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Maya Brown

Mrs. Huckabee

AP Language

19 November 2018

Racism, Are You There?

In “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” Beverly Daniel Tatum

argues towards the point that racism is a prevalent issue and can be easily eliminated and

discussed. Tatum supports her position by incorporating anadiplosis and epanalepsis among

other schematic structures, shifts in syntax along with relatable examples that emphasize self-

segregation and contradict the reluctance people have towards racial issues. Tatum hopes to shift

the talk away from racism and more towards prejudice between all nationalities, to emphasize

that society is too skeptical and reserved about not only how racism is perceived but also how

reluctant older generations are to addressing the issues of race that is still prevalent in societies.

The author incorporates a cynical, yet understanding tone indicating that although she primarily

focuses on informing the audience about the effects racism, self-segregation and prejudice have

on society still, she understands that people take a naive eye to racial issues.

Tatum employs several different schematic structures in order to discuss racial identity

and how it is interpreted by different people. Tatum successfully incorporates anaphora when she


Some are stories of curiosity...light skinned child wonders...dark-skinned person’s

palms...lighter than the back of his hands. Some are stories of fear and avoidance,

communicated verbally or nonverbally by parents...one White woman describes

her mother nervously telling her...roll up the windows...lock the doors...drove

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through a Black community. Some are stories of active bigotry, transmitted

casually...the use of racial slurs and ethnic jokes. Some are stories of confusing

mixed messages...a White man remembers the Black maid…‘just like the

family’...not allowed to eat from the family dishes or use the upstairs bathroom.

Some are stories of terror...Black women... being chased home from school by a

German shepherd, deliberately set loose by its White owner...(31)

Tatum employs the repetition of “Some are stories” to lead her audience to consider the variety

of opportunities where racism can be evident. She wants to force her audience to open their

minds and broaden their perspectives on where racism can possibly occur. Coupled with her

strategically placed rhetorical questions to the end of the paragraph, Tatum is leading her

audience to consider their own life experiences in order to validate her point about the varying

occurrences of racism in a person’s life and to prepare the audience for her upcoming main point

about the development of racism in different ages and throughout the generations.

Due to the broadness of the audience Tatum is addressing, she applies a variation of

complicated and simple syntax to easily convey the emphasis she is placing on certain concepts.

When describing the development racial identity undergoes she states, “It’s like moving up a

spiral staircase”(83) and then later goes on to elucidate further on that, “...you have a sense that

you have passed this way before, but you are not exactly in the same spot...does not mean there

won’t be new encounters with racism…”(83). She converts between simple and complicated

syntax to force her audience to direct their attention to key details. Tatum systematically

organizes her sentences in order to make sure her audience develops a concrete understanding

before she goes further into detail explaining. She develops a bold tone in order to communicate
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with her audience the concern that should be taken with the fact that people rely on stereotypes

to dictate how they perceive others.

In order for Tatum to convey her message thoroughly and to have her audience

acknowledge the legitimacy of her points, she incorporates a multitude of relatable examples that

possess a sense of relatability and evoke a sober tone. Her examples vary from young personal

experiences where she, “...was three years old and had an argument with an African American

playmate. He said I was ‘black.’ ‘No I’m not,’ I said, ‘I’m tan’” (32), to experiences about

adolescents when asked questions such as, “‘ What do you know about Asians?’”(159), their

responses were similar if not identical to, “I’m going to be honest…believed the stereotype.

Asian people...hard workers...really quiet...get good grades...tons of pressure from their

families...quite so...no problem with them”(160). She incorporates her own personal experiences

about struggles with race identification in order to develop a connection with the audience. She

persuades her audience to reflect not only on the apparent self-segregation that she herself took

at a very young age but also the acceptance younger generations have with trusting solely the

stereotypes that have been placed on different races. She wants to address the issue of the

ignorance people have when identifying and classifying themselves, which she states as being a

result of reluctance in willingness to address a highly skeptical topic.

Tatum communicates that racism and self-segregation not only create who we are but

also destroy who we could become. That because of the reluctance people have towards talking

to and addressing the problems segregation among races causes, society has been built around

the concept that the pigmentation of your skin and your ancestors dictates what your life will be

like, the quality of your education, and how you see yourself. Although her book is almost solely

based on identifying the problem or racism and self-segregation, and explaining how it has
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magnified into the issue today Tatum does acknowledge the fact that there is a necessity for a

complete eradication of racism and prejudice as a whole. Through the incorporation of

anadiplosis and epanalepsis among other schematic structures, shifts in syntax along with

relatable examples that emphasize self-segregation, Tatum takes the position that because racism

and segregation was caused by people, people can also fix it.