Johns Hopkins University Aims to Soothe Race Relations on Campus

Last fall the Sigma Chi fraternity at Johns Hopkins University held a “Halloween in the Hood” party. The invitation asked attendees to wear “bling bling ice ice, grills, and hoochie hoops.” It went on to say, “For the record, we want to thank Johnnie L. Cochran for being a true homie and getting Orenthal Simpson acquitted.”

Black students on campus were justifiably offended by a skeleton that was hanging from the roof of the fraternity house by a noose. The incident provoked protests and a reexamination of race relations on the university campus.

This summer Johns Hopkins is requiring all incoming freshmen to read Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. Tatum, who is the current president of Spelman College, writes on racial identity development and gives the reader a perspective on what it is like to be a black student on a predominantly white campus.

The book will be the focus of group discussions during freshman orientation at Johns Hopkins this fall. The university is also encouraging all returning students, faculty, and staff to read the book.