Gary Klass

Spring, 2003


Since its creation, no set of political issues has more bedeviled the American political system than those having to do with race and ethnicity. The nation’s founders devised a political system that has done a pretty good job of addressing conflicts arising from ideological, geographic, religious and class differences, but the institutions they created have been largely inept when it comes to dealing with the persistent inequalities related to race and ethnicity. Social policy problems related to education, crime, and welfare, that might otherwise find resolution, often prove unsolvable to the extent race and ethnicity enter into the debates.  Whether or not the nation can and if it can, how, begin to solve these problems are the fundamental questions of this course.

At it simplest level, much of the debate over racial inequality in the US is between those who view racist attitudes and behavior is the fundamental cause of America's social ills and those who ascribe these problems to the attitudes and behavior of the poor.   Starting with either of these first two premises -- and in some cases, compromises between the two premises -- those how have studied and written on race in America have developed a wide range of competing theories, and agendas.

In this course we will read many of these books, analyze and critique them. We will read the books in part for the knowledge and information they might contain, but mostly to gain an understanding of the diversity of thinking about these matters. An important objective of this course is for the students to develop an ability to communicate their own ideas and insights about these most controversial of subjects. This involves more than formulating ideas and putting them on paper; it involves finding an audience, exposing one's ideas, evidence, and logic to others and anticipating, and responding to, their reactions. In this regard, this course will be different.

Perhaps unlike many other courses related to race, ethnicity and social inequality, there will be no attempt to impose any doctrine, perspective or ideology on this course (although even saying that might do so), other than that we ought to adhere to standards of free and open inquiry. The books themselves have been chosen to reflect a very broad spectrum of thought and ideology. The authors, the other students in the class, and, perhaps, the instructor will, no doubt, express views with which you will disagree. This should be appreciated: you will never learn much from people you agree with. Our discussions will be guided by one general rule: We are all students trying to learn; it is just as important not to take offense as it is not to offend.

Course Objectives:

Due Dates, Requirements and Grades.

Each (undergraduate) student will be assigned to read four of the books (one from each of the four sections of the course), to summarize the work in class, and to submit a review of each book to the discussion list. Each reviewer will be asked to summarize and discuss the assigned book one week prior to the date the review is due. The reviews should be approximately 1,500 words in length. The reviews and in-class summaries will comprise 80% of the final grade. Note that the class presentation on each book is a part of the grade for that review. Reviews will not receive a grade higher than a B if the reviewer cannot adequately summarize the book the prior week. Each review will be evaluated based on the "Summary Grade sheet" standards.

In addition, each student will be expected to read, but not review, one additional book from the list.  For that book, you are expected to post discussion comments to the list.

Class participation, both oral participation in class and in the form participation on the discussion list, will comprise 10 percent of the grade. This will include at least two well-thought-out messages to the discussion list commenting on other reviews that have been posted . At least one of these must be posted before the semester break.

Participation on the discussion list, in the form of "commentaries" submitted to the list will require some reading of, or reading-about, the other books on the list. Such commentaries should consist of serious analysis of the book or the review under discussion. At all times avoid sending quick, short, and immediate responses to reviews and commentaries to the list.

Technical note:  for this class, you are required to use your ISU email account with the Eudora mail program.  You should check your mail at least once every week.  You must post messages to the list using Eudora.

For your first book (only), a draft copy must be sent to the instructor and the other students reviewing the same book by Feb 1.  You are welcome to send draft copies of your other reviews to the instructor and each other at any time, but please do so sufficiently in advance of the due date to receive comments back.

A final take-home examination on the course subject matter (minimum 2,00 words in length) will comprise 10% of the grade. This will be sent to the instructor (but not the discussion list] by May 1. The examination is intended to assess how well you grasp the ideas presented in all of the books, particularly those you have not reviewed and to develop and summative and integrative interpretations of many different works.

In the class schedule below, two books are assigned each week. The date shown for each pair of books is the day that the book review must be sent out on the e-mail discussion list. Reviews MUST be sent out by the date indicated. (Thus, the first review may be posted on February 7th, It must be posted by February 14, midnight).

Late reviews sent out within one week of the due date indicated will receive a 5% grade reduction. Later than that, the reviews should not be sent out on the discussion list, and you will receive a 20% grade reduction.

Graduate Students will be required to do a either an additional book review (this before April 15th) or a longer review comparing one of the books on the list with one that is not.


Attendance for this course is mandatory. Do not enroll in the course if you anticipate problems attending class.   Any student with three or more absences -- for any reason at all -- must complete an additional review of a book assigned by the instructor (the grade to be included in the average other reviews).

Class format:

Once we get into the book review schedule, each class will be primarily devoted to a discussion of one of the two books to be reviewed the next week. These discussions will be led by the students doing those reviews.

An unusual feature of this course involves the use of an Internet electronic mail discussion list, POS334-L . Each student's work will be distributed on the POS334-L list to over three hundred faculty and students across the world, some of whom will be submitting their own writings and commentaries on each other's writings. The purpose is both to provide an external audience for the students' ideas and to bring ideas from the outside into the class. In effect, your writing will be on public display.

Course Schedule:

I. Introduction: (WEEKS 1-2).

The first two weeks will address general principles of writing book reviews, an introduction to the major value conflicts and issues concerning race and ethnicity, and some demonstration of the use of electronic mail and discussion lists. We will examine and evaluate previously-published book reviews, including those sent to the POS334-L discussion list.

The following readings (available on-line) will be discussed on Thursday, January 20th:

Robert Jensen, "Unearned Privilege: White people need to acknowledge benefits of unearned privilege."

Walter Williams, "Affirmative Action Can't Be Mended"


{Note: Each student will be assigned one book from each section to review, for one of the reviews you should also read a book that is paired with your select (indicated by “P”). Graduate students will review one additional book, possibly as part of a 2-book review.  The dates refers to the class presentations and when the review must be posted to the discussion list, we will discuss each book the week before.}

Section I:

Week 4:  Classic Liberal and Conservative

Steele, Shelby. The Content of Our Character Harper Perennial; ISBN: 006097415X; Reprint edition (September 1991)
Bell, Derrick. And We are not Saved Basic Books; ISBN: 046500329X; Reprint edition (March 1989)

Week 5: Classic Liberal and Conservative

Feagin, Joe R. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities & Future Opportunities; ISBN: 0415925320.
McWhorter, John H. Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America; ISBN: 0060935936.

Section II

Week 6: Not a pair

Fredrickson, George M.  Racism: A Short History  Princeton Univ Pr; ISBN: 069100899X; (May 1, 2002)
Kelley, Robin D. G. George Lipsitz,  Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class Free Press; ISBN: 0684826399; Reprint edition (June 1996)

Week 7:  Reactions to 911 (pair)

D'Souza, Dinesh. What's So Great About America Regnery Publishing; ISBN: 0895261537; (April 24, 2002)
Cole, David, James X. Dempsey, Carole Goldberg,  Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security New Press; ISBN: 1565847822; (September 2002)

Week 8: Two calls for color blindness

Wilson, William Julius.  The Bridge over the Racial Divide. ISBN: 0520222261
(pair with Sniderman)
Rodriguez, Richard.
  Hunger of Memory. ISBN: 0553-27293-4
(pair with week 12)

Section III

Week 9: A World View

Cose, Ellis. Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World Harper Perennial; ISBN: 0060928875; (February 1998)
Gourevitch Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families ISBN: 0312243359

Week 10: Globalism (pair)

Friedman. Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization Anchor Books; ISBN: 0385499345; (May 2, 2000)
Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs. McWorld  Reprint edition (August 1996) Ballantine Books; ISBN: 0345383044

Week: 11    Two Supreme Court cases on Affirmative Action (pair)

Ball, Howard. The Bakke Case; ISBN: 0700610464
Urofsky, Melvin I. Affirmative Action On Trial ISBN: 0700608303

Section IV

Week 12: Latinos

Ono, Kent A  and John M. Sloop,  Shifting Borders: Rhetoric, Immigration, and Californa's Proposition 187 Temple Univ Press; ISBN: 1566399173; (February 2002)
Suro, Roberto. Strangers Among Us: Latinos' Lives in a Changing America Vintage Books; ISBN: 0679744568; (May 1999)
(either may pair with Rodriguez, above)

Week 13: Indians (pair)

Deloria, Vine. Custer Died for Your Sins ISBN: 0806121297
Bordewich, Fergus. Killing the White Man's Indian ISBN: 0385420366

Week: 14: Political Science Research (pair)

Kinder, Donald R. and Lynn M. Sanders. Divided by Color: Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals. ISBN: 0226435741
Sniderman, Paul M. and Edward G. Carmines. Reaching Beyond Race, ISBN: 0674145798
(may pair with Wilson, above)