Ethnic Studies classrooms in many respects are spaces wherein healing, solidarity, and social change occur, particularly surrounding discussions about race. The discussion around race is a language in itself—complete with levels of engagement. Students from privileged groups may not have many opportunities to explore the language of race and marginalization, thus being an “outsider” to the language of these experiences. This often times leads to miscommunication and missing meaningful engagement toward collective social action and change in classroom spaces. As a result, students have powerful emotional responses to these topics, and if students’ affective and intellectual responses are not acknowledged and respected, teachers can be met with what is perceived as impermeable resistance. Drawing from the framework of Critical Race Theory, this qualitative work presents tenets of race as a language that allows for understanding identity formation and entry point into conversations of race and ethnicity. Furthermore, consistent dialogue as a way of gaining proficiency and a space for marginalized identities to share their lived experiences as a way to build upon their proficiency. This research assists in expanding the work in the pedagogy of Ethnic Studies as a space to radically connect, heal, and implement social change.

The title of this article draws inspiration from Beverly Daniel Tatum’s seminal text “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria”: And Other Conversations About Race.

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