Mary Thomas I Think It's Just Natural

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In ‘I think it’s just natural’: the spatiality of racial segregation at a US high school, Mary Thomas, examines how race, racism, and racial difference occur through girls’ every day spatial practices at school. She uses Butler’s performativity theory in terms of race to formulate her argument: in the same way that people act a certain way based on societal definitions of gender, individuals will also adjust their behavior in order to adhere to racial norms. In this study, Thomas selected a subsample from her larger work, drawing on interviews held with eight teenage girls aged 14-19 who attended the same high school in Charleston in the spring and summer of 2000. Five of the girls were white and three were black. Thomas had two main findings as a result of her interactions with the teenagers, five of whom were white and three of whom were black. Force vs. Choice: The Segregated Lunchroom…show more content…
She describes the argument made by Beverly Tatum in “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And other Conversations About Race. Tatum claims that black youth self-segregate in order to protect themselves from racism, and that space is not inherent to the process of forming identities, but rather is the result of identity performance. What Thomas found in her study, however, was contrary to Tatum’s argument. She focused on the narratives of two girls, one white and one black, in examining segregation in the lunchroom. Both girls assert that the lunchroom segregation is not a result of racism – they independently choose where and with whom to sit – but is instead just the “way it is”. They claim the segregated seating as their own practice, not a naturally occurring process. However, the students perhaps subconsciously perpetuate the spatial-racial boundaries simply by continuing their everyday practices of “independently choosing” to sit in same-race groups. Thomas

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