THE PROBLEM OF RACE IN U.S. SOCIAL THOUGHT AND POLICY

CNAS Fall 2001         Prof. Karin Aguilar-San Juan

Despite the fact that race is scientifically meaningless, racial thinking often shapes and informs public conversations and public policy in the United States today. This course has two principle objectives:

  1. to create a forum that encourages students to articulate their individual opinions and attitudes about race, and
  2. to locate those ideas in an analytic framework that allows first-year students to develop a shared understanding of race and racial inequality in the contemporary context.

The first section of the course will compare and contrast approaches to race as a historical and political concept in U.S. social thought and policy. The second section of the course will invite students to engage in three contemporary debates in which race is a pivotal issue:

"Conscious and deliberate actions have institutionalized group identity in the United States, not just through the dissemination of cultural stories, but also through systematic efforts from colonial times to the present to create economic advantages through a possessive investment in whiteness for European Americans."

--George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness