Race, Racism and Ethnicity

American Culture 399

Fall 2001, MW 3:00-4:30

1401 Mason Hall

Matthew Countryman                          

220 University Towers 

Office Hours: T, 2:30 – 4:30

or by appointment


Mailbox: 2408 Mason Hall

email: mcountry@umich.edu

Phone: 647-2434 or 945-6736


Graduate Student Instructor: Jason Chang

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 little more than a vestige of an unfortunate part of the nation’s 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, a two-part coursepack will be available for purchase at Accu-Copy on E. William St.

Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1992)

George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (1998)

Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996)

Randall N. Robinson, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (2001)

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Post-World War Detroit (1998)

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (1994)

Optional: Anne Moody, The Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968)


Course Requirements:

This course will consist of twice-weekly lectures and one discussion section per week. In addition to lectures, class meetings will also include small group discussions and exercises, film showings and discussions, Since course meetings will compliment the assigned readings, opportunities for free writing, students will be expected to keep up with both. Attendance at discussion sections is required and students will also be expected to a keep a journal on course readings

There will be five graded written assignments in this course:

  1. A 2-3 page autobiographical paper on racial and ethnic identity due on Sept. 24.
  2. An in-class mid-term exam on Oct. 31.
  3. A 7 page critical analysis of the racial and/or ethnic presumptions that undergird a specific text or texts due on Dec. 1.
  4. A 30 minute final exam (identifications and short answers) on Dec. 12.
  5. A take-home final exam (2 short essays) due on Dec. 17.

Detailed descriptions of both paper assignments will be made available well before their due dates. Final grades will be determined as follows: attendance and participation in section: 25%; first paper: 5%; mid-term- 20%; second paper: 20%; in-class final exam- 10%; take-home final- 20%



I. What is Race?          

Sept. 5 Introduction

Sept. 10          

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Skin Deep: Shouldn’t a Pill Be Colorblind," The New York Times, May 13, 2001 (CP)

Beverly Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, (1997), 1-13 (CP)

Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 2nd Edition (1994), 53-76 (CP)


II. Race and American Historical Memory

Sept. 12           Race and the Founding Narrative

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror, 1-50

Phil Deloria, Playing Indian, (1998), 1-37 (CP)

Thomas Bender, "Founding Fathers Dreamed of Uprisings, Except in Haiti," The New York Times, Jul. 1, 2001 (CP)

            Film: Pocohontas


Sept. 17           Immigration Narratives I

Takaki, 139-165, 277-310

Sept. 19           Immigration Narrative II

Takaki, 191-221, 246-276


Sept. 24           First Paper Due

Sept. 24           Narratives of Colonization and Slavery

Takaki, 79-131, 166-190


III. The Meaning of Whiteness in American Society

Sept. 26           Whiteness as Americaness

George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, 69-98

            Film: Birth of A Nation

Oct. 1  </span>Whiteness as Ethnicity

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colussus," http://www.libertystatepark.com/emma.htm

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)

Suzanne Model, "The Ethnic Niche and the Structure of Opportunity: Immigrants and Minorities in New York City," (1993) in Michael B. Katz, ed., The Underclass Debate: Views from History, 161-193, (CP)

Mary C. Waters, "Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?" (1996), in Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins eds., Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 403-412 (CP)

Patricia J. Williams, "On Imagining Foes, Imagining Friendship," (1997) in Jack Salzman and Cornel West eds., Struggles in the Promised Land: Towards a History of Black-Jewish Relations in the United States, 371-383 (CP)

            Film: The Jazz Singer

Oct. 3  Power and Privilege

            Lipsitz, 1-23

Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege," (1988), in Andersen and Hill Collins, 94-105 (CP)

            Film: The Color of Courage

Oct. 8  Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, 3-14, 57-123,


Oct. 10            Sugrue, 209-258

Lipsitz, 99-117


IV. African American Slavery, Its Legacies, and the Call for Reparations

Oct. 15            Slavery and (African) American Memory

Randall Robinson, The Debt, 1-58

David Brion Davis, "The Enduring Legacy of the South’s Civil War Victory," The New York Times, Aug. 26, 2001 (CP)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "The Future of Slavery’s Past," The New York Times, Jul. 29, 2001 (CP)

Oct. 17            Black Life in the Era of Segregation

            Takaki, 131-138, 340-369

Robin Kelley, "‘We Are Not What We Seem’: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South," (1993) in Raymond D'Angelo, ed., The American Civil Rights Movement: Readings and Interpretations, 121-146 (CP)

                        (Optional: Lipsitz, 158-183)

Oct. 22            </span>World War II and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

Gunnar Myrdal: An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy, lxix-lxxxiii, 3-25 (CP)

            Sugrue, 17-55 (Optional, 125-177)

            Lipsitz, 184-210

            Takaki, 378-399


Oct. 24            </span>Integration, Nonviolent Protest and Its Critics

Takaki, 399-414

"Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Statement of Purpose," (1960) in Clayborne Carson, et al., eds., The Eyes on the Civil Rights Reader, 119-120 (CP)

Ella J. Baker, "Bigger than a Hamburger," (1960) in Carson, 120-122 (CP)

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail," (1963), 320-331 (CP)

Malcolm X,"The Ballot or the Bullet," (1965) in D’Angelo, 414-427 (CP)

            Film: Aint Scared of Your Jails

Oct. 29            </span>The Persistence of the Racial Divide

Robinson, 59-120 (optional 161-198)

Lipsitz, 24-46

Sugrue, 259-271

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

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

David Cole and John Lamberth, "The Fallacy of Racial Profiling," The New York Times, May 13, 2001 (CP)

(Optional Sugrue 181-207)

Oct. 31            Midterm Exam (30 minutes) 


V. Race and "The New Immigration"

Nov. 5 </span>Immigration Outside the Black-White Binary

Robert Blauner, "Colonized and Immigrant Minorities," (1972) in Takaki, From Different Shores, 149-160 (CP)

Lisa Lowe, Immigrants Acts, 154-173

Lipsitz, 211-233

Takaki, 414-428

Liz Cobbs, "Hispanic Population, Influence Rise," Ann Arbor News, (CP)

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

Nov. 7 </span>Immigrant Identities in Post-World War II U.S.: Asian-Americanness

Lowe, 1-37, 60-83, 174-176

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

            Film: Rabbit in the Moon

Nov. 12           </span>Immigrant Identities in Post-World War II U.S.: Latinoness

David G. Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity, (1995), 117-151 (CP)

Edward J. Escobar, "The Dialectics of Repression: The Los Angeles Police Department and The Chicano Movement," The Journal of American History (March 1993) 1483-1514 (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)

Arturo Madrid, "Missing People and Others: Joining Together to Expand the Circle," (1988), in Andersen and Hill Collins, 21-26, (CP)

Gregory Rodriguez, "150 Years Later, Latinos Finally Hit the Mainstream," The New York Times, Apr. 15, 2001 (CP)

Susan Sachs, "Redefining Minority," The New York Times (CP)

Nov. 14           </span>Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, 3-85

            Film: My American Girls

Nov. 19           Alvarez, 68-191 (optional 195-290)

Ruben Martinez, "The Shock of the New," (1994) in Antonia Darder and Rodolfo Torres, eds., The Latino Studies Reader: Culture, Economy and Society, 170-179 (CP)


Nov. 21           No Class

  1. Race and Public Policy in the 21st Century

Nov. 26           </span>Debating the New Immigration: Remaking Place, Remaking Nation

Lipsitz, 47-68

Max J. Castro, "The Politics of Language in Miami," (1992) in Romero, 279-294 (CP)

Edna Acosta-Belen and Carlos E. Santiago, "Merging Borders: The Remapping of America,"(1995) in Darder and Torres, 29-41 (CP)

Susan Sachs, "Cracking the Door for Immigrants," The New York Times, Jul. 1, 2001

Catherine Hausman, "Great Expectations," The New York Times Education Life," Apr. 8, 2001

Janny Scott, "Rethinking Segregation Beyond Black and White," The New York Times, Jul. 29, 2001

Second Paper Due

Nov. 28           </span>Are Reparations the Solution to Antiblack Racism?

Robinson, 199-247

Brent Staples, "The Slave Reparations Movement Adopts the Rhetoric of Victimhood," The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2001 (CP)

Nicholas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart," in Francis J. Beckwith and Todd E. Jones, eds., Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination?, 34-55. (CP)

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

            Film: TBA

Dec. 3  </span>Can Whiteness Become a Positive Identity?: Colorblindness, Antiracists, and White Nationalists

Howard Winant, "Behind Blue Eyes: Whiteness and Contemporary U.S. Politics," (1997) in Michelle Fine et al., eds., Off White: Readings on Race, Power, and Society, 40-53 (CP)

Becky Thompson and White Women Challenging Racism, "Home/Work: Antiracism Activism and the Meaning of Whiteness," (1997) in Fine, 354-366 (CP)

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

Charles Murray, "‘White Popular Wisdom’: Losing Ground," (1984) in Takaki, From Different Shores, 241-246 (CP)

            Film: Racism 101

Dec. 5  </span>Towards a New Racial System: Multiculturalism and its Critics

Lowe, 37-59, 84-96

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

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

Holland Cotter, " Beyond Multiculturalism, Freedom?," The New York Times, Jul. 29, 2001 (CP)

Gregory Rodriguez, "Forging a New Vision of America’s Melting Pot," The New York Times, (CP)


Dec. 10            Towards a New Racial System: Intra-Ethnic Alliances and Tensions

Sumi K. Cho, "Korean Americans vs. African Americans: Conflict and Construction," (1993) in Robert Gooding-Williams, ed., Reading Rodney King: Reading Urban Uprising, 196-211 (CP)

Elaine H. Kim, "Home is Where the Han Is; A Korean American Perspective on the Los Angeles Upheavals," (1993) in Gooding-Williams, 215-235 (CP)

Rosaura Sanchez, "Mapping the Spanish Language along a Multiethnic and Multilingual Border, (1992-6) in Darder and Torres, 101-123 (CP)

Jorge Klor de Alva, Earl Shorris, and Cornel West, "Our Next Race Question: The Uneasiness Between Blacks and Latinos," (1996) in Darder and Torres, 180-189 (CP)

Mireya Navarro, "The Latino Candidate: Yours, Mine, Ours?," The New York Times, May 6, 2001(CP)

Eric Schmitt, "Blacks Split on Disclosing Multiracial Roots," The New York Times, Mar. 31, 2001 (CP)

Film: Fires in the Mirror

Take-Home Final Exam Distributed

Dec. 12            In-Class Final Exam (30 Minutes)

Dec. 17            Take-Home Final Exam Due at 4 p.m.