In January, when the Oprah Winfrey Show was seeking an expert for its Martin Luther King show broadcast focusing on youth and race in America, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Mount Holyoke's dean of the College, topped the producer's short list. Tatum is so in demand that on January 17 she appeared not only on Oprah but on two National Public Radio-affiliate broadcasts, reaching more than eight-and-a-half-million listeners and viewers.
A clinical psychologist who focuses her teaching and research on the psychology of racism and the author of the groundbreaking book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" And Other Conversations About Race(Basic Books), Tatum is recognized as a leader in her field and has served as a "diversity trainer" for educational institutions throughout the country.
"Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?",Tatum's candid study on the development of racial identity, set off a virtual media frenzy when it was published in 1997. The author's subsequent air time on CNN's TalkBack Live, Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, The Learning Channel's documentary Understanding Race, Lifetime's special event for Any Day Now, Nick News on Nickelodeon, and Teen Summit on BET is testimony to the nation's continual need for guidance on issues of racism.
Tatum is a pervasive presence in print, as well. According to a recent front-page article in the New York Times, "Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?",newly released in a paperback edition, is now required reading for educators in many New York City schools. Mention of the book and a photograph of Tatum at Mount Holyoke appeared in Timemagazine, and her commentaries on a variety of issues relating to race have been published in the Boston Globe,the Christian Science Monitor,and daily newspapers throughout the country.
Tatum's popular book focuses on racial interactions, particularly among the younger generations of Americans, from preschool on up. In it she addresses issues ranging from self-segregation to multiracial families and offers ways to transcend the seemingly universal reluctance to talk about racial issues. Coinciding with the book's hardcover release was President Clinton's first "town hall meeting" on race, which included Tatum as a panelist.
As both professor and dean at Mount Holyoke, Beverly Daniel Tatum has defined a set of goals that takes into account a general need for identity-strengthening to ensure the development of effective leaders in the twenty-first century. She lists these skills as "affirming identity, building community and cultivating leadership." Featured recently on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" panel discussion, she discussed how teaching young people to create bridges across differences of religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, and race helps them interact more effectively as adults in a pluralistic society. Embracing the concepts that she has come to refer to as the "ABCs," she says, will ensure that "schools and communities that are multiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious will be the training grounds for our next leaders."