it?
Almost, it's hard to believe, but we are almost two decades into the 21st century. And we are still struggling with what WEB Dubois identified in 1906 as the problem of the color line, even though the demographic composition of that color line has changed. The numbers are pretty remarkable.
I was born in 1954. And in 1954 the total US population was nearly 90% white. In 2014, for the first time in US history, the school age population was majority children of color, over 50% children of color, black, Latinx, Asian, or Native American.
As I like to say, new faces, same places. By that I mean, today, the Latinx population is the largest population of color in the nation, about 18%, slightly under 18%. The black population's about 13%. The Asian population is at 6%, but growing faster than any other group, largely due to immigration. And the percentage of multi-racial babies has risen from 1% in 1970 to 10% in 2013.
But despite that rapid shift in our national diversity, old patterns of segregation persist. Nationwide, and that actually was what my LA Times op-ed was about yesterday, the fact that the population's changing, but still, nationwide, nearly 75% of black students and 80% of Latinx students attend so-called majority minority schools. Both black and Latinx students are much more likely than white students to attend a school where 60% or more of their classmates are living in poverty. So not only segregated by race but also by socioeconomic status.
And separate remains unequal, as schools with concentrated poverty and racial segregation are still likely to have less experienced teachers, higher levels of teacher turnover, inadequate facilities, and fewer classroom resources. Neighborhoods, once again, determine school assignment. And to the extent that neighborhoods are segregated, the schools remain so.
Certainly, income matters when you're looking for housing. That makes sense. But we can't overlook the way housing patterns have been shaped historically by policies and practices, such as racially restrictive real estate covenants, racial steering by real estate agents, redlining of neighborhoods, and other discriminatory practices by mortgage lenders. That history includes the use by many white homeowners associations of physical threats and violence to keep people of color out of their neighborhoods.
The legacy of these policies and practices lives on as past housing options enhance or impede the accumulation of home equity, and eventually the intergenerational transmission of wealth. And though such policies are now illegal at the federal, state, and local levels, evidence suggests they haven't been eliminated in practice. So what difference does it make?
For people of color, living in a hyper-segregated-- meaning an extremely segregated community-- increases one's exposure to the disadvantages associated with concentrated poverty and reduces access to the benefits associated with affluent communities. Racial segregation limits access to the social networks needed for successful employment and access to other important resources.
In other words, keeping groups separated means that community helpfulness is not shared across racial lines. Neighbors help neighbors get jobs. Neighbors help neighbors get their children jobs. If you are locked into a community with high levels of unemployment, you are not going to have the same access to employment opportunities. You're not going to hear about those employment opportunities.
So when we talk about residential segregation, we have to recognize that economic disadvantage and racial disadvantage are inextricably linked together. And if we reflect on the fact that this is the 21st century-- so we are talking about now centuries long persistence of residential and school segregation-- that fact goes a long way toward explaining why the black kids are still sitting together.
In those few places where students of color and white students enter academic environments together, places like Cornell for example, their lived experiences are likely to have been quite different. And racial stereotyping is likely to be an inhibiting factor in their cross-group interactions.
That said, isn't anything better? Well just last year in 2016, in his 2016 commencement address, President Barack Obama was speaking at Howard University. And he highlighted how opportunities for black people have expanded since his own college graduation in 1983.
He said, we're no longer only entertainers. We're producers, studio executives. No longer small business owners, we're CEOs, we're mayors, representatives, presidents of the United States. Certainly President Obama was correct that positive meaningful social change has happened in our lifetimes, certainly in my lifetime.
In the 20 year period from 1997 to 2017, at least three major setbacks have occurred. I could mention more than three.
Today I'm going to focus on two. I'll tell you the three that I have on my list, the anti-affirmative action backlash of the late 20th century and early 21st centuries, the economic collapse of 2008 known as the Great Recession, and the phenomenon known as mass incarceration.
But today I'm going to focus on just the first two, affirmative action backlash and the economic collapse. So let's start with the anti-affirmative action backlash. That has had significant effects on black, Latinx, and American Indian access to the best resourced public universities.
California offers a telling example. In 1996, California voters approved California Proposition 209, which effectively ended all state-run affirmative action programs, which had devastating impact on the enrollment of black, Latinx. and Native American students at UCLA and at UC Berkeley, the two flagship institutions. A similar result occurred when Michigan passed its own version of Proposition 209 in 2006. The California and Michigan flagship institutions found that, without taking race into consideration, it was very difficult for them to achieve and maintain representatives levels of diversity, despite the fact that state populations were growing more diverse each year.
Recognition of that difficulty seemed to play a role in Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. You probably know about that Supreme Court case. It challenged the university's use of race as one factor among many in a holistic review of applicants. But to the surprise of many observers, the Supreme Court ruled on this side of the University. You might call that a victory for affirmative action.
But writing the majority opinion for the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while the university had a reasoned, principled explanation of its policy, he also warned that the court's decision to uphold it quote, "does not necessarily mean the university may rely on that same policy without refinement in the future," reminding us all that affirmative action programs stand on shaky ground.
And already we have heard that the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, will be investigating affirmative action programs to be sure they are not discriminating against, it was alleged against white students, now they're saying against Asian-American students. But my guess is what any investigation under the current administration, of affirmative action programs is likely to place them in further jeopardy.
The second setback, the economic collapse of 2008, shook the ground of many. Many people's lives were disrupted by the economic collapse. But it had a disproportionately disastrous effect for many black and Latinx families, with many families of color losing their homes and their jobs. Disparate unemployment rates continue despite the national economic recovery, and according to economists, the racial wealth gap between whites and people of color is the highest it has been in 25 years.
Economic disparities translate into educational disparities. College access is much more difficult when families have little opportunity to accumulate savings and no real estate assets against which to borrow. According to the National Post-Secondary Student Aid Study, the percentage of black students whose families had nothing to contribute to their college educations are what we in higher ed call an expected family contribution of 0, went from 41.6% in 2008 to 60% in 2012.
For many black and Latinx families, the last 20 years have been a downward slide. But it's worth noting that some white families have been sliding, too. Since 2000, the poverty rate among working class whites has grown from 3% to 11%, fueling both economic anxiety and anger. These statistics are depressing, and perhaps you're thinking, as I would ask myself as I was working on this book, surely something has changed for the better in the last 20 years.
Indeed, if there's one thing that might suggest a positive change in race relations in the 21st century, it would be the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Think back to that election if you would. I spent election night 2008 with hundreds of students gathered at Spelman College.
And when the announcement of then-Senator Barack Obama's victory came, there was cheering and crying and as you might imagine, a lot of excitement. That excitement was mirrored on television in the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multigenerational gatherings broadcast from Chicago, New York, Washington, DC. Truly it was a night to remember.
The next day, according to a USA Today poll taken immediately after the election-- or that weekend, it wasn't the next day, but the weekend after the election. There was a poll in the USA Today paper, and it said 67% of Americans expressed pride in the racial progress the election represented, even if they did not vote for President Obama themselves.
Yet 27% of those respondents said the results of the election frighten them. So why were they afraid? Some of that fear could have been related to disagreement with Obama's policies or related concerns. But I'm a psychologist, and here's my theory.
For some small segment, the fear might have been related to an unvoiced and unconscious recognition that the racial calculus of our society was changing, to the extent that the election of Barack Obama disrupted the usual narrative of white victory. It represented unpredictability.
Lack of predictability creates anxiety, even psychological threat. And during the last 20 years, we've seen the level of anxiety rise in our nation. And it's not just the election of a black president.
It's the 2008 collapse of the American economy. It's the occurrence of terrorist attacks on our own soil. It's the slow recognition that other countries are gaining on US global prominence. Maybe, especially for white people, it's the growing sense of being outnumbered in what was once a 90% white nation.
Each of these societal changes represents a challenge to a set of assumptions deeply held by many in our nation. And any time you challenge a deeply held assumption, you generate anxiety, even fear. So how do we deal with fear? As human beings, how do we deal with fear? We typically either withdraw or attack.
In the aftermath of the 2008 election, there was evidence of both patterns, with withdrawal taking the form of hunkering down, pulling in and away from, and even a lashing out at those we felt threatened by. Such behavior can help explain why there's been a sharp rise in hate crimes. Excuse me, a sharp-- there's been that, too.
But a sharp rise in hate groups and in racially and ethnically motivated hate crimes since 2008.
Indeed, according to a New York Times report, Stormfront.org, which is America's most popular online white supremacist site, founded in 1995 by a former Klan leader, saw the biggest single increase in membership in its history on November 5, 2008, the day after the election. Perhaps more surprising, 64% of registered Stormfront users are under 30, which brings me to the myth of the colorblind millennial.
So one of the young users of such internet hate sites was 21-year-old Dylann Roof, charged with the 2015 murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. We all remember that incident, of course. And following the horrific shooting, Gene Demby of National Public Radio wrote an article entitled, "Dylann Roof and the stubborn myth of the colorblind millenial."
His article, or his story, opens with these lines. "The young age of Dylann Roof, who's charged with sitting alongside nine black churchgoers for an hour before standing up and shooting them dead, is sure to inspire some head-scratching in the wake of his attack. He's 21, which means he's a millennial, which means he's not supposed to be racist. So the thinking, stubbornly, if disingenuously persists despite ample research showing that it's just not true."
Demby cites the results of an MTV survey of young viewers regarding their racial attitudes. That 2014 survey of a nationally representative group of 1,0000 14 to 24-year-olds was an in-depth look at how millennials think about issues related to bias. Among the key findings were a widespread belief, 91%, that everyone should be treated equally.
You wonder why it wasn't 100%, but 91% said that everyone should be treated equally. 48% percent, however, indicated that they believed it was wrong to draw attention to someone's race even in a positive way, 48% thinking you're just not supposed to mention it.
72% reported believing that their generation is more egalitarian than previous generations, and 58% agreed that racism will become less and less of an issue as they take on leadership roles in our society. 62% said electing a black president was evidence that race is no longer a barrier to opportunity for people of color.
Now white respondents and respondents of color, however, did have some-- they reported significantly different life experiences. For example, one of the questions was how often do you feel excluded at school or work because of your race or ethnicity? White respondents reported rarely feeling excluded at school or work. Only 10% said that they felt that way sometimes, while 23% of respondents of color said they often felt excluded in those settings.
13% of white respondents said they had been treated differently by a teacher because of their race, compared to 33% of respondents of color. Despite the fact that white respondents reported fewer negative experiences with bias and 41% agreed that I have more advantages than people of other races, almost half, 48%, also agreed that today discrimination against white people has become as big a problem as discrimination against racial minority groups, 48%.
Only 27% of respondents of color shared that perception. Almost twice as high a percentage of white millennial respondents, 41%, as compared to 21% of respondents of color, agreed that the government pays too much attention to the problems of racial minority groups.
Despite these highlighted differences in experience and attitude, almost all millennials surveyed, 94%, reported having seen examples of bias, defined by the survey as treating someone differently and often unfairly because they are a member of a particular group. So almost all of them, 94%, said they had witnessed this happening.
Yet just 20% indicated they were comfortable having a conversation about it. Most, 73%, think we should talk so-- let me say that again. 73% think we should talk openly about bias and that doing so would lead to prejudice reduction. But close to 80% said they were afraid to do so. Their biggest concern about addressing bias is the risk of creating a conflict or making the situation worse.
For me, one of the main conclusions from this survey is that the millennial generation is not living in a post-racial, colorblind society, and neither are the baby boomers and the other generations before them. None of us are living in a post-racial society. , Instead we may be living in a color silent society, where we have learned to avoid talking about racial difference.
But even if we refrain from mentioning race, the evidence is clear. We still notice racial categories and our behaviors are guided by what we notice. Those biases manifest themselves in ways that matter, who we offer help to in an emergency, who we decide to hire, who we give a warning to instead of a ticket, who we shoot at instead of de-escalating during a police encounter.
Indeed, it's the police shootings and their aftermath that have offered the most glaring evidence that we are not living in a post-racial world. The police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014 was a tipping point for many. The activism that followed, not just in Ferguson but around the nation and on college campuses linked through social media by #blacklivesmatter awakened a new generation to the power of protest.
Whether it came from professional athletes wearing I can't breathe t-shirts, medical students in White Coats for Black Lives staging die-ins, Bay Area public defenders organizing demonstrations, Stanford students blocking the San Mateo bridge, or college students mobilizing protests on their own campuses, the rallying cry of Black Lives Matter had the nation's attention.
But if Ferguson was the epicenter of Black Lives Matter, the University of Missouri in Columbia, known as Mizzou, became the most visible symbol of campus-based student activism in the fall of 2015. Just as young activists of Ferguson felt betrayed by President Obama's inability to stop police violence, black students were angry that senior campus leaders were unable to prevent bias incidents on their campuses or that the responses to those incidents often lack a sense of urgency.
The speed with which events unfolded at Mizzou, culminating in the resignation of the two top campus leaders, was breathtaking. So was the wave of activism that swept across campuses. By December 2015, student demands at 80 colleges and universities, including three in Canada, had been posted on the web site demands.org. An analysis of those demands, the various campus demands statements, led researchers to conclude that these students are petitioning institutions to consider expansive shifts to institutional culture rather than merely standalone programs or add-on policies.
And presidents were responding. In January 2016, there was an anonymous online survey conducted by the American Council of Education of 567 college presidents-- well, they surveyed more than 567, but 567 responded-- and nearly half said that students on their campuses had organized around concerns about racial diversity. The vast majority of those college presidents, 86%, had met with student organizing groups more than once. And the majority indicated that addressing racial climate on campus had become a higher priority for them than it was three years ago.
But not everyone has been sympathetic to the cause of student protesters. As you know, pushback has come from all corners, from fellow students, from faculty, from administrators, from alumni, from trustees, from state legislators. Some people say the students are overreacting and need to get over it. Often, though not always, the critics are white. Failure to empathize with the outrage of Ferguson protesters or the sense of isolation or threat that students of color report may be due, in large part, to the racially insulated lives many white people lead, the result of persistent school and residential segregation.
According to a 2013 American values survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, known as PRRI, 75% of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence. I'm going to repeat that. 75% of whites have entirely white social networks, meaning they don't know any people of color.
This degree of social network racial homogeneity is significantly higher than for any other group. So people often ask me, you know, why are the black kids sitting together. But it's really, why are the white people--
So isolated, so racially isolated.
Robert Jones, the CEO of PRRI, wrote this sentence. I thought it was a good insight. "The chief obstacle to having an intelligent or even intelligible conversation across the racial divide is that, on average, white Americans talk mostly to other white people. The result is that most whites are not socially positioned to understand the experiences of people of color."
But this is not just a black matter. Perhaps because so much national media attention has focused on lethal encounters between black people and police, the national conversation about race to the extent that it's occurring has focused on anti-black racism. However, it's important to recognize that lethal police violence is not just a problem for black communities.
In fact, Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other group, including African-Americans. In the same way that the problem of police violence extends beyond African-Americans to other marginalized populations of color, so too does the problem of isolation and marginalization on historically white campuses.
Indeed while 13% of students statements on the demands.org web site focused specifically on the concerns of black students, over half had a more general focus on campus diversity broadly defined. What cuts across the experiences of all marginalized groups on college campuses is the phenomenon known as microaggressions.
Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines the term as the brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious slights and insults to the target person or group. Often involving the projection of stereotypes, microaggressions can occur at any moment of the day, a constant potential source of stress.
After experiencing one of those moments walking with his family after church on a Sunday morning in October, October 2016, Michael Luo, a Chinese-American journalist, posted about his experience on Twitter. And wrote an essay titled "An open letter to the woman who told my family to go back to China." To his surprise, The New York Times published it on the front page of The Times.
It began, "dear madam, maybe I should have let it go, but I was honestly stunned when you yelled at us from down the block, go back to China. Maybe you don't know this, but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience. It's this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day, that no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don't belong. We're foreign. We're not American."
Luo's open letter captured the psychological and physiological toll that microaggressions take on those who experience them. Social science research has demonstrated that microaggressions cumulatively quote, "assail the self-esteem of recipients, produce anger and frustration, deplete psychic energy, lower feelings of subjective well-being and worthiness, produce physical health problems, shorten life expectancy, and deny minority populations equal access and opportunity in education, employment, and health care."
Unfortunately, these experiences became more frequent for some during the 2016 presidential campaign season. So I'm going to talk for a moment about the election of 2016. Donald Trump's campaign gave new visibility to a movement that for many years had been in the shadows of American life.
The Alt-right is defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as, quote, "a set of far right ideologies, groups, and individuals whose core belief is that white identity is under attack by multicultural forces using political correctness and social justice to undermine white people and their civilization." Much Alt-right rhetoric is explicitly racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-feminist.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks for many when he says he is troubled by the mainstreaming of these really offensive ideas. Keep in mind these statements and these quotes all were made before Charlottesville. While not everyone who voted for Donald Trump had bigoted views, Donald Trump's election victory nonetheless emboldened white nationalists.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate-motivated incidents, released a post-election report document. It was titled "Ten Days After." In the first 10 days after the election, their report documented almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation, not including online harassment. In these documented accounts, many harassers invoked Trump's name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.
According to the report, most occurrences involved hateful graffiti and verbal harassment, although a small number included violent physical interactions. And as educators, we should pay attention to the fact that K through 12 school and college settings were the most common venues for these hate incidents. Of the more than 900 incidents, only 23 reported were directed at the Trump campaign or his supporters.
At a time like this, we know that leadership matters, on college campuses and in our nation. When I listened to the polarizing rhetoric of radio and TV commentators during the long campaign season and after, I was reminded of the book Left to Tell. It's a book by Immaculee Ilibagiza. She was a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.
And she wrote about the hostile rhetoric that was on the radio airwaves before and during the genocide, demonizing the ethnic minority to which she belonged. That rhetoric was made especially powerful because it came from the country's leaders. I don't mean to suggest that what we are seeing in the United States is on par with what happened in Rwanda. But I want to emphasize that what we say matters, and leadership matters.
The expectations and values of leaders can change the nature of our conversation. Human beings have an innate tendency to think in us and them categories. That just is how our brains are wired. But we look to the leader to help us know who is the us and who is the them. Who is defined as us and who is defined as them is socially determined, that is not innately defined.
The leader can draw the circle narrowly or widely. When the leader draws the circle in an exclusionary way using hostile rhetoric to other-ize the them, the sense of threat among followers is heightened. When the rhetoric is expansive and inclusionary, the threat is reduced. So the leader has to ask, how is the circle being drawn? Who is inside, who is outside?
And ideally, the leader should ask, what can I do to make the circle bigger? As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, we are caught in a network of mutuality. Our collective fate is intertwined. We will thrive or fail together.
But here's what I want you to also consider. I've been reflecting on the bad news of the last 20 years. If you were born 20 years ago in 1997, the same year as the original publication of my book, all the critical issues I have identified thus far are coming of age hallmarks of your generation. If you were born in 1997 you were four years old when the Towers came down on 9/11. You might not remember that, but you certainly have been influenced by the aftermath of it.
If you were born in 1997, you were 11 when the economy collapsed, perhaps bringing new economic anxiety into your family life. You were still 11 when President Barack Obama was elected. You heard that his election was proof of a post-racial society, yet your neighborhoods and schools were likely still segregated.
In 2012, when you were 15, a young black teenager named Trayvon Martin, walking home in his father's mostly white neighborhood with his bag of iced tea and Skittles, was murdered, and his killer went free. When you were 17, Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri and his body was left uncovered in the streets for hours, for four hours, like a piece of road kill.
In the same year, unarmed Eric Garner was strangled to death by police, repeatedly gasping, I can't breathe on viral cell phone video. And when you were 19, Donald J. Trump was elected, and white supremacists celebrated by marching in the streets of Washington, DC.
So are things getting better? How a 20-year-old would answer that question will probably depend a great deal on the social identities of that 20-year-old. In 2017, 20 years after I first wrote my book, how we see ourselves and each other is still being shaped by racial categories and the stereotypes attached to them. Our social context still reinforces racial hierarchies and still limits our opportunities for genuinely mutual, equitable, and affirming relationships in neighborhoods, in classrooms, or in the workplace.
So what do we need to do? That's the question I ask myself and I'm asking all of you. And in particular here at Cornell, the question I'm asking is, so what do we need to do on our campuses?
The last section of my book is an epilogue, and it's titled "Signs of Hope, Sights of Progress." I wanted to cheer myself up at the end.
So signs of hope-- and the readers, as well. Signs of hope, sights of progress, one of the signs of hope I talk about is the importance and the possibility of dialogue as action. Creating campus dialogue groups is an action that could be taken on any campus. I'm happy to learn here that there's an intergroup dialogue program at Cornell, and my hope is that many students will participate in it.
I found a hopeful example of this strategy at the University of Michigan, widely regarded as the birthplace of intergroup dialogue programs. They were the first to launch them. In October 2016, I visited the campus there. I was at Michigan and I was talking with David Schoem and some students from a program called the Michigan Community Scholars Program. This is a living, learning residential community that has cross-group dialogue at its center.
Students live together, they have to apply to be part of the program. About 100 of them live together, and as part of the residential program, which is intentionally multi-racial in its composition, students take a seminar, and they participate in various structured dialogues. The students, both white and of color, who chose the Community Scholars Program talked to me about what they had learned from it and about how different their experience was from that of their classmates who are not part of the program.
One of the things they talked about was that that fall, last October, white supremacist posters with explicitly anti-black content appeared around the university's campus creating a hostile environment for black students who felt under attack. And one young African-American woman who was in her first year, so imagine this, she's a freshman. You know, she's in her first year.
It's October, the second month of school, and she sees these anti-black white supremacist posters around campus, and it's upsetting to her. And she says, it's hard to focus on your schoolwork when there's so much hateful stuff. It's hard to know who to trust.
You don't know who put up those posters. You know, you don't know who holds those attitudes. It's hard to know who to trust. It takes energy to reach out to whites without knowing if they are safe. The Michigan Community Scholars Program helps with that.
A white woman and her cohort, also living on that floor in that program, was quick to second that observation. Because even though as a white student she was not the target of hateful rhetoric, she said, MCSP, that program, is the only place where I've constantly felt supported, listened to, and understood.
When we get it right, when we create these opportunities for students to connect across lines of difference, it works. Research shows that when schools and communities are truly integrated with real opportunities for students of different racial backgrounds to take the same classes, participate in clubs and sports together, and collaborate on projects, they make more friends across racial lines and express more positive views than other students do. As adults, they are more likely to live and work in diverse settings, more likely to be civically engaged, and more likely to vote.
In my view, that is what better looks like. Is it better? Not yet, but it could be. And it's up to us to make sure it is. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
I am pretty certain we still have some time for questions, and I'm going to invite you to ask some. I think there is a microphone in the middle of the chapel where you can come. And somebody walking around with a microphone in his hand if you'd like to ask a question. They are live streaming our event, so we want to be sure people hear the questions, as well as what I have to say in response.
Looks like we have a question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much, Dr. Tatum, for such an amazing talk.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Thanks.
AUDIENCE: My question was, I was reflecting back on something a student told me when we started [INAUDIBLE] the presidential election. But the student basically said that grown up more in the southern region of the United States, they prefer people who share these racist views to be more open about them, to be more seen. Because they then know who the enemy is, so they can avoid the enemy. And I thought that was really interesting. Because another student-- they were both black, female students.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yes.
AUDIENCE: So the other student told me, I'd rather not know. Because then I'm always fearful that this whoever it is that expresses these racist views also looks like this other person, who may not be racist. And I don't know who to trust.
Because that person looks like my baker, that person looks like my teacher, so then you're always fearful. So those were two completely different ideas of what being [INAUDIBLE] said. So my question was, really, what are your thoughts on this dilemma, of should we be working to expose these groups in the light of day, or by doing that, are we invigorating them more? And how do we find that balance? Sometimes, as my friend said, we need to see your enemy, but also how do [INAUDIBLE] that fear that, now that you've seen your enemy, that enemy looks like technically anyone else.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Sure.
AUDIENCE: So that''s, essentailly, my question.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yeah, I get your question, I understand your question. And you know, it's interesting, I started my career as a psychologist studying the experiences of black families in predominately white communities, and I interviewed black families living in California. Most of the parents in those families had grown up in the South. And what was interesting to me-- I grew up in the Northeast.
What was interesting to me listening to them was their sense that, as the first person you described said, in the South you sort of knew who the overtly racist people were. Maybe they had Confederate flags on the back of their cars or there were cues, you knew, sort of, where you stood. And that in some ways was easier to deal with because you could see when you were dealing with someone who might be hostile to you.
Whereas in California, they said people smile at you, but then they are also discriminating against you. You know, it's not always obvious to you. And that was in some ways harder to deal with.
But I think really more to the point of your question, if we think about how do we change society, it's not, sort of, how do we identify who is against us. But how do we mobilize those people who are for us, right? How do we inspire and mobilize white allies to speak up?
There's a wonderful essay that I read recently written by a white woman. It was based on a speech she gave at a Martin Luther King Day convocation. And it was titled something like, what would I have done during the Civil Rights era, or something-- in the days of Martin Luther King, what would I have done?
And she said I would like to think-- she was too young to have lived during that time. But she said, I would like to think I would have marched with King if I was alive then. She said, but if I look at my behavior today, I have to say I probably wouldn't have been one of those people. Because you know, the fact of the matter is I haven't been paying attention. I need to be paying attention so that I can speak up.
There's an organization in Massachusetts called Facing History and Ourselves that does social justice education, works with teachers. And they talk about what it means to be an upstander as opposed to a bystander, right. You know, lots of us around issues of social justice are sometimes bystanders. We're not perpetrators, but we're not speaking up.
And to be an upstander, you have to be ready to speak up. And so I think the key, for me, I want to spend my time identifying the upstanders. And the more of them they are and the more visible they are to me, the better that is. Thank you for your question.
There's a hand over there, just stand up.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: I'll repeat your question if I can hear it. Go ahead.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: OK let's start again with the microphone. It's hard to hear you.
AUDIENCE: So I read an article the other day, that talked about, for [INAUDIBLE] about how the discussion of race is very dependant on white feelings. How can we change that, where race is something that we can all feel, I don't want to say comfortable, but at least, I don't know the word to use, but feel happier about?
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yeah.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yeah, so thank you for your question. It is hard to have a conversation about race if the response to that conversation is defensiveness and fear, and people shut down quickly. I want to just do a quick little exercise, I promise it won't take too long. I'm going to ask everybody to think of your earliest race related memory if you could.
Raise your hand if you've thought of something. OK, many of you have. So now I'm going to ask you to just call out-- it's going to sound a little cacophonous in here-- but just call out the age at which this incident that you've recalled occurred.
AUDIENCE: [INTERPOSING VOICES]
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: So I heard a lot of fives, I heard four, I think I even heard a three. Anybody older than five? Just raise your hand if you were in elementary school, if your experience occurred in elementary school. OK, thank you.
Raise your hand if your experience occurred in high school. A few people. Raise your hand if it was post high school. A few people. OK, most people, it's elementary school or even sometimes preschool. And if you think about that time and that incident, for the purposes of efficiency, I'm just going to tell you what people often tell me about the feelings associated. If I mention a word that resonates for you, raise your hand.
When I ask people what feeling was associated with that experience, sometimes people say anger. Sometimes people say confusion. Sometimes people say embarrassment. Sometimes people say shame. Sometimes people say sadness. Sometimes people say curiosity. Sometimes people say love. Sometimes people say guilt.
OK, that's not an exhaustive list, but you get the sense. Many of you raised your hands around confusion, or embarrassment, or anger. Did I say fear?
So here's the thing. If you're five or six or seven having an experience with that kind of emotion attached to it, I want to ask you now to raise your hand if you talked about it at the time it occurred with a family member, or like a parent or a teacher, a caring adult. Raise your hand if you spoke about it with a caring adult. There are some hands up.
Raise your hand if you did not speak about it with anyone. There are more hands up than the first question. And this is usually the case. It is usually the case that people have had an early experience with a negative emotion attached to it.
And if you know something about five and six-year-olds, they're pretty candid. They usually tell you what's on their minds. So it's somewhat counterintuitive for a lot of people to say, I had an early experience and I didn't talk to anyone about it.
So why is that? In the interest of time, I'm going to tell you. Because we learn, early, that we're not supposed to talk about it, right? You know something like 90-- there was a high percentage of young people who had witnessed scenes of bias, but most of them said, I don't want to talk about it. We learn early we're not supposed to talk about it.
And so consequently, we bring a lot of emotional baggage. If you had those experiences at five or six or seven, that wasn't the-- it might have been the first, but it wasn't the last. There have been lots of times when these conversations were taking place, when you felt a knot your stomach and you didn't want to participate, and that's a common feeling.
So how do we get past that? We just have to practice. You know, you only get past it by doing it. And there will be times when someone will say something to you and you're going to be thinking to yourself, whether you are a white or person of color, you might be thinking to yourself, are you calling me a fill in the blank? Are you calling me racist, are you calling me homophobic, are you calling-- are you calling me the thing that only a scumbag would be?
That's what you're thinking, and the answer is the person might indeed be saying the thing you said or a point of view you expressed was reflecting the misinformation you took in. And if you breathe in misinformation you're going to breathe some out. That's going to happen, and it doesn't mean you're a scumbag. Excuse my language.
You know, it doesn't mean that you are a bad person. It means you are a smog breather like we all are if we live in a smoggy place. And so we have to, I think, desensitize ourselves to these conversations and remain in them.
One of the joys of my career was teaching a course for 20 years on the psychology of racism. And one of the things I really liked about that class was, when students got tired of talking about race, they still had to show up the following week.
Because it was 15 weeks in the semester, and usually it took about four weeks to be tired of it, and too late to drop, I'm so sorry.
And what they found was if they kept at it, it got easier. And not only did it get easier, it actually got kind of fun. Because you could start to see progress.
If we don't-- I'm going to-- this is last thing I'm going to say about it. Talking about race is like taking an antibiotic. If you don't take the whole dose, it comes back worse.
And so that's what I-- you know, we just have to breathe deeply and do it. Your turn.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Lupita. Can you hear me?
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yes, I can.
AUDIENCE: Great talk.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: So my question for you is the following. So let's say it's the first day of class. And you're the professor, and as your new students are filing in, you see those clusters of Asian students over here, white students over here, et cetera, et cetera. So if you want to intersperse these different racial groups, how would you recommend tactfully doing so? I mean, I know like you said before, that some people think just mentioning racism-- like, race is like a touchy issue. So how would you tactfully go about integrating your class?
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: That's a great question, and there are certainly ways to do it. So if it were my class and it were the first day, I probably wouldn't do anything on the first day. You know what I mean? I'd let people sit where they want to sit, where they did choose to sit. But I would probably be thinking about group projects and assigning people to groups that were intentionally mixed.
I would be thinking about, if-- I used to like to teach in a room that had movable chairs. And so if you're in a room with movable chairs and you want to have a conversation, I might ask everybody to stand up, count off by three or four, and mix them up, you know, that way for a particular dialogue.
There might be times when I was teaching Psychology of Racism, there were times when I actually wanted them to subdivide, where I would ask the white students to get in a small group together, where I would ask the students of color to get in a small group together, because there were questions that I wanted them to reflect on in the context of their own identities. And then bring that insight back to the mixed group. You know, so there are pedagogical reasons why you might even want separation.
But certainly there are lots of ways, by using the power of the pedagogue, you know, the power of the professor, to mix groups up. And if you're giving group assignments, you have to talk to groups about how to work together effectively and how good groups do. But we know that diverse groups outperform homogeneous groups in terms of problem solving. That research has been done. And so that's what I've been working on.
AUDIENCE: Great ideas. Thank you so much.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: My pleasure. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, your talk was amazing. And I have a question I want to talk about as clearly as possible. A lot of the dialogue tends to be around people of color and white people. And I guess I'm curious on your experience of how different communities of color have relationships with each other, whether you have seen any differences in the past 20 years. So with segregation and desegregation, and how we can make that better.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Yeah, well in my book, I talk about-- there's a section in my book where I talk extensively about identity issues as they relate to a variety of groups of color. So despite the title, I'm not just talking about black kids in the book. And in that conversation I do talk about some of the commonalities in terms of the identity development process, that, you know, Latinx students, Asian-American students, Native American students, Muslims, there's a section on the experience of Middle Eastern and North Africa and Muslim identifying students as well as multi-racial students. And one of the reasons the book is 100 pages longer than the original is because there's a lot of new information as it relates to those populations.
But that is to say that we all get misinformation about people different from ourselves. So just because I identify as African-American doesn't mean I don't have misinformation about other black people. And also other groups, right, just as those other groups might have misinformation about me.
And so part of the cross-group dialogue, whether it's within communities of color or across majority, what I would like to say, you know, dominant subordinate groups, is unlearning some of that misinformation. And that requires dialogue, too.
AUDIENCE: Hello. [INAUDIBLE] So my question was on affirmative action, because you talked about it a little bit. I was wondering because if we have, kind of, taken a step back in the affirmative action program. So my question is, what do you think is the best the next step for, not only affirmation action policy, but education policy in general.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Well, it's a big question. And it's a big question because there's so much that is problematic. So as it relates to affirmative action, what we know is that in those states, let's say California and Michigan where affirmative action has effectively been eliminated in state run programs, you know, they have had to think in more creatively about how to identify talent. And to do it in a way that is not race specific.
Certainly the-- Texas, for example, in it's affirmative action-- Texas took up a program where they admitted the top 10% of every-- if you scored in the top 10% of your school, you had access to the University of Texas at Austin, if you were in the top 10% performers. But schools are so differentially resourced the student who's in the top 10% of a segregated, impoverished school certainly has capabilities, but maybe not the same level of preparation, as a student who's in the top 10% of a highly resourced majority school.
And so that student might have access to the university, but is not as well positioned to be successful without additional supports. So there's strata-- and that only works, that 10% in terms of increasing diversity, only works in Texas because the schools are so segregated. Right, you know, if the schools were not so segregated, that wouldn't be a good system. So you know, states have to figure out what they are needing to do.
But I think that a lot of schools are trying to think more holistically about how they identify the kind of student who's going to be successful. Some of the most-- you know, one of the best indicators of success is persistence. So a person who has a lot of talent but is not persistent, talent defined in traditional ways, like high SAT scores or high GPA, a person who fits that category but has not demonstrated persistence may in fact, you, know flunk out their first year. Because they encounter new challenges and they don't know how to persist beyond them.
A student who may not have had the same exposure to, let's say, an AP curriculum, because AP's not offered in their school, but yet has been quite persistent in overcoming life's challenges may in fact be much more likely to be successful in that new environment, because they have that, what some people refer to as grit.
But if you were talking about educational policy, if I had a magic wand and could make a difference, I would change the way schools are funded. Because I think that is the underlying problem.
You know, when we rely on tax-based-- on a real estate tax base to fund schools, wealthy neighborhoods are always going to have better funded schools. And poor neighborhoods are going to have poorly funded schools.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: You're welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hi, thank you for your talk. I have a very-- two-parter. But the first part is, there's a lot of discussion about seeking out peers and integrate. But I was wondering if you could talk about any of the challenges of being a black woman who speaks up, particularly when black women faculty are being attacked at a much higher rate than other people with other platforms.
And then also, in, sort of, creating dialogue with white people is that this whole thing in Trump's America, or is just an [INAUDIBLE] labor on behalf of people of color?
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: So not everybody has the energy required, and it takes a lot of energy. I will be the first to tell you that. But to start to rewind to the start of your question, which was the challenge for being a black woman in academia, speaking up, or in any setting, you know the setting I know the best, obviously, is the academic one.
And it is a challenge. There's no question about that. You know I started teaching in 1980, and so almost 40 years, right, I've been involved in higher education. And when I started, I was in most environments the only black woman certainly in my department.
In my very first teaching job, which was as a lecturer teaching that course on Group Exploration of Racism at UC Santa Barbara, I was the only black woman on the faculty. And I was a lecturer, visiting lecturer, right. There were no other black women on the faculty. And if I had more time, I could tell you some of my stories.
That said, I've written about some of it. If you dig far enough in Google you might find some. But the fact of the matter is, it's not easy. You know, it's not easy.
But sometimes graduate students will ask me, how did you get-- you know, you spent your career teaching about race. How did you get to do that? And I always say, I said I wanted to. It was that simple really. And it's not to say that I wasn't challenged by other people. And it wasn't to say that there weren't times when I felt like I was frustrated, but I would say that you need to build a community of support around you, and that helps.
In fact, I'm going to tell you something that someone said to me, which I have remembered and I repeat often. And that is to say, if you make a lot of withdrawals, you better make a lot of deposits. And that for me has been the answer. You know, it does, you know, it takes a lot out of you. But if you're putting a lot in, you can keep going.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: Thanks.
AUDIENCE: I don't want to rehash the same question I was asked about [INAUDIBLE]. So the other question I had was how do we get more black students educated in general. And so in The Times recently had a piece where they talked about how the black and Latinx communities over the world are underrepresented, [INAUDIBLE] even up for their international policies. And [INAUDIBLE] US best ranking for colleges. [INAUDIBLE] talked about how that influenced racial job [INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE] students from higher education.
And so with that being said, do you feel-- what is the recommendation? Affirmative action, you mentioned funding, is it funding K through 12? Is it kept at home, with your own personal value on psychology? Where do we kind of pinpoint this? Because clearly these [INAUDIBLE] aren't working as much as we showcase them and fight them in courts. Where do we need to pinpoint our efforts for these issues?
BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM: So there's two things that I've heard in your question. I hear you asking me more than one question. And so one question I hear you asking me is, how do we ensure that young people are ready for opportunity, right? What about readiness?
But then the other question is, how do we make sure there's opportunities available, right? And that's a big question. And I've written a lot about it, and it's hard to some-- it's hard to say, this is what we need to do. If there were a silver bullet, it would already be done.
Part of the problem is I think that we are not-- I'm going to give you an example. Generally speaking, I think most people would agree that desegregating schools, K through 12, is a positive thing, generally speaking. If the school that the-- I mean it's a horrible-- if we look at history what we will see historically, is that during the time of segregated schools, particularly in the South, there were segregated schools where black students in those segregated schools were performing at a very high level, where they had teachers who were caring about them, and wanted to see them be successful, and lived in the same community as they did.
And yes, they were under-resourced, but still there were young people who came to those schools and went on to earn-- you know, my parents went to segregated schools, went on to earn college degrees and graduate degrees. And my father was the first African-American professor at Bridgewater State College, which is why I grew up in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
But that said, we know that when it works well, having greater access to resources is a positive thing. Having greater access to social networks is a positive thing. And yet, we don't have as a nation the will to make that happen.
In fact, over the last 20 years, we have been rapidly-- I'm using the we very generically-- as a nation, we have been resegregating, rapidly resegregating. And if you want to know more about that, I highly recommend reading Nicole Hannah-Jones article in the education section of The New York Times this past Sunday, talking about what has happened in Jefferson County, Missouri as an example.
But there was a survey done by Phi Beta Kappa, which is an education honor society, they publish a magazine called the Kappan. And in that survey, they asked parents how important it was to them if their child went to a diverse school. You know, do you think this is a good thing for your child to have diversity in their classroom? And something like 75% of all the respondents said yes, this is a good thing.
And then they were asked how many of you would drive a further distance to put your child in a more diverse school. Only 20% said they were willing to drive, or maybe it was 25%. My point is, we talk a good game, but our actions don't match up. And it's very difficult for me to imagine the kind of change, the kind of wide scale, structural changes we need today, because we don't see the political will to make that happen.
So for me, I think I-- I don't know if I mentioned it in this talk. I was giving a talk earlier today to a smaller group of people. Right after the election, I read an article, another op-ed in The Washington Post, and it was titled, what would the abolitionists do in the era-- in the age of Trump? "What would the abolitionists do in the age of Trump?"
And it was written by a historian who studied the period of abolitionism. And she talked about the fact that, the author talked about the fact, that there were times back then when it seemed that the goal of abolishing slavery was impossible. And there were many legislative and-- the many setbacks. You know, things were on the ballot and there were many setbacks.
And the abolitionists responded to those setbacks by doubling down on their grassroots organizing. Knocking door to door, spreading penny posters, talking to people about why this was so important, and it seems to me that is what is required today. That kind of person to person, let me tell you why this is important. Let me help you understand what this experience is about.
And it's hard. It's hard because there's a lot of resistance. You know, that antibiotic has not been taken long enough, and it's come back worse. And so it is required, I think, upon each of us not to rely on a handful of national leaders, but to recognize that each of us can be a leader in our own communities around these issues.
We all have the sphere of influence. And at the end of the day it's those of us who are using our sphere of influence to move a progressive agenda forward around social justice issues that will make the change just as was the case in the 18th century.
Thank you very much I think we have to stop. Thank you.
MATT OUELLETT: So I want to thank you all for joining us this afternoon. And in fact, I think I forgot to mention something as well, which is that you can get this book as spoken by Dr. Tatum on-- you can get an electronic version.
So if you don't have time to sit and read the book, you have the option of the delight of having Dr. Tatum read it to you. So thank you all very much.
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Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, President Emerita of Spelman College and author of the critically acclaimed book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race (1997), is a nationally recognized authority on racial issues and the psychology of racism in America. She argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential to enable communication across racial and ethnic divides.
Dr. Tatum explains why faculty, staff and students need to explore racial stereotypes and continue cross-racial dialogue, and shares activities she has utilized to engage others in understanding their racial identity.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching Innovation, Office of Engagement Initiatives, Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, and the Graduate School.