College campuses may be increasingly diverse, but incoming students are still often from segregated neighborhoods, meaning they "don't have much practice connecting across lines of difference," says race relations expert Beverly Tatum. So how will things ever improve in America?
Tatum says higher education institutions need to foster opportunities for people of various backgrounds to interact in meaningful ways, which she notes some schools are already doing.
"Just because you live in the same residence hall or are sitting in the same classroom with students who look different from you doesn't mean you're getting to know them. It requires intentionality," Tatum tells WMUK's Morning Edition Host Earlene McMichael on today's WestSouthwest news and public affairs show.
Tatum is the former longtime president of historically black Spelman College in Atlanta. She was recently in Kalamazoo at the invitation of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation as part of the foundation's participation in a nationwide racial healing initiative called Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, known as TRHT. She led trainings and discussions.
McMichael attended Tatum's Aug. 18 community discussion, and later interviewed her by phone for the WestSouthwest show.
Tatum is the author of the book "Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race." First released in 1997, a newer version came out in 2017.
Says Tatum: "One of things that some colleges and universities are doing is creating opportunities for kids to have structured opportunities to dialogue, to talk about some of the life experiences that may not be shared across lines of difference, to talk about issues of social justice, for example, to talk the 'isms'--whether that's racism or anti-Semitism or heterosexualism."
She says it's imperative these conversations be done "in a way that allows for true connection and, hopefully, empathy."
"That ultimately leads to positive relations, and positive relations often leads to change and social action and policy."
Hear the shorter, aired interview here.
WestSouthwest is produced by WMUK, the public radio station licensed to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. It airs Mondays & Thursdays at 7:34 a.m., 9:34 a.m. & 4:20 p.m. You can subscribe to the WestSouthwest podcast through Apple podcasts and Google Music.