Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria By Beverly Tatum

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In reading Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Tatum, I have found myself identifying with the six steps which Helm’s believes to model the development of white racial identity, and realize I have yet to complete these steps. While I have not experienced exactly what Tatum says is included in each step, my experiences do closely mirror the steps which I have gone through.
Most of my childhood can be described as white. I grew up in a small white town, went to a small white school, and have a small white family; for a while, I even lived in a small white house. I grew up in a place where race was something I saw on the news, or heard white parents talking about angrily. I was unable to develop any sense
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While I knew that I was white, I simply recognized my own whiteness as normal. Like Tatum explains, this made everyone who wasn't white “abnormal”. I learned about slavery and racism in school, but I never thought of it as applying to me. I was deep in Helm’s first stage of development, Contact. Like Tatum explains, I had never done anything racist so therefor I believed racism to be irrelevant to my life. I was able to coast off of my white privilege believing that matters of race were unimportant to me.
In the fourth grade, I became close friends with a black student named Anthony from Mattapan. He had come to my school through the Metco program, along with four other students of color that year. Early in our relationship, I never recognized Anthony by his race. While he deviated from my own white standard, his race did not have anything to do with our relationship, and therefore I believed it to be irrelevant to his life as I believed my own whiteness was to mine. However, Anthony helped me enter Helm’s second stage described as Disintegration, as he forced me to recognize how
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Before this class, I struggled with using this claim to individuality as a way to escape guilt, as it seemed like a logical argument to me. In my mind, I had trouble understanding how I benefited from racism if I did not overtly commit acts of racism. I believed that I was not a racist, therefor I was not part of the problem. However, in forming close relationships with students of color at Nobles, especially in my time at the dorms, I found myself constantly challenging this belief. These students have explained how individuality prevents one from seeing racism for its systemic nature, not exclusive to individual acts of racism. Students emphasize this point by sharing how they have suffered first hand from systematic racism. In hearing these experiences from people I consider friends, I have been pushed to abandon this use of individuality in an attempt to evolve my own racial identity. I believe I have somewhat entered Helm’s fourth stage, Pseudo-independence, as I believe I am someone who “has achieved an intellectual understanding of racism as a system of advantage but doesn’t quite know what to do about it” (290). In describing this phase, Tatum touches on how whites struggle with finding a sense of pride in their whiteness, and instead being ashamed of it. I do at times feel this shame, or as if people are trying to make me ashamed of my
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