Race, Racism and Ethnicity

American Culture 399

Fall 2002, TTh 2:30-4:00

G127 Angell Hall


Prof. Matthew J. Countryman  

220 University Towers 

Office Hours: T 4:15-5:30 (Cava Java in the Union) & Th 12-1 or by appt.

Mailbox: 2408 Mason Hall

email: mcountry@umich.edu

Phone: 647-2434 or 355-0891

Graduate Student Instructor: Luis Vazquez


Course Description:

This course will use scholarly texts, newspaper articles, fiction, feature and documentary films, and the personal experiences of teachers and students to examine how the concepts of race and ethnicity have operated and continue to operate in American society. What are race and ethnicity, racism and ethnic bias? How has the challenge of racial and ethnic diversity impacted American efforts to construct a good society over the course of the nation’s history? Do race and ethnicity continue to structure American society? Or are racial and ethnic bias simply vestiges of an unfortunate past? Our assumption will be that there is no "right" answer to these questions. Rather, students will be introduced to a range of critical voice on race and ethnicity and encouraged to explore and challenge their own views, those of their fellow students and those of the professor.

"Race, Racism and Ethnicity" serves as an introduction to the Race and Ethnicity track of the American Culture major.



The following texts are available for purchase at Shaman Drum Bookshop, 111 S. State and have been placed in University Reserves in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. In addition, coursepack is available for purchase at Excel Coursepacks (1117 S. University, 996-1500).

Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

John Okada, No-No Boy

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Post-World War Detroit

Roger Wilkins, Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism


Optional: Anna Devere Smith, Twilight–Los Angeles, 1992: On the Road: A Search for America


Course Requirements:

This course will consist of twice-weekly lecture sessions and one discussion section per week. Both the lectures and the discussion sections will be interactive. In addition to instructor presentations, our class meetings will include small and large group discussions, exercises, film showings and student presentations. Since the lecture sessions will compliment the assigned readings, students will be expected to keep up with both. In addition, this course requires that you attend and participate in section discussions. Course participation and section attendance will account for 20% of your final course grade.

Written assignments will be as follows;

  1. Quizzes; Students will take two thirty-minute in-class quizzes on the course readings and key concepts. The quizzes will consist of identifications and short answer questions. The midterm quiz will cover material in the first half of the course and will take place on October 22. The final quiz will cover material in the second half of the course and will take place on December 10. Each quiz will account for 10% of your course grade.
  2. Journals and the Journal Commentary: Over the course of the semester, students will complete five two-page journal assignments. The first journal assignment will be to write a racial and/or ethnic autobiography. It will be due in section during the week of September 10. The other four journal assignments will be due in 2-3 week intervals. In contrast to traditional academic papers, you may write your journal assignments in any form. The course instructors will read and comment on them solely for content, rather than grammar, academic form or writing style. Each of your journal entries will be returned to you ungraded but with comments. You must save your journal entries. At the end of the semester, you will then write a 3-5 page commentary analyzing your journal entries and the ways in which your thinking on issues of race and ethnicity has changed over the course of the semester. Your commentary should be written as an academic paper and it should draw on course materials and key concepts discussed in the course. The Journal Commentaries will be due in section during the week of December 3. Please include all five of journal entries with your commentary. You will receive a single grade for the journal commentary and the journals. The Journals and Journal Commentary will account for 20% of your course grade.
  3. Comparative Paper: Students will submit a 5-7 page comparative analysis of two (2) of the following four (4) course texts: Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Okada, No-No Boy, and Wilkins, Jefferson’s Pillow. I will make available a detailed description of this paper assignment well before the due date. The Comparative Paper will account for 20% of your course grade.
  4. Take-Home Final: The final written assignment will be a take-home exam consisting of two short essays. The questions will be distributed in class on December 10 and the exam will be due by 4:30 p.m. on December 19 in the American Culture mailroom. The Take-Home Final will account for 20% of your course grade.



Sept. 3 Introduction

I. The Social Construction of Race

Sept. 5 What is Race?

Kwame Anthony Appiah, "History of Hatred," The New York Times Book Review, Aug. 4, 2002 (review of George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History) (CT)

Linda Villarosa, "A Conversation with Joseph Graves," The New York Times,, Jan. 1, 2002 (CT)

            Film: TBA


Sept. 10           The Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United States

Winthrop Jordan, "First Impressions: Libidinous Blacks," in Ronald Takaki, ed., From Different Shores: Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America, 41-51, (CP)

Nathan Glazer, "The Emergence of an American Ethnic Pattern," (1975) in Ronald Takaki, ed., From Different Shores: Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America, 13-25 (CP)

Beverly Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, (1997), 3-17 (CP)

Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege," (1988), in Margaret Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins, Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 94-105 (CP)

            Journal Assignment #1 Due in Section


II. Who is an American? Race, Ethnicity and American Identity Before and After 9/11

Sept. 12           Racial Profiling and National Security

Richard G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, ix-xi (CP)

Bina Ahmad, "People of color bear brunt of post-Sept. 11 climate," The Progressive Media Project, June 10, 2002 (CT)

Ann Coulter, "Bush Pays Homage to the Fetishistic Rituals of Liberalism," June 20, 2002 (CT)

Dave Boyer, "Profiling ban draws concern," The Washington Times, June 5, 2002 (CT)

Cynthia Tucker, "Racial profiling misfires as tool in war on terror." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January, 13.2002 (CT)

            Film: The Siege

Sept. 17           Race and the American Historical Narrative

Arthur Schlesinger, "The Return to the Melting Pot," in Ronald Takaki, From Different Shores, (CP), 293-295

Ronald Takaki, "At the End of the Century: The Culture Wars in the United States," in Takaki, From Different Shores, (CP), 296-299

Roger Wilkins, Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism, xi-xiv, 1-51


Sept. 19           The Dilemma of Black Patriotism

Wilkins, 52-86

             Film: Tuskegee Airmen


Sept. 24           Wilkins, 87-147          

            Journal Assignment #2 Due in Section


Sept. 26           The Japanese Internment: Enemy Aliens and the Yellow Peril

John Okada, No-No Boy, vii-xi, 1-68

Film: Of Civil Wrongs & Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story & Come See the Paradise


Oct. 1  Okada, 69-171


Oct. 3  Okada, 173-213 & 235-251 (Chapter 10 is optional.)

Film: Who Killed Vincent Chin?


III. Race & Ethnicity as Systems of Representation

Oct. 8  Racial and Ethnic Images in American Popular Culture

Richard Dyer, White, 1-41 (CP)

Phil Deloria, Playing Indian, 1-37 (CP)

            Journal Assignment #3 Due in Section

Oct. 10            Richard G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture, 1-14 (CP)

Sarah Boxer, "Getting Asian-Americans into the Picture," The New York Times, Aug. 4, 2002, (CT)

Alan James Frutkin, "The Faces in the Glass are Rarely Theirs," The New York Times, Dec. 24, 2000 (CT)

            Film: Ethnic Notions


Oct. 15            Mid-term Break


Oct. 17            Representations of Indians and Native American Identity

Rayna Green,"The Pocohontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture"in Elle Carol Dubois and Vicki L. Ruiz, Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History, 15-21 (CP)

Ward Churchill, "Crimes Against Humanity," in Andersen and Hill Collins, 413-420 (CP)

Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1-53, 59-75, 83-109

             Film: Pocohontas & Smoke Signals

Oct. 22            Alexie 110-129, 145-190, 199-223

            Mid-term Quiz (30 Minutes)


IV: "The New Immigration": Assimilation or Racialization?

Oct. 24            Immigrants Old and New: Narratives of Immigration, Race and Ethnicity

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colussus," (CT)

Derek Green and Eve Silberman, "Latino Ann Arbor," Ann Arbor Observer, May 2001, (CP)

Nicholasa Mohr, "Mr. Mendelsohn," in El Bronx Remembered: A Novella and Stories (CP)

Karen Brodkin Sachs, "How Did Jews Become White Folks?" in Roger Sanjek and Steven Gregory, eds., Race, 78-98 (CP)


David R. Roediger and James Barrett, "Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality and the New-Immigrant’ Working Class," in David R. Roediger, Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past, 138-168 (CP)

            Film: Taxi Dreams


Oct. 29            What is a Latino?: Circular Migrations, Racialization and the Development of Pan-Ethnic Identities

Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, 1-67

Gloria Anzaldua,, "To Live in the Borderlands," in Borderlands/Fronteras, (CP)

Juan Flores, "‘Que Assimilated, Brother, Yo Soy Asimilao’: The Structuring of Puerto Rican Identity in the U.S.," (1993), in Mary Romero, et al., eds., Challenging Fronteras: Structuring Latina and Latino Lives in the U.S., 175-185 (CP)

             Journal Assignment #4 Due in Section


Oct. 31            Alvarez, 68-132

            Film: My American Girls


Nov. 5 Alvarez, 133-224, (225-290 optional)


V. Race and the New Deal Order

Nov. 7 Opportunties Lost and Found: World War II and the Origins of the Civil Rights Era

Nelson Lichtenstein and Robert Korstad, "Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement," Journal of American History (Dec. 1988), (CT)

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, 17-55

            Film: The Color of Courage

Nov. 12           The New Deal and the Structuring of Racial Privilege

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, 3-14, 57-123

Kevin Boyle, "The Kiss: Racial and Gender Conflict in a 1950s Automobile Factory," Journal of American History (Sept. 1997), 496-523 (CT)

            Comparative Paper Due in Section


Nov. 14           Sugrue, 209-258 (181-207 Optional)

            Film: True Colors from Primetime Live & America in Black and White 2: How Much is White Skin Worth from Nightline


Nov. 19           Racial Structures & Race Relations in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Sugrue, 259-271

Reed Abelson, "Anti-Bias Agency is Short of Will and Cash," The New York Times, Jul. 1, 2001 (CT)

Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, "We Have Overcome," The New Republic, (Oct. 13, 1997), 23-28 (CT)

Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, "The Prescience of Myrdal," The Public Interest (Summer 1997), 36-54 (CT)

            Journal Assignment #5 Due in Section


Nov. 21           Affirmative Action: Theory

Glenn C. Loury, "How to Mend Affirmative Action," The Public Interest, (Spring 1997), 1-7 (CT)

Claude Steele, "Thin Ice," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 284, No. 2, (Aug. 1999), 44-54, (CT)

Film: Secrets of the SAT & Racism 101


Nov. 26           Affirmative Action: History

William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, The Shape of the River: The Long-Time Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, (1998), 1-14, 256-290 (CP)

Lydia Chavez, The Color Bind: California’s Battle to End Affirmative Action, 1-38 (CP)


Nov. 28           Thanksgiving Break 


Dec. 3  Affirmative Action: The UM Case

Lisa Belkin, "She Says She Was Rejected By a College For Being White. Is She Paranoid, Racist or Right?", Glamour, (Nov. 1998). (CP)

University of Michigan, Information on Admissions Lawsuits www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions (CT)

            Journal Commentary Due in Section


VI. The Racial Future?

Dec. 5  Race Transcendence or a New Racial Divide: Racial and Ethnic Relations in a Multicultural Society

Amrijit Singh, "The Possibilities of a Radical Consciousness: African Americans and New Immigrants," in Ishmael Reed, 218-237, (CP)

David R. Roediger, "All About Eve, Critical White Studies and Getting Over Whiteness," in David R. Roediger, Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past, 3-26 (CP)

George Lipsitz, "Bill Moore’s Body," in The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, vii-xx (CP)

            Film: Twilight Los Angeles


Dec. 10            Conclusion     

Final Quiz (30 minutes)

Dec. 19            Take-Home Final Due at 4:30 p.m. in American Culture Mailroom