Racial and Ethnic Relations

(The complete syllabus is available as a PDF on Blackboard.)

What will we learn in this class?

In this class we will learn the key roles that race and ethnicity have played in US history, from the founding of the country to the present day. The course provides a sociological perspective on American history and society, examining how race and ethnicity have often shaped our life chances. 

We will examine the uniquely important role that Black-White relations have played, together with the experiences of other racial groups. We will also examine how current immigration patterns are making our society more racially and ethnically diverse, and challenging our understanding of American identity. 

What questions will we ask?

Some of the questions we will explore include:

  • Is the dominant racial hierarchy natural and inevitable?
  • How is racial and ethnic inequality sustained and reproduced?  
  • How has race matters in US society, and how does it matter today?  
  • How does immigration affect race relations? 
  • What does the future of race relations look like?
  • Have we overcome? Can we overcome?

We will focus on the answers to these general questions. In particular, we will focus on:

  • Race throughout American history
  • The intersection of race, class, and gender
  • White privilege
  • Housing discrimination, urban poverty, and impacts on health
  • Race and the criminal justice system
  • Depictions of race and ethnicity in mass media
  • Immigration, race, and ethnicity after 1965 immigration reform
  • Racial identity development

What materials do we need?

  1. Gallagher, Charles A., ed. 2012. Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity. Fifth Edition. New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN: 978-0-07-8022663-8
    • Make sure you get the fifth edition, and not an earlier or more recent edition.
  2. Rios, Victor M. 2011. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York: New York University Press. ISBN: 978-0-8147-7638-4 
  3. Tatum, Beverly Daniel. 2017. “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race. New York: Basic Books. ISBN: 978-0-465-06068-9 
    • Make sure you get the 2017 edition, and not an earlier edition.
  4. Other readings and podcast episodes are accessible online. Links to these readings are provided in the syllabus.
    • The COD Library provides students with free digital subscriptions to the New York Times. Students can sign up for this free subscription via the Library website.

How will you determine my grade?

In this class you will participate in class, complete 14 worksheets, write 4 current news connections, and prepare 4 essays.

Class participation5% of final grade
Current news connections10%
First essay10%
Second essay15%
Third essay15%
Fourth essay15%

Please make sure to complete all of the assignments. Missing assignments count as 0%, not 50%. I may offer some extra credit assignments.

What score do I need for each grade?

I will compute your grade as follows:


What happens in class?

I believe that students learn best by actively engaging with the course material, and not by memorizing names and concepts. Participation can include not just speaking in class, but also asking questions during office hours, and engaging with classmates through other means. Participation can also mean allowing quieter classmates to speak. It means engaging with ideas that are different from your own in a respectful manner, even when you may have serious disagreements. I encourage constructive criticism, but do not tolerate personal attacks.

Your participation makes up 5% of your final grade. If you anticipate any problems, please let me know in advance so we can make arrangements. 

Per college policies, students who have not completed any coursework by the 10th day of instruction may be dropped from the class.

Zoom meetings

To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, this class will meet on Zoom for the first two weeks of the semester. We will start meeting in person on February 8. 

Many of us are experiencing “Zoom fatigue” from having so many classes and meetings online. To help us all succeed in the class, for the first two weeks we will meet live online only on Tuesdays (January 25 and February 1). You will then watch videos in the unit folder on Blackboard covering the material for the Thursdays classes (January 27 and February 3). I will also record the Zoom classes and make the recordings available in the unit folders.

During our live Zoom classes, you need to have your camera on. I appreciate your desire for privacy, however a Zoom screen filled with black rectangles discourages everyone from participating. Having your camera on encourages others to have their cameras on, and encourages interaction.

To accommodate the disruptions that can happen at home, you will receive two “no video” passes for the semester. To use a pass, you only need to email me to inform me you are using a pass. No explanation is necessary. If you anticipate needing more than two “no video” passes, please reach out to me so we can discuss this. If other problems with your participation develop during the semester, please let me know so we can make arrangements.

If you prefer a class without live online interaction, there is a NET section of Racial and Ethnic Relations available (SOCIO-2215-NET01). 

I will mark absent students who are more than 20 minutes late to our class meetings. I will count arriving late to class by 10 minutes or more 3 times as 1 absence. Students who miss more than one-third of the class meetings without documentation of an illness or family emergency may fail the class.

I certainly welcome you to express your questions, concerns, and suggestions to me online, via email, texting, or during my virtual office hours. If you would like to contact me during my office hours, I am available by phone, text, and email. If you would like to meet with me via Zoom, please contact me by phone, text, or email to request a meeting.

What if I find talking about race difficult, or the class material becomes uncomfortable?

Discussing issues of race in class can be difficult, and I want to help everyone earn points and engage with the class material. You have the option of writing a “personal reflection” as an alternative to speaking up in class.

The assignment can be done up to twice a week. Students may email their reflections to me at mooreheadr@cod.edu. Emailed reflections must say “Personal Reflection” in the subject line. The reflections need to engage with the ideas of the class, such as the readings, videos, and topics we discuss in class. They may not simply restate the class content or be a copy of your class notes. They also are not to be written during class, as students are expected to be participating in class discussion and activities.

A minimum submission to earn any credit would be about half a page, single-spaced. The general rule is the more you write, the more points you can earn, although quality is more important than quantity. This assignment is optional. Those who complete it will earn additional points toward their in-class participation score. That score represents 5% of your final grade in the class. 

What are your class policies?

Click here to access my policies for this class, including information on submitting late work, covid accommodations, and withdrawing from the class.

What are the weekly assignments?

Click here to access the weekly reading assignments. You can find more detailed information on the class Blackboard site.

Please note that all items in this syllabus are subject to change.