These undergraduate elective seminars cover a wide range of public affairs issues. Among recent topics are ethical leadership, modern American social policy, and philanthropy.
This upper division seminar traces the evolution of race policy in the United States from the invention of the color line, through the current policy of equal opportunity, to alternative forecasts about the role of race in America’s future. The term “race policy” is of recent vintage – the past decade or so. There is a huge amount of literature about race as viewed through the lenses of particular disciplines – history, sociology, psychology, politics, economics – but there is not much literature about race as a policy arena. This is ironic, considering the central role of race in American life. It also is an interesting contrast with other important policy arenas such as health, education, and national security, all of which have well-established bodies of policy literature.
Emphasis will be placed on understanding the circumstances that led to particular policies. Students will be encouraged to read and develop their own interpretations of primary sources such as Supreme Court cases, rather than to rely solely on the interpretations of scholars. The class also offers a comparative perspective by surveying the treatment of other non-white groups in the US, prospective immigrants, and racial/ethnic groups in other countries.
1. Original Intent. When, how and why did race become a defining feature of American society? Readings include the original Constitution, selections from The Federalist Papers, and the Dred Scott decision.
2. Emancipation and Separate-But-Equal. How did the Civil War Amendments answer the Dred Scott decision? What did Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois disagree about? Readings include Plessy v. Ferguson, Washington’s Atlanta Exposition speech, and selections from The Souls of Black Folk.
3. The Civil Rights Movement. How was the situation of black Americans affected by the two world wars? What was the relationship between mass protest and legal challenges? What roles did the black church and the news media play in the civil rights struggle? Readings include several Texas voting rights cases, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters.
4. The New Policy Regime. What did people expect to happen as a result of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s? How effectively did the new policies address discrimination in education, housing and other areas? Why, with so much apparent progress, was there so much frustration? Readings include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and President Johnson’s 1965 Howard University speech.
5. Outcomes and Controversies. How much better off are African-Americans today than they were before the passage of the civil rights acts? How did affirmative action become such an important part of the policy debate? Readings include Black Wealth, White Wealth by Oliver and Shapiro.
6. Comparisons. How do the experiences of black Americans compare with those of other groups such as Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics? How does American race policy compare with policies and practices in other countries? Readings include Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Korematsu v. US, and Edward Telles’s Race in Another America, and Ian Haney Lopez’s White By Law.
7. Forecasts and Policy Options. Where do we go from here? What are the alternative policy paths?
- Taylor Branch, Parting The Waters: America in the King Years, 1954 – 63, (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1989).
- W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, any edition
- Ian Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, (New York: New York University Press, 2006).
- James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, any edition.
- Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, Black Wealth, White Wealth (New York: Routledge, 2006)
- Edward Telles, Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
Requirements and Expectations
Engagement is important. I expect students to be active participants in a process of discovery, not passive recipients of “the truth” as one professor sees it. My responsibilities include guiding students to existing knowledge and points of view, initiating the conversation, and assessing students’ contributions to the class. I place great value on clear, concise writing and speaking, so students will have opportunities to work on their communications skills.
1. Class attendance and participation – 10%
2. Short paper (2 pages) about expectations for class – 10%
3. Book review (briefing and paper) – 30%
4. Mid-term examination – 20%
5. Final examination – 30%
Discussions of race can be intellectually stimulating; they also can be emotionally challenging. Some issues may turn out to be more complicated than they initially appear. (For example, what was Homer Plessy really complaining about?) I expect us to show respect for one another’s views, offer constructive criticism, and observe high standards of academic integrity.