Recognizing Race and Ethnicity Instructor Resources

Teaching Materials for Recognizing Race and Ethnicity, 2nd Edition, by Kathleen Fitzgerald

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Discussion Questions

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Chapter 1

  1. Speculate on what changes you think will occur in census racial categories over the next fifty years, keeping in mind that census categories always reflect the prevailing notions of race and result from an intensely political process.
  2. Explain how the racism of the dominant group can be understood as prejudice plus power and how the color-blind ideology is an example of dominant group power.

Chapter 2

  1. Thinking about Tim Wise’s story (Racial Justice Activism), to what extent do you think this kind of transformation (his development of a white racial identity and eventually becoming an antiracist activist) is likely for most whites? What do you base your speculation on? Explain how white racism and white privilege are two sides of the same coin (in other words, without one, the other does not exist). Provide examples that go beyond the examples provided in the text to show how white racism and white privilege are interconnected.
  2. Think about some arena in which you hold privilege (race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, nationality). Identify five ways you see privilege operating in your life.

Chapter 3

  1. What do critical race theorists mean when they refer to counterstories? Identify a counterstory you are familiar with (whether historical, in popular culture, or in scientific research). How does emphasizing counterstories affect how we all view the world?
  2. Would you argue that immigrants are pressured to assimilate into the dominant, Anglo American culture, or would you argue that the United States today embraces cultural pluralism more than it does assimilation? Provide evidence to support your answer.

Chapter 4

  1. Why is it important to understand slavery from the perspective of those enslaved as well as the perspective of the dominant group (see Unchained Memories under Recommended Films)? Why have these voices only been discovered recently? What does this tell us about history and how we understand the past?
  2. Based upon the information relayed in this chapter, how are the US government, capitalism, and racism linked and how do they reinforce each other?

Chapter 5

  1. To what extent has the United States favored the assimilation of racial/ethnic minorities? Provide examples of when assimilation has not been an option for particular racial/ethnic groups. What are some factors that influence the ability of a group to assimilate into the dominant culture? What are some factors that inhibit a group’s chances of assimilating into the dominant culture?
  2. Provide evidence that this period in history, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was a racial dictatorship. Conversely, provide evidence that this period could be described as the beginning of a racial democracy.

Chapter 6

  1. Explain why the four minority protest movements discussed in this chapter had such similar strategies, tactics, successes, and failures. Give an example of a current social movement that has borrowed a strategy or tactic from the minority protest movements of the post–World War II era.
  2. Why did these protest movements choose to use nonviolent direct action to challenge the white power structure in the beginning of the movement? Explain why most of the movements (with the exception of the Asian American movement) shifted away from nonviolent direct action toward more militant positions.

Chapter 7

  1. Explain why schools have become more segregated over the past thirty years, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which declared segregation illegal. What else is going on in American society that has facilitated the resegregation of American schools?
  2. Compare and contrast the educational histories of racial/ethnic minority groups. Explain how historical inequalities contribute to current inequalities.
  3. Critically consider the achievement gap. If we know race is a social construction, why are we so concerned with racial differences in standardized test scores? Why do we seem unconcerned that, collectively, American schoolchildren of all races perform below proficiency? Why does the gender achievement gap not garner the attention that the racial achievement gap has generated? Should it?

Chapter 8

  1. Look for messages in the media that are antiwelfare or antigovernment, or that support the notion of “rugged individualism” (the idea people should “make it” on their own). Critically analyze these in light of what you have learned in this chapter, specifically looking at the role of the government. Why do we cling to these ideologies? To what extent are the messages you find racialized? How do you know they are racialized? Provide evidence to support your answer.
  2. How has the economic situation of racial minorities in this country improved since the civil rights movement? What changes since then have resulted in ongoing racial/ethnic economic inequality?
  3. Explain the ways racial inequality in the economic and educational spheres are linked. Give evidence that it has become locked in. Does the government have an obligation to address this inequality? Why or why not? Propose two policy solutions that could address racial inequality in the economic sphere.

Chapter 9

  1. Some sociologists have argued that the criminal justice system today is the “new Jim Crow.” Based upon what you have learned about race and the criminal justice system in this chapter, explain what they mean by this. Explain how laws are a form of social control.
  2. Above and beyond the individuals and communities directly affected, in what way does mass incarceration hurt the United States? What are some negative consequences associated with incarcerating over 2.3 million people?

Chapter 10

  1. Explain how minstrel shows are a good example of Marx’s dominant ideology thesis. To what extent can rap music be understood through Marx’s dominant ideology thesis? Challenge that point by making an argument for understanding rap music as counterhegemonic, the way theorists from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies might understand it.
  2. Compare and contrast the racial images of the minority groups discussed in this chapter; speculate on why the images are so similar and why they are sometimes different.

Chapter 11

  1. To what extent could the success of the integration of the US military be a model for the integration of other institutions (such as the sports world or in the economic sphere?). Based on the information in this chapter, what limitations might exist if we applied the military model to these other institutions? What strengths might exist?
  2. Explain why there are such dramatic differences between attitudes toward interracial marriage and percentages of interracial marriage.

Chapter 12

  1. Provide evidence that the United States is not a postracial society, despite the historic elections of President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. What would a postracial society look like? Should we aspire to be postracial? Why or why not?
  2. What does the “future of race in the United States” look like to you? In fifty years, what kind of racial hierarchy will we have? Support your answer with evidence from this text.

Academic Disciplines and Courses

  • African Studies
  • Art and Architecture
  • Education
  • European Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Science and Advanced Math