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Discussing “Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation”  by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Chapter One:/ “The Resegregation of Our Schools&

Dr. Tatum outlines the ABC approach to creating inclusive classrooms:

A) Affirming identity, refers to the fact that students need to see themselves–important dimensions of their identity–reflected in the environment around them, in the curriculum, among the faculty and staff, and in the faces of their classmates to avoid the feelings of invisibility or marginality that can undermine student success. (p. 21-22)

B) Building community, refers to the importance of creating a school community in which everyone has a sense of belonging, a community in which there are shared norms and values as well as a common purpose that unites its members. (p. 22)

C) Cultivating leadership, refers to the role of education in preparing citizens for active participation in a democracy, and the assumption that leadership must come from all parts of our community” (p 22).

What actions can educators take to enact these strategies in our own classrooms and institutions?

“As noted theorist Jean Baker Miller once said, we all want to feel ‘seen, heard, and understood.’ At its core, this is what affirming identity means. It’s not just about what pictures hang on the wall, or what content is included in the curriculum, although these things are important. It is about recognizing students’ lives–and helping them make connections to them…Affirming identity is not about being nice–it’s about being knowledgeable about who our students are, and reflecting a story that resonates with their best hopes for themselves (p. 31).

How can teachers get a better sense of their students’ perspectives, stories, hopes and needs? How can teachers make sure they reach their students and help them connect to the material?

“Of course, each of us is an individual, and we want our individuality recognized. But we each have a social identity, with a social history, a social meaning. Recognition of the meaning of Whiteness in our society is recognition of the meaning of /privilege/ in the context of a society that advantages being white…urging white teachers and students to recognize the meaning of their whiteness is /not/ equivalent to asking them to feel guilty about their privilege…(p. 36).

What ways have you found to help colleagues and students understand white privilege and move forward from there?

Chapter 2  / “Connecting the Dots: How Race in America’s Classrooms Affects Achievement” 


1) “At a time when America is fixed myopically on test-score disparities, yet making little progress on eliminating them, we  all need to see the connections between notions of race and intelligence in America’s classrooms, the academic achievement of underperforming students of color, and the benefit of antiracist professional development.  – p. 40

 How do the historical policies and beliefs of the past (specifically as they relate to IQ tests) still affect today's educational systems?  How can measuring intelligence be racist?

 How can the belief that intelligence can develop or improve affect educational performance?

2)  “Students look to their teachers for guidance and help for living in an increasingly diverse and complex society, and educators are becoming more aware of the need to prepare their students to live in a multiracial society.” – p. 71.

 What strategies does Tatum recommend using in order to persuade educational decision makers to support anti racist professional development?  What effect can a teacher's expectations of her/his students have on a student's performance? What do "acting white" and "stereotype threat" mean, and how are they detrimental to students of color?


Chapter 3 / “What Kind of Friendship is That?: The Search for Authenticity, Mutuality, and Social Transformation in Cross-Racial Relationships”  


1) “… human connection requires familiarity and contact.” (p. 100)

“… that connection depends on frankness, and a willingness to talk openly about issues of race.” (p. 102)

What stops us from talking openly about race?  What do we fear will happen if we talk openly about race with people of other races?  How can we overcome these fears/barriers?


2) In a study by sociologist Troy Duster, it was found that White students were interested in interacting with Black students, and preferred to do so in an informal, unstructured social situations (sharing coffee, pizza). Black students were likewise interested in interacting with White students, but in formal/structured situations (classroom, workshop) where issues related to race could be discussed. (pp. 101-102).


Do you find this to be true in your experience? Is it possible to program an event that would allow for both types of interactions? What might that look like?


3) How do we talk about racial issues that impact interracial friendships? Who needs to start the talk and why?  How can we structure meaningful dialogue?  What are some general needs (and advice) for i

terracial friendships?


Chapter 4 /  “In Search of Wisdom: Higher Education for a Changing Democracy”


1) “Empirical research has supported what many educators have observed through our classroom experiences about the education benefits of learning in a diverse community…Greater engagement in active thinking processes, growth in intellectual engagement and motivation, and growth in intellectual and academic skills were among the benefits students actively involved in a diverse campus community. These students also showed the most involvement during college in various forms of citizenship, the most engagement with people from different races and cultures, and they were the most likely to acknowledge that group differences are compatible with the interests of the broader community – all outcomes important to the health of our democracy.”  - pp. 110-111

How do we as educators encourage classroom experiences that promote racial and ethnic diversity?

How do we as students seek experiences that promote diversity?  In what other ways is such an educational experience of benefit to educators and students alike?

2) More specifically, Tatum identifies “The ABC’s of Creating a Climate of Engagement” “… affirming identity, building community, and cultivating leadership, three critical dimensions of effective learning environments in which all students (particularly those traditionally marginalized) feel invested and engaged, not just during the college years but through all levels of education.”  - p. 114

What is currently being done at the university to “affirm the identity” of diverse students?

What other ideas do you have to promote affirmation?  How do you promote affirmation of diversity? How do you specifically seek out or promote a sense of community?

As educators, how comfortable are you in discussing diversity issues? How can you become more comfortable facilitating such discussions? How can we encourage dialogue in our own circles about issues of diversity?

What is the future of public schooling?  If public schooling fails, how will it affect our shared economy and culture?


The Afterword

1) "In the midst o

nf shameful educational inequities and against the backdrop of a public discourse that foregrounds progress and accountability while inequality of educational resources remains unaddressed; in the midst of a reemergence of theories of cultural deficiency as an explanation for school failure while a new generation of youth struggles for a right to quality education; can we re-envision public schools as the great equalizer?" –p. 130


2)  "What conversations do we need to have about race, education, and democracy in order for this view of schools [public schools as the great equalizer] to take hold?" – p. 130

 How can those of us here continue this conversation in our Duluth community?

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