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American Race Relations- Sociology 3211W
University of Minnesota
Spring 2011 / Section 002/ Monday 5:30-8 pm/145 Blegen Hall
Professor:  Enid Lynette Logan  

* Overview & Goals 

This course is designed to provide you with an understanding of the contours of race in the post-civil rights era United States.  Our goal is to examine the myriad ways that race structures American society and influences the experiences and life chances of all its members.

In the opening sections of the class, we study definitions of race and major theories of how race and racism “work” in the contemporary U.S.  The next unit begins with an overview of the concept of racial “identity,” and asks how social location impacts one’s identity and daily interactions. After inquiring into the general process of identity formation, we look at the specific experiences of whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and multiracial Americans. Though our central focus is on race relations in today’s society, we also provide a historical overview of the experiences of each group in order to help explain their present-day social status.

The next part of the course examines the significance of race in several specific contexts. We look at controversies over race and immigration, race and education, and race and popular culture. We close the class by considering the future of race relations in the U.S., and evaluating remedies to racial inequality.

The questions we will ask in this course include:

  • What is “race?”  How does it differ from ethnicity?  What does it mean to say that race is “socially constructed”?  If race is socially constructed, does that mean that it is not “real”?
  • What is “racism”?  Does racism require an intent to discriminate, or overt prejudice?  What is institutional racism?  What is “racial privilege?” What are some of the pitfalls of a “colorblind” approach to dealing with race?
  • How have racial hierarchies been perpetuated or reproduced in American society in the last several decades?  Why are members of some racial groups persistently clustered at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder?
  • How does the specter of “racial difference” play into current controversies over legal and illegal immigration in the U.S.?
  • What explains the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools? Why is this gap especially pronounced in Minnesota?
  • What are the benefits and shortcomings of different approaches to remedying racial inequality?
  • What will the racial landscape of the U.S. look like as we move into the 21st century?

By the end of the term, I expect that students will have the analytical tools to think and write critically about race in the contemporary U.S.

* Readings

The readings for this class can be found in one of several places.  The location of each of the readings is clearly indicated on the syllabus.

First, there are three (3) required texts and a coursepack for this class, all of which are available for purchase at the Coffman Union bookstore.

Higginbotham, Elizabeth and Margaret L. Andersen. Race and Ethnicity in Society: The Changing Landscape, 2d ed.   Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009.   (see below as the “Reader”)

Tatum, Beverly Daniel.  “Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race.  New York:  Basic Books, 2003.   (see below as “Tatum”)

Rothenberg, Paula, S, editor.  White Privilege:  essential readings from the other side of racism, 3rd ed.   New York:  Worth Publishers, 2007.   (see below as “WP”)

Coursepack. Sociology 3211 Section 002, Spring 2011.

There will be approximately 30-40 pages of reading per week.  Readings should be completed before class.  Students should bring all required readings to class as they will often be asked to refer to them.  If you are having difficulty understanding or keeping up with the readings, you should make an appointment with me or the T.A.

Most weeks, in addition to the required readings, additional articles (or films) are listed on the syllabus in the “for further reading” section.  You are NOT required to read these materials, however you may write about them in your reading reaction papers (discussed below) if you choose.

* WebVista

All in-class materials (the weekly class packet, syllabus, etc.) will initially be distributed in class.  However, these materials will also later be posted to WebVista.  This semester, in order to keep the price of the coursepack down, some of the required articles for the class have also been posted to WebVista.   Others will be available via the internet.

Students registered for the course should be able to access the WebVista site immediately.  To log into the course site, go to Sign in, go to My Courses, and the course should be listed there. If you are having problems accessing the WebVista site, navigate to this page, or call (612) 301-4357 (1-HELP on campus).

* Participation

To do well in this course, you must attend class, do the readings in a timely manner, and actively participate in discussions.   The participation grade for the class is 20% of the total. It is based upon attendance and participation in small and large-group discussion.  Students who make informed, thoughtful contributions to class discussions, turn in insightful informal writing, or improve significantly over the course of the semester will also receive special consideration for the class participation proportion of their grade.


Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class, and will count towards the participation grade.

Absences: As we only meet once a week, students are allowed ONE (1) absence that will not negatively impact their participation grade.  (The first class session does not count towards attendance). This absence may be for any reason– illness, dental appointments, scheduling conflicts, make-up exams in other classes, work responsibilities, job training, family emergencies, trips out of town, car problems, needing to take a day off, etc.  In other words, there is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences.   Students who will be absent from class for university business must inform the professor or TA a week in advance, and will be required to provide written documentation.

Neither the professor nor teaching assistant will be able to meet with you to review the material covered on any day you may be absent.   However, if you miss class, remember that the handout for the night can be found on WebVista after the class.

Also– Please turn off cell phones at the start of class, and please do not eat, drink (anything other than water) or do crossword or other puzzles. (Generally we will take a break before viewing a film towards the end of the evening. During the film portion of the class, you can have your snacks!) Students are also asked not to use laptops during the class.

Guidelines for Discussion 

Our time this term will be principally divided between lecture, review of films, and discussion.  Thus, participation in small and large-group discussion is an important part of your role as a member of this class.  Students will be given time to sort out their ideas before we move into discussion as a full class.   I expect students to be prepared and engaged in both settings.  You should expect to be called on from time to time.

Race is a sensitive and controversial topic that stirs up strong emotions.  A great deal of this results from the environment of mistrust and misunderstanding that exists in the wider society. I start from the assumption that those of you that have chosen this class have come with an open mind, ready not only to share your points of view but to try to understand the perspectives of others.  Thoughtful, insightful, and honest points of view are needed in order to help us all learn to communicate more effectively and openly about race.

So that everyone feels respected in the classroom, use tact and understanding when presenting your ideas.  Personal attacks, disparaging remarks, or attempts to dominate the conversation will not be tolerated. Remember as well that individuals in the classroom may have been personally affected by the issues that we are discussing; and to show respect to your peers and the educational process.

* Reading Response Papers

In addition to the formal papers you will write, students will be asked to prepare FOUR (4) reading reaction papers of approximately 4 typed pages in length throughout the term.  They will be worth 15% of your total grade (the equivalent of one formal paper).  In these assignments, you should discuss THREE of the articles for the week.  At least two of them must be required articles.

Reaction papers are to be done on the readings in advance of class in which they will be discussed.   The reaction paper on the “whiteness” readings, for example, is due in class on the evening that we are to discuss whiteness.

The format of the assignment is as follows:  

  • Summary– Provide a summary of the main argument presented by each author (~1-2 paragraphs).  What are main points that they wish to convey?  What kinds of evidence do they use (i.e. interviews, personal experience,  historical data, statistics, a list of privileges associated with race, or class, etc.)?  You should include 1-2 key quotes from the text encapsulating the authors’ primary theses.
  • Analysis– Discuss what parts of the arguments you find particularly compelling, provocative or interesting.  Maybe you strongly agree or disagree with the author, had a similar experience to the one described, or found out something new or surprising—whatever it is, please explain.
  • Connections- At some point in the essay, explain how the issues raised in the articles relate to themes discussed in the class in previous weeks.  Also, briefly compare the articles to each other.
  • Format– You are asked only to summarize and analyze the readings here.  These informal papers do not need to have an introduction, title, conclusion, topic sentences, detailed citations, or a list of references.

By the end of the term you should have turned in FOUR (4) of these papers.  Please keep track of the number of reading reaction papers you turn in as we will not do it for you.  Remember that even if you do not do a reaction paper for a given week, you are still responsible for completing and understanding all of the assigned readings.

Reading response papers are due in class on Monday evenings.

Optional Alternate Informal Writing Assignment- White Privilege Conference

Rather than writing a fourth reading response paper, you may write a 2-3 page reflection upon the White Privilege Conference, which will be held in Minneapolis from April 13-16 of this year.   (See  Several of the authors that we will read and discuss this term will be in attendance.  As this optional response paper would be worth less than 5% of your total grade in the course, your chief motivation to attend the conference should be personal interest!   More detail on the conference will be provided in future weeks.

No informal writing assignments will be accepted via email.

*  Formal Papers

You will write three formal papers of approximately 6-8 pages in length.

Paper 1 (15% of your grade) is on topics covered in the first 3 weeks of class—How Race Matters, the Social Construction of Race, Racism & Racial Discrimination.  (Due February 18)

Paper 2 (20% of your grade) is on Racial Identity, Whiteness, and the African-American Experience.  You will be asked to reflect upon your own experiences with race, and to integrate insights from films, readings, and lecture.   (Due March 11)

Paper 3 (15% of your grade) will focus on aspects of Asian-American, Multiracial, Latino & Native American experiences.   (Due April 8)

Note that the second paper is weighted more heavily than the other two.

Turning in Papers

Topics for formal papers will be made available online on Tuesdays. Papers will be due on the second Friday after they are assigned (i.e. ~10 days) by 4:30 pm.  I will remind you of the schedule of due dates throughout the term.  Students who foresee that they will have difficulty turning in assignments on the due date should speak to the professor in advance.

Papers must be turned in to the Sociology Department Main Office, 909 Social Science Building.  The office is open M-F, 7:45 am- 4:30 pm.  Papers turned in when the office is closed should be placed in the box on the door of 909 Social Science.  Late papers will lose up to ½ letter grade per day.  Technological glitches will not excuse late work and may be circumvented by printing out papers or drafts at least a day early.

Please do not slide any assignments under the TA’s or professor’s doors as these papers may be lost, and will not be accepted.

No formal papers will be accepted via email.

* Other Assignments & Grading Scale

  • Final Exam- 15% of grade.  There will be one exam this term, administered at the end of the course.  The focus of the exam will be the last three units of the class- Immigration, Education, and Solutions/Towards the Future.  Some of the questions will be based on material from previous units of the course.  The exam will include both true/false and essay questions.  You will receive a study guide with the essay questions that will appear on the final several days in advance.  This term, the final will take place on the last scheduled day of the course—May 2.
  • Participation- 20% of grade.  Active participation in this class is essential. As discussed above, your participation grade will be based upon attendance and participation in small and large group discussions.
  • Grading Scale – Your grade for this class will therefore be comprised of:

Papers 1 & 3 (15% each)      30%

Paper 2                                  20%

Reading Response Papers  15%

Final Exam                            15%

Participation                          20%


* Other Policies

Extra Credit

No extra credit assignments will be given in this course.


No incompletes will be granted for this course, except under extraordinary circumstances. Please note that an incomplete is designed to allow a student to turn in 1-2 outstanding assignments after the end of the term, not to make up the majority of the work in the class.  This means that if you fall too far behind, you will not be eligible for an incomplete, and will need to consider dropping the class.

Writing- Intensive Course Expectations

This is a writing-intensive course. It is designed to help you improve your writing skills, and develop and express your ideas through writing.   Thus we will do lots of writing in this class.

The feedback you receive on your writing will be focused around the content of your ideas, rather than primarily on issues of style, spelling, or grammar.  While they may be separated, these two aspects of writing are nevertheless intertwined. Your ability to communicate effectively with others using the written word is contingent upon your ability to write well.  Papers and essays completed outside of class meetings should be carefully edited, spell-checked, and typed.

Students who need help with their writing do not need to struggle alone. There is a great deal of support for student writing on this campus.  Everyone in the class, at whatever level of writing fluidity or experience, is encouraged to visit the Center for Writing (phone 625-1893, main office, 15 Nicholson Hall). The center offers individual consultations, including help with writing style and the development of paper topics.  It also offers special resources to non-native speakers of English.  The center is able as well to refer you to other writing resources available on campus.  The web page for the writing center is

Academic Integrity

The University’s Office for Student Academic Integrity writes the following: “Academic integrity is essential to a positive teaching and learning environment. All students enrolled in University courses are expected to complete coursework responsibilities with fairness and honesty. Failure to do so by seeking unfair advantage over others or misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own, can result in disciplinary action.

The University Student Conduct Code defines scholastic dishonesty as follows:  Scholastic dishonesty means plagiarizing; cheating on assignments or examinations; engaging in unauthorized collaboration on academic work; taking, acquiring, or using test materials without faculty permission; submitting false or incomplete records of academic achievement; acting alone or in cooperation with another to falsify records or to obtain dishonestly grades, honors, awards, or professional endorsement; altering forging or misusing a University academic record; or fabricating or falsifying data, research procedures, or data analysis.” For more information see:

What does this mean for this class?  Most instances of plagiarism result from student’s misunderstanding of what constitutes plagiarism or how to properly cite sources. Turning in work written by other students, copying and pasting sections from the internet, taking direct quotes, including individual sentences or phrases from published texts without providing citations—all these are instances of plagiarism, that are taken seriously by the university.  Cases of suspected plagiarism will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Sanctions can range from a zero or an “F” on the individual assignment, to an “F” for the course, depending on the magnitude of the offense. If you are in doubt that you have cited something properly, please talk to me or the TA before turning it in.

* Semester Schedule *

Week 1 (January 24) Introduction & Race Matters

  • Reader, Pp. 7-10.  “Race, Why It Matters” by Higginbotham and Andersen.
  • Reader, Chapter 5. “ASA statement on importance of doing research on race.”

for further Reading (i.e. not required)

  • Reader, Chapter 50.  “The Mark of a Criminal Record,” by Pager.
  • Online. “The Social Significance of Barack Obama,” Contexts, Fall 2008.

Film-  True Colors (Prime Time Live)

Week 2 (January 31)- The Social Construction of Race    

  • WebVista.  “Race,” pp. 3-6 in Yetman.
  • Coursepack.  “Race and Gene Studies” by Adelman.
  • Coursepack. “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege,” by Buck.
  • Reader, Chapter 8. “Planting the Seed: The Invention of Race” by Ferber.
  • Reader, Chapter 10.  “Racial Formation,” by Omi and Winant.

For Further Reading

  • WP, Part 2, Chapter 2. “How White People Became White,” by Barrett and Roediger.
  • Reader, pp. 39-43. “The Social Construction of Race & Ethnicity.”

Film-  Race, the Power of An Illusion Volume 2- The Story We Tell

Week 3 (February 7)- Racism & Racial Discrimination

  • Reader, pp. 75-80. “Representations of Race and Group Beliefs”
  • Reader, Chapter 11. “The Color Line, the Dilemma and the Dream” by Bobo.
  • WebVista. “Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism.”  Pp. 23-29, by Yetman.
  • WebVista.  “Color-Blind Privilege” by Gallagher.
  • WebVista. “Discrimination.” Pp. 29-38, by Yetman
  • Coursepack.  “Institutional Discrimination.”  by Jo Freeman.
  • Take the Implicit Association Race Test at –

Film- The Color of Fear & The Essential Blue Eyed

* Paper 1 assigned on Tuesday February 8, due in 10 days

Week 4 (February 14) – Racial Identity Formation

  • Tatum, Chapter 2.  “The Complexity of Identity. ‘Who Am I?’”
  • Tatum, Chapter 4. “Identity Development in Adolescence.”
  • Reader, Chapter 19. “White College Students Racial Identity,” by Chesler.
  • Coursepack. “Just Walk on By,” by Staples.
  • WebVista.  “Growing Up, Growing Apart,” by Levin.

For Further Reading

  • Tatum, Chapter 3.  “The Early Years.”
  • Tatum, Chapter 5. “Racial Identity In Adulthood”
  • Online. “Is Obama Black Enough?,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Time, 2/1/07.
  • Online.  “A Deeper Black,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  [On Barack Obama] The Nation/5/1/08.

Film-A Girl Like Me 

Paper 1 due Friday February 18 by 4:30 pm, 909 Social Science Building

Week 5 (February 21) – Whiteness    

  • WP, pp. 1-5. “Introduction” by Rothenberg.
  • WP, Part 2, Chapter 3.  “How Jews Became White Folks” by Brodkin.
  • WP, Part 3, Chapter 3. “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.
  • Coursepack.  “White Privilege (the Remix): A Play in Three Acts,” by Wise.
  • WP, Part 3, Chapter 5. “Membership has its Privileges” by Wise.
  • WP, Part 4, Chapters 1-3.  “Breaking the Silence,” by Tatum.   “Confronting One’s Own Racism,” by Feagin and Vera.  “How White People Can Serve as Allies” by Kivel.

For Further Reading

  • WP, Part 1, Chapter 2.  “Failing to See” by Dalton.    
  • WP, Part 3, Chapter 4.  “White Privilege Shapes the U.S.” by Robert Jenson.    

Film- Race, The Power of An Illusion Volume 3- The House We Built

Week 6 (February 28) – African-American Experience

  • Reader, Chapter 43. “Fences & Neighbors: Segregation in the 21st Century,” by Farley & Squires
  • Coursepack.  “Residential Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas,” by Massey
  • Coursepack. “Of Race and Risk,” by Patricia Williams.
  • Coursepack.  “Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth” by Henry Louis Gates, NYT, 11/18/07.  


  • Reader, Chapter 34. “Is Job Discrimination Dead?” by Herring.
  • Reader, Chapter 35. “White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue Collar Jobs,” by Royster.
  • Reader, Chapter 38.  “Family & Community Costs of Racism,” by Feagin and McKinney

For Further Reading

  • Online. “America’s Homeownership Gap.”  US Conference of Mayors.   
  • Online.  “Beyond Crime & Punishment:  Prisons and Inequality,” by Western and Pettit.
  • Online.  “What If America Pays Reparations?” by Conley, in Contexts, Fall 02.

* Paper 2 assigned Tuesday March 1, due in 10 days

Week 7 (March 7) – Asian-American Experience

  • Tatum, Chapter 8, pp. 153-159. “What do we mean when we say ‘Asian’?”
  • Tatum, Chapter 8, pp. 159-166. “Beyond the Myth of the Model Minority.”
  • Coursepack. “Yellow” by Frank Wu.
  • Coursepack.  “Ideological Racism and Cultural Resistance” by Yen Le Espiritu.
  • WebVista.  “Then Came the War,” by Yuri Kochiyama.
  • Reader, Chapter 18.  “Are Asian-Americans Becoming ‘White’?” by Min Zhou.

Film- Honk if You Love Buddha 

Paper 2 due Friday March 11 by  4:30 pm, 909 Social Science Building

March 14- Spring Break, no Class

Week 8 (March 21) – Multiracial Identity

  • Tatum, Chapter 9,  pp. 167-190. “Identity Development in Multiracial Families.”
  • Reader, Chapter 17. “Tripping on the Color Line,” by Dalmage.
  • WebVista. “Getting Under my Skin,” by Terry.
  • Coursepack. “Beyond Black and White,” by Lee & Bean.  Contexts, Summer 03
  • Coursepack. “He’s Black, Get Over It,” by Serwer.  American Prospect, (on Barack Obama).

For Further Reading

  • Online.  PBS Website- “Mixed Race America”  (read a few sections of this or the below site)
  • Online.  “Examining Mixed Race Identity”
  • “On Being Blackanese,” by Uehara-Carter.   Interracial Voice, Vol 5, 1996.  Pp. 56-58.

Film- Just Black 

Week 9 (March 28) –US Latino and Native American Experience

  • Tatum, Chapter 8, pp. 131-143. “Critical Issues in Latino . . . .  Identity Development.”
  • Reader, Chapter 22.  “It Must Be A Fake,” by Oboler.
  • Coursepack.  “A White Woman of Color,” by Alvarez.
  • WebVista.  “Best of Friends, Worlds Apart,” by Ojito.
  • Coursepack.  “The Latin-Americanization of Racial Stratification in the USA” by Bonilla-Silva
  • Tatum, Chapter 8, pp. 143-153. “Critical Issues in . . . . American Indian Identity Development.”
  • Reader, Chapter 14. “Why Native American Mascots Must End,” by Springwood & King.

For Further Reading

  • WP,  Part 2, Chapter 4.  “Becoming Hispanic:  Mexican Americans and Whiteness,” by Foley.
  • Online.  “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: Census 2000 Brief.” 
  • Online. “In Search of Indians,” by C. Matthew Snipp.  Contexts, Fall 04.

Film- In Whose Honor?

* Paper 3 assigned on Tuesday March 29, due in 10 days

Week 10 (April 4) Immigration

  • Reader, Chapter 24.  “Impossible Subjects:  Illegal Aliens,” by Ngai.
  • WebVista. “Is this a White Country or What?” by Rubin.
  • Coursepack. “Princes of Norwalk [WI].” Chapter 11 in Crossing Over  by Martínez.
  • Coursepack.  “Republicans Spar in N.H. over immigration,”  by Egan, Reuters, 12/31/07.
  • Coursepack.  “Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town,” [Postville, Iowa], by Hsu.  Washington Post, 5/18/08.

 For Further Reading

  • Reader, Chapter 4.  “How Does it Feel to Be a Problem,”  by Moustafa Bayoumi.
  • Book. Crossing Over by Ruben Martinez,  “Prologue: The Passion,” pp. 1-18.
  • Online. “Interpreting the largest ICE raid in history,”  [Postville] by Erik Camayd-Freixas
  • Online. “1,200 janitors fired in ‘quiet’ immigration raid,” MPR, 11/9/09 [Minneapolis].

Film- Farmingville

Paper 3 due by Friday April 8 at 4:30 pm, 909 Social Science

Week 11 (April 11) Race & Education- Segregation

  • Reader, Chapter 45.  “Shame of the Nation,” by Jonathan Kozol.
  • Coursepack. “Plessy v. Ferguson” and “Brown v. Board of Ed.”
  • Coursepack. “The Resurgence of School Resegregation” by Orfield, Frankenberg, and Lee.
  • Coursepack. “Divided court rejects school diversity plans,” from, 6/28/07.
  • Online. “A Little Rock Reminder:  Nine Pioneers Showed Why School Integration Matters,” by Williams, Washington Post, 9/25/07.  As found at

For Further Reading

  • Online.  “Resegregation Now,” from The New York Times, 6/29/07.
  • Online.  “Mourning in America,” by Patricia Williams, The Nation Magazine, 7/30/07.

Film- Eyes on the Prize Volume II- Fighting Back

Week 12 (April 18) Race & Education- The Achievement Gap 

  • Coursepack. “Savage Inequalities of Public Education in New York,” by Kozol.
  • Online. “What It Takes to Make A Student,” by Tough, New York Times Magazine, 11/26/06.  As found at
  • Online.  “Grading Waiting for Superman,” by D. Goldstein, the Nation, 9/23/10.  As found at
  • Online. “The Baraka School:  An African Experiment,” by A. Goldstein, Time Magazine, 10/1/00.  As found at,8599,56364,00.html
  • Spend ~ 20 minutes researching solutions to the achievement gap on these and other websites.

For Further Reading

  • Reader, Chapter 44.  “The Color Line in American Education,” by Darling-Hammond.
  • Online.  “Charter Schools & the Public Good,” by Renzulli and Roscigno.  Contexts, Winter 2007.
  • See HBO Series The Wire: Season 4  
  • See controversial Golden-Globe nominated film Waiting for Superman

Film- The Boys of Baraka

Week 13 (April 25) Towards the Future & Solutions 

  • WebVista. “Possibility of a New Racial Hierarchy in the 21st Century United States” by Gans.
  • Reader, Chapter 55.  “Doing Anti-Racism” by Johnson, Rush & Feagin.
  • Coursepack. “The End of White America?” by Hsu.
  • Coursepack. Transcript of Obama’s Race Speech, 3/18/08.
  • Coursepack. “CP Ellis” by Studs Terkel.
  • Coursepack.  “Our House Is On Fire, “ by Allan Johnson.

For Further Reading

  • Blog “Racialicious Responds to “The End of White America” on Racialicious
  • Blog “Sixteen Maneuvers to Avoid Really Dealing with Racism” on Feministe

Week 14 (May 2) Final Exam

Final Exam Monday May 2, 5:30-7:30 PM, 145 Blegen Hall