Racial and Ethnic Relations/SOCY 240
Racial and Ethnic Relations/SOCY 240
Course description (from catalogue)
SOCY240 is a study of racial and ethnic groups with emphasis on American society. Focuses on (a) nature of racial and ethnic differentiation; (b) assimilation, pluralism, and stratification as outcomes of intergroup contact; (c) the status of racial and ethnic groups in the economy, and the related issue of socioeconomic mobility; (d) the role of racial and ethnic groups in the political system.
General Education objectives addressed by the course
- communicate effectively through reading, writing, listening and speaking
- use historical or social sciences perspectives to examine formation of ideas, human behavior, social institutions, or social processes
Course objectives/expected student learning outcomes
1 Students will demonstrate an understanding of theories and concepts in the field of racial and ethnic relations
2 Students will demonstrate an understanding of the public discourse about race and ethnicity in contemporary society and in the local community.
3 Students will demonstrate an understanding of racial and ethnic relations in light of the central process of assimilation.
Student Learning Outcomes
1 a. Students will recognize principal social scientific theories of race and ethnicity.
b. Students will understand the key concepts of race and ethnicity.
2 a. Students will identify current issues in contemporary racial and ethnic relations.
b. Students will evaluate these issues in light of sociological theory.
3 a. Students will view racial and ethnic relations in American society and on the local level in the context of processes of assimilation.
b. Students will examine the possibility of ethnic change including “new ethnicities” as an outcome of assimilation.
The course utilizes a mix of instructional methods. New material will be introduced in lectures complemented by a variety of textual resources including video and the Internet; readings assigned outside of class reinforce topics. Lecture topics are geared to research projects. Projects are organized around questions that can be investigated using sociological research methods like observation and interviews.
The course relies on a perspective that emphasizes the social construction of ethnicity and race in a historical context. While racial and ethnic identities are not natural phenomena, they have consequences for identity, culture, and the relations of groups and individuals. This perspective is represented by the course text: Ethnicity and Race by S. Cornell and D. Hartmann which is in the 2d edition (2007) although the 1st edition is acceptable and can be purchased online at a considerable saving. It is supplemented by readings and other material available on the Internet (see below). Reading is essential for a higher level of understanding and must be incorporated into written submissions for a maximum grade. An expanding list of supplementary resources – newspaper and magazine articles, video, and web sites - should also be consulted (see below).
Research projects that result in written reports are the basis for a course grade. Four research projects are assigned which correspond to the topics in the course outline; individual projects are graded for an understanding of class discussions and the course text, which put a premium on notetaking and reading.
A first draft will be presented in class in a seminar format. Class presentations are intended to underscore key teaching points. In this writing-intensive class, students have the opportunity to revise this version and submit a second draft within one week of class presentations.
Grades on written reports are 80% of the course grade. The remaining 20% of the course grade is reserved for class participation. This component is measured by contributions to the whole group learning experience and features oral presentations of the first draft of research projects. A grade for class participation also incorporates disruptive, off-task behavior.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
As stated in the current college catalog, any student who needs specific accommodations based upon the impact of a disability should register with the office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to be eligible for accommodations which are determined on an individual basis. The SSD office is located in the Science Building, room S132 (718-631-6257). Students should also contact their instructor privately to discuss their specific needs.
Academic Integrity Policy
The Department of Social Sciences Academic Integrity Policy adheres to the standards described in the Academic Integrity Policy of Queensborough Community College. Within the framework of the college policy sanctions for violations of academic integrity are left to the discretion of the instructor. Students may appeal sanctions to the department chair who will refer the appeal to a departmental Committee on Academic Integrity for review.
Following college policy, students are allowed 6 hours of unaccounted absence. Absences and persistent lateness have consequences for a class participation grade.
Office Hours: TBA in M121 on M, T, Th
- Common sense understandings of ethnicity and race: a baseline for scholarly discussion
a) How does ethnicity and race matter in American society?
b) Why does ethnicity and race matter?
Read: Chapter 1 (Cornell and Hartmann)
- Sociological definitions of ethnicity and race
a) Ethnicity as a belief in shared ancestry
b) Race as biology and a social category
c) Similarities of ethnicity and race
Read: Chapter 2,3
- Theoretical perspectives
a) A social constructionist approach to ethnicity and race
b) Ethnicity and race as asserted and assigned identities
c) Ethnicity and race as categories within a society
Read: Chapter 4
- The social significance of ethnicity and race
a) Macro-sociological patterns (e.g. police strategies and incarceration rates, affirmative
action in higher education, residential segregation and job discrimination)
b) Micro-sociological patterns (e.g., interaction in public spaces, mate selection, residential location).
Read: Chapters 5, 6, 7
- A typology of intergroup relations
b) Alignment and mixing
Read: Chapters 5, 6, 7
a) Definition, historical context, and major theoretical approaches
b) Dimensions of assimilation: process and sequence
c) Partial and Segmented assimilation: Race and Class
d) New ethnicities (e.g., Latinos, Desi, Asian Americans)
Read: Chapters 3 and 8
Supplementary Readings (see QCC Library electronic resources)
Blackhawk, Ned. “Remember the Sand Creek Massacre”. NYT (11/28/14).
Buckley, C. “In Actors’ Walkout, Anger Over Stereotypes”. NYT (5/5/15).
Castle, S. and R. Mackey, “Fox News Beats a Retreat After Gaffes About Islam”, NYT (1/13/15).
Connoly, N.D.B. “Black Culture is Not the Problem”, NYT (5/1/15).
Diamond, J. “Race Without Color”. Discover (November 1994), 82-89.
Dreifus, Claudia, “Perceptions of Race at a Glance”, NYT (1.6.15).
Eligon, R. “An Indelible Black-and-White Line”, NYT (8.9.15)
Finkel. E., “Explaining Jeb Bush’s Error”, NYT (4.9.15).
Friedersdorf, Conor. “The NYPD Officers Who See Racial Bias in the NYPD”. The Atlantic (1.7.15).
Gordon, Milton. Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford 1964.
Harris, T.W. “Black Like Who?”, NYT (6.17.15).
Johnson, K. et al, “At Center of Storm, a Defiant ‘I Identify as Black”, NYT (6.17.15).
Lee, Felicia. “A Real Postracial America”. NYT (8.12.14).
Portes, A. and Min Zhou. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 530 (November 1993):74-97.
Sack, K. and M. Thee-Brennan. “A Broad Division Over Race In US Is Found In Poll”, NYT (7.24.15).
Scott, A.O. “Young, Geeky and Black” (film review), NYT (6.18.15).
Starr, Sonja. “Sentencing by the Numbers”. NYT (8.11.14).
Stavans, I. “The Rolled R’s of Vanessa Ruiz”, NYT (9.17.15).
Tricarico, Donald 1984a. The Italians of Greenwich Village. Staten Island: Center for
Migration Studies http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cms3.2010.23.issue-1/issuetoc
______ 1984b. “The ‘New’ Italian American Ethnicity” in The Journal of Ethnic
______ 1991. “Guido: Fashioning an Italian American Youth Subculture” in The
Journal of Ethnic Studies (Spring):41-66. [See my QCC web site]
______ 2001. “Read All About It! Representations of Italian Americans in the Print
Media in Response to the Bensonhurst Racial Killing” in Notable Selections in Race and Ethnicity, edited by A.A. Aguirre and D.V. Baker: 291-319. [See my QCC web site]
_____ 2008. “Dressing Italian Americans for the Spectacle: What Difference Does Guido
Perform?”, The Men’s Fashion Reader, edited by A. Reilly and S. Cosbey, New York: Fairchild:265-278.
______ 2010. “Narrating Guido: Contested Meanings of an Italian American
Youth Subculture” in W.J. Connell and F. Gardarphe, eds., Anti-Italianism: Essays on Prejudice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 163-199.
______ 2011. “Bellas and Fellas in Cyberspace: Mobilizing Italian Ethnicity for Online
Youth Culture”, Italian American Review (Winter).
_______ 2014. “Consuming Italian Americans: Invoking Ethnicity in the Buying and
Selling of Guido” in Making Italian America, edited by Simone Cinotto, New
York: Fordham University Press, 178-195.
________ “Not the Usual Ethnic Subjects: The Significance of Guido for Italian
American Studies” Presidential Lecture, QCC, March 30, 2011.
Video Used in Class
1) “Farmingville” (DVD, Youtube)
2) “The House I Live In” (Youtube)
3) “Race: Not Biological” (Excerpt from “Race: The Power of an Illusion”)
4) “Who Is Black in America?” (CNN, Part 1/Youtube)
5) “Finding Your Roots: Decoding Our Past” (Gates), PBS, 11.25.14
6) “The Amish of Ohio” (Youtube)
7) “Italian Americans: Our Contributions” (Youtube)
8) “Little White Lie”, PBS, 3.23.15
9) “Intersections: Southern Boulevard, The Bronx” (NYT Video)
10) “African American Lives” (Gates), I and II (PBS/Youtube)
11) “The Fab Five” (ESPN/Youtube)
12) “Magic and Bird” (ESPN/Youtube)
13) “A Short History of the Blues” and “Nothing But the Blues – Part 1” (Youtube)
14) “My American Girls” (DVD)
15) “Segregation Now”, Nicole Hannah (NYT video, posted 4/16/14)
16) “Zoot Suit Riot” (Youtube)
www.understandingrace.org (American Anthropological Assn.)
Project 1: Definitions
Use Cornell and Hartmann in Chapters 2 to 4 to discuss the core concepts of ethnicity and race. Enlist class discussion including support materials notably. Address the following points:
- What definition of ethnicity has the most merit for the authors and which is represented in the text?
- What gives ethnicity a “primordial” quality that separates it from other social identities? [See especially pages 48 to 56.]
- Reference the Diamond article and the video “Race: Not Biological” to support the authors’ position that “race” is not a natural or biological category. What do they mean by race as a “social” concept? Reference the Rachel Dolezal case (see “Supplementary Readings”) for insights into the use of physical difference in making racial identity claims.
- In the view of the authors, how do race and ethnicity overlap? How are they different?
Project 2: Finding Ethnicity in Everyday “Constructions Sites”
Ethnic identity is a consciousness of a shared ancestry. It is referenced to nationality, religion, and race. Keep in mind that “new ethnicities” emerge like Latino, West Indian or Caribbean, white, and Asian.
As Cornell and Hartmann point out, ethnicity is a social construct. It is constructed in specific social situations or sites. This project is intended to find ethnicity in the most immediate social relationships. These are the relationships that provide the individual with a primary emotional connection as well as social grounding - group memberships that have practical consequences (i.e., promote material interests). Examine or de-construct the following relationships in order to find ethnicity:
- The nuclear family and relatives (e.g., grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins)
- Friends and the peer group
- Dating and marriage partners
- The neighborhood community
- How does ethnicity matter in these social sites? Consider the role of ethnicity a) as a credential of membership or social boundary; b) as a source of cultural content (i.e., a script referenced to a heritage like a linguistic style or cuisine), and; c) claims of invidious status (i.e., that one group is “better” than or superior to another in things that matter).
- Is there a “new ethnicity” (e.g., Latino, Caribbean, Desi) under construction in any of these sites? Does it represent a change in ethnic identity from an older, (e.g., parents or grandparents) generation?
Project 3: Choose 1 of the Following:
Ethnic Groups and American Institutions
How has a specific ethnic group imprinted on some area of American life? Here are some suggestions:
- Blacks: popular music, church music, sports like basketball and football, youth culture, organized crime
- Italian Americans: pizzerias, sanitation, popular music, organized crime
- Irish Americans: police and fire (NYC), Catholic religious vocations, organized crime
- Greek Americans: restaurants, organized crime
- Albanian Americans: pizzerias, organized crime
- Jamaicans: nursing, track (sprints), organized crime
- Jews: Hollywood, the law, accounting, organized crime
1) What historical circumstances shaped entry into this area? Consider the types of “capital” brought into the situation (e.g., cultural heritage) and the structure of opportunity in the larger society.
2) Is the group over-represented in membership numbers?
3) Does the group or group members exert disproportionate power or enjoy privilege?
4) Has the group’s culture been imparted to the institution?
Framing Ethnic Identity in the Mass Media
For this project, you will investigate the framing of ethnic group identity in the mass media. You will focus on a single case reported in media outlets like the press (print media) or a TV show.
- Identify the media text (e.g., The BET Hip Hop Awards Show, Jersey Shore, Ebony).
- What themes construct ethnicity? Use the perspective developed in class which relies on the work of Cornell and Hartmann. In particular, what identities were invoked? For example, were the principals defined by race or nationality or some new ethnicity (e.g., Latino, Desi)? Also, what did these identities mean? Here, pay attention to prominent themes or motifs like “criminality” assigned to Italian Americans by Hollywood.
- To what extent are these media representations ethnic stereotypes?
- Is there a pattern of mass media stereotypes for this ethnic group (i.e., found in other texts and perhaps widely accepted)?
- Why do you think these perspectives are used to tell the story? Is there a media agenda or ideology?
Project 4: Assimilation
- What is assimilation? Why is it important for the host society and for the immigrant population?
- Choose a family household that is within 2 generations of emigrating to the U.S. (i.e., the oldest members can be born here of immigrant parents). Ask the following questions: Where did they come from? [be as specific as possible] Why did they leave? When did they arrive? What determined where they settled? Did they arrive as a family or in a “chain”?
- Use interviews and observation to determine the course of assimilation. What is the commitment to assimilation for individuals and the family as a whole? What is their assimilation strategy? What are the assimilation strategies of individual members? In considering individual differences, pay attention to age and generation.
- How much assimilation is taking place for individuals and the family as a group? Assess for 3 types of assimilation: cultural (including educational), social (including residential), and dating/marital.
- To what extent are individual members and the family as a group preserving their ethnic heritage?
- Are there new social and cultural forms that express ethnicity (e.g., Latinos, Desi, Chicano, Italian Americans)?
- How typical is this family’s experience for the ancestry group in the city or metropolitan region?
- What accounts for any discrepancies?
Download the PDF version of the syllabus here