The Making and Remaking of Race

One semester
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-4

1. Rationale

E. B. DuBois spoke of “the color line” as the problem of the twentieth century. Although we are now in the twenty-first century, the problem is still with us. Some might say that race is a national obsession. Certainly it is a subject that has occupied a number of modern writers. This course allows students to focus on a range of race-related issues through literature.

2. Topics or themes emphasized

Some of the themes of the course are as follows:

• the idea that “race” has no biological validity
• the complexity of the issue of racial identity and group allegiance
• the role language plays in race relations (for ex., what terms are acceptable)
• the relationship between issues of race and class
• racism in the media
• integration/segregation
• stereotyping

3. Methods and Sample Assignment

Discussion is the primary class format. Background is sometimes provided by either short lectures, documentary film, or enrichment readings. Students sometimes make presentations in which they either give interpretations of works or present pertinent information they have researched. These presentations are usually the fruit of group work (i.e., groups of 4-5 students working together on a topic). Writing assignments include analytical essays, imaginative/creative responses and personal essays.

Sample assignment(on Indian Killer): Write a persuasive essay that argues for or against the following statement: “Marie is right: Mather’s course is illegitimate from a number of points of view.”

4. Expectations for students

Students should be prepared to discuss openly “touchy” subjects. Students should expect to read approximately twenty pages per night and to write four to six papers.

5. Reading List

Reading for each class will be drawn from the following:
Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley
“In Darkness and Confusion,” Ann Petry
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson
Indian Killer, Sherman Alexie
Amazing Grace, Jonathan Kozol
“On Being Black,” W.E.B. DuBois
“Abusing the Privilege,” Daniel McElrath
The Meeting, Jeff Stetson
Fires in the Mirror, Anna Deavere Smith
“Black-Jewish Relations,” Cornel West
“Who Killed Integration?” Clarence Page
“White Privilege,” Peggy McIntosh
selections from Half and Half, edited by Claudine C. O’Hearn
“The Love of a Good Man,” Chitra Divakaruni
Double Happiness, directed by Mina Shum
Race: The Power of an Illusion (PBS documentary)
Naomi, Junichiro Tanazaki
The Narrows, Ann Petry

6. Bibliography
Going to the Territory, Ralph Ellison
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” Henry Louis Gates
Blacks and Jews, edited by Paul Berman
Race Matters, Cornel West
Along This Way, James Weldon Johnson

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