Book : “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”
Ethnic separation in cafeterias is a very familiar issue to our students at Dawson College. Not only does this phenomenon take place in colleges but in high schools as well. In this regard, Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and actual president of Spelman College has written a book, in which she clearly emphasizes ethnic separation in food courts throughout American high schools. In fact, she perceives this kind of division in a positive light and states that identity plays a huge role during puberty: “As children enter adolescence, they begin to explore the question of identity, asking “Who am I? Who can I be? In ways they have not done before.” It is one of the only books that underlines clearly this phenomenon and if you’re interested you could read an excerpt of this book on the following link: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~jdowd/tatum-blackkids.pdf .
An interview by Diana Bohmer with Tatum has been done on the regard of this book, you can check it out at : http://life.familyeducation.com/race/parenting/36247.html
Article : “Eating Together Apart: Patterns of Segregation in a Multi-Ethnic Cafeteria”
In 2004,the Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology have published an interesting research online regarding ethnic separation in cafeterias. The article focuses closely on this phenomenon by providing us various statistics and facts. Here’s an excerpt of the research:
“Research on segregation has tended to focus on relations located at a macro-spatial level of analysis
and unfolding in contexts where boundaries to interaction are formally established. This research, by
contrast, investigated segregation as a micro-ecological process by observing patterns of seating in a
multi-ethnic cafeteria. A total of 3114 seating positions were coded over a 2-week period and the
resulting data were analysed using both adapted segregation indices (P and D) and loglinear and
logistic regression techniques. The results suggested that ethnic segregation existed both at the level
of interactional groups and in the form of broader patterns of racial clustering and dispersal in the
cafeteria. Moreover, the magnitude of segregation was predicted by the gender composition of seating groups and by variations in the density of the cafeteria’s population over time. Some implications of these results for social psychological research on contact and desegregation are considered.”
CNN Coverage : Segregation now? Some still see racial divide on campus.
In 2000, CNN News has covered the ethnic seperation in the cafeterias at Univerisity of Maryland. In fact, they have interviewed students of different backgrounds to explain the origin of this phenomenon. For example, Aisha Jaleel, a student from this university claims , ” I’m not a member of any Asian group on campus because I think diversity divides more than it helps.” Indeed, students have different opinions regarding ethnic seperation, for some it’s a positive matter and for some negative, which is the case for Dawson College as well. Here are some of the interviews taken from this article:
“I identified more with other Hispanics and Latinos because … they understood culturally what my parents expected or what I was facing in terms of juggling my family, a job,” said student Lisy Lara.
For senior Jamila Hall, social time is time to relax after a day of diversity. “In most of my classes, I am the only African-American student, sometimes the only woman,” she said. “So when I leave class I’ve already had my experience, so to speak.” Time spent with her friends, Hall said, is “really the time when I want to go to someone who understands being in my position.”
Self-segregation can also be a way to cope with racism.
Hall said, “When I walked into one of my freshman year honors seminars, somebody looked at me and asked me if I had the right room. I take that as they thought I didn’t belong in that class.”
Senior Ryan Spiegel says he feels comfortable with his peer group of Jewish males. “I have a bond with them because we have similar childhoods,” he said. “We have similar religious beliefs.”
Spiegel says, “As long as we continue to make sure that self-segregation isn’t the only thing that’s happened; as long as it has, as its counterpart, the ability and the willingness to go out and interact with students who are not similar to yourself, then it’s OK to self-segregate.”
Video : The “New Segregation” (Emory University 2008)
Here’s a short film on ethnic seperation in cafeterias that I came across on YouTube. In this 5 minute film, a girl desires to interact with different groups of ethnicities in the cafeteria at Emory University. In fact, she wants to “diversify her friends”. However, at the end, she learns her lesson from her colleagues, that making friends is not about appearance but about the quality of time and interests they share together. In fact, you don’t have to dress nor speak their language to be accepted. The girl is welcome in any groups as long as she knows how friendship works.
Toronto’s own Africentric Alternative School
On May 21st 2008, the Toronto School Board voted to open a new school for students in Kindergarden to Grade 5. What’s different about this school however, is that it was created solely for African American children. The Africentric Alternative School welcomes students of African and Caribbean descent in the hope of decreasing the shocking 40% drop-out rate of black students. The creation of this school is obviously highly controversial, as it represents for some a strong form of segregation that can only impede cultural diversity and cultural acceptance. In fact the Toronto School Board’s votes ran close together – ending at 13-8 in favor of the Africentric Alternative School, during which members of the board even addressed others as racist. Surely there are some potential positive aspects to the creation of this new school, such as the preservation of black culture and the diminishment of school-drop outs. The program also seeks to give students a more global, less European centered education that is more relevant to the students, utilizing resources such as The Kid’s Book of Black Canadian History to help students obtain a better understanding of their own history and culture. Two years after the creation of the Africentric Alternative School, there is already talk of an Africentric High School opening in the same area, an endeavor that may seem too rushed for such a new movement.
“We definitely want to nurture a sense of belonging and community, but we also want to make sure that our standards are very high — where students can read, write, speak, clearly and perform very well,” said Hando Hyman-Aman, the principal of the Africentric school.
Article by Casey Beauchamp
For more information concerning the Africentric Alternative School, visit