Unit 1 Race, Ethnicity, and American Identity
• Issue 1. Do Americans Need a Common Identity?
YES: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., from The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (W.W. Norton Co., 1992)
NO: Michael Walzer, from “What Does It Mean to Be an ‘American’?” Social Research (Fall 1990)
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., historian, asserts that America needs a common identity. In that context, he views multiculturalism as an attack on the basic values that have made America what it is today. For him, Western-rooted values, whether we like it or not, form the fabric of American society. The values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, human rights, and so forth are unfairly unchallenged under the guise of multiculturalism. He makes the argument for continuing the assimilation creed. Michael Walzer, professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, makes the pluralist argument that America cannot avoid its multicultural identity. He explores the ways in which citizenship and nationality are compatible with the preservation of one’s ethnic identity, culture, and community.
• Issue 2. Does Immigration Contribute to a Better America?
YES: Philippe Legrain, from “The Case for Immigration: The Secret to Economic Vibrancy,” The International Economy (vol. 21, issue 3, Summer 2007)
NO: Peter Brimelow, from Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster (Random House, 1995)
Philippe Legrain is a journalist, economist, and author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them and Open World: The Truth about Globalisation. He makes the case that immigration contributes to a better America as well as a better world. His economic argument primarily emphasizes that the flow of immigrants within the global system brings both talent and labor to areas of need. Peter Brimelow, senior editor at Forbes and National Review magazines, argues that the United States is being overrun by a growing tide of aliens who are changing the character and composition of the nation in manners that are threatening and destructive to its well-being and prospects for future advancement.
• Issue 3. Do Recent Immigration Trends Threaten Existing Ideas of America’s White Identity?
YES: Charles A. Gallagher, from “Racial Redistricting: Expanding the Boundaries of Whiteness,” in Heather M. Dalmage, ed., The Politics of Multiracialism: Challenging Racial Thinking (State University of New York Press, 2004)
NO: Ellis Cose, from “What’s White, Anyway?” Newsweek (September 18, 2000)
Charles A. Gallagher, author and sociology professor at Georgia State University, argues that America is currently undergoing a “racial redistricting” in which the boundaries of whiteness are expanding to include lighter-skinned people of color (i.e., Asians and some Latinos). Ellis Cose, an African American journalist, argues that the traditional boundaries that determine race and skin color are not what they once were. Although he does not specifically cite ethnicity, Cose furthers the claim that American identity today is an expanding category. The boundaries of whiteness have expanded and are no longer hard and fast.
• Issue 4. Is Today’s Immigration Debate Racist?
YES: Carlos Fuentes, from “Huntingtion and the Mask of Racism,” trans. Thomas D. Morin, New Perspectives Quarterly (Spring 2004)
NO: Samuel P. Huntington, from The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon & Schuster, 1996)
Carlos Fuentes, prominent Mexican writer and social commentator, argues that much of the current immigration debate is racist. For example, he criticizes Samuel Huntington’s assessment that Mexican immigrants exploit the United States and represent an unjust burden to the nation. This “mask” of racism appears under the guise of a concern with American national unity. Samuel Huntington, political scientist, and Albert J. Weatherhead III, University Professor at Harvard University, expresses the concern that Mexican immigrants and, by implication, other Latinos, are creating significant problems for America, specifically with reference to assimilation, as their numbers continue to increase within the population. In general, he believes that Latino immigration is a threat to America’s national unity.
• Unit 2 Race Still Matters
• Issue 5. Is Race Prejudice a Product of Group Position?
YES: Herbert Blumer, from “Race Prejudice as a Sense of Group Position,” The Pacific Sociological Review (Spring 1958)
NO: Gordon W. Allport, from The Nature of Prejudice (Perseus Books, 1979)
Herbert Blumer, a sociologist, asserts that prejudice exists in a sense of group position rather than as an attitude based on individual feelings. The collective process by which a group comes to define other racial groups is the focus of Blumer’s position. Gordon Allport, a psychologist, makes the case that prejudice is the result of a three-stage learning process.
• Issue 6. Do Minorities and Whites Engage in Self-Segregation?
YES: Beverly Daniel Tatum, from Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (Basic Books, 1977)
NO: Peter Beinart, from “Degree of Separation at Yale,” The New Republic (November 3, 1997)
Beverly Daniel Tatum, an African American clinical psychologist and president of Spelman College, examines identity development among adolescents, especially black youths, and the behavioral outcomes of this phenomenon. She argues that black adolescents’ tendency to view themselves in racial terms is due to the totality of personal and environmental responses that they receive from the larger society. Peter Beinart, senior editor for The New Republic, examines the complexity of the issues of multiculturalism and diversity on the nation’s campuses, and he asserts that one examine how a broad spectrum of groups responds to the challenges of identity and “fitting in” within increasingly multicultural and diverse communities.
• Issue 7. Is the Emphasis on a Color-Blind Society an Answer to Racism?
YES: Ward Connerly, from “Don’t Box Me In,” National Review (April 16, 2001)
NO: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, from Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003)
Ward Connerly is a strong critic of all attempts at racial classification and believes that in order to achieve a racially egalitarian, unified American society, the government and private citizens must stop assigning people to categories delineated by race. To achieve this goal, Mr. Connerly is supporting the enactment of a “Racial Privacy Initiative.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that “regardless of whites’ sincere fictions, racial consi-derations shade almost everything in America” and, therefore, color-blind ideology is a cover for the racism and inequality that persist within contemporary American society.
• Issue 8. Is the Claim of White Skin Privilege a Myth?
YES: Paul Kivel, from Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice (New Society, 1996)
NO: Tim Wise, from “The Absurdity (and Consistency) of White Denial: What Kind of Card Is Race?” http://www.counterpunch.org/wise04242006.html (April 24, 2006)
Paul Kivel, a teacher, a writer, and an anti-violence/anti-racist activist, asserts that many benefits accrue to whites based solely on skin color. These benefits range from economic to political advantages and so often include better residential choice, police protection, and education opportunities. Tim Wise, an author of two books on race, argues that whites do not acknowledge privilege. Instead, whites are often convinced that the race card is “played” by blacks to gain their own privilege, something that whites cannot do. Hence, whites simply do not see discrimination and do not attach privilege to their skin color.
• Unit 3 The Persistence of Discrimination
• Issue 9. Is Racism a Permanent Feature of American Society?
YES: Derrick Bell, from Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (Basic Books, 1992)
NO: Dinesh D’Souza, from The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society (Free Press, 1995)
Derrick Bell, a prominent African American scholar and authority on civil rights and constitutional law, argues that the prospects for achieving racial equality in the United States are “illusory” for blacks. Dinesh D’Souza, John M. Ohlin Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that racial discrimination against blacks has substantially eroded within American society and that lagging progress among them is due to other factors, such as culture, rather than racism.
• Issue 10. Is Racial Profiling Defensible Public Policy?
YES: Scott Johnson, from “Better Unsafe than (Occasionally) Sorry?” The American Enterprise (January/February 2003)
NO: David A. Harris, from Profiles in Injustice: Why Police Profiling Cannot Work (The New Press, 2002)
Scott Johnson, conservative journalist and an attorney and fellow at the Clermont Institute, argues in favor of racial profiling. He claims that racial profiling does not exist “on the nation’s highways and streets.” Johnson accuses David Harris of distorting the data on crimes committed and victimization according to race. For him, law enforcement needs to engage in profiling under certain circumstances in order to be effective. David A. Harris, law professor and leading authority on racial profiling, argues that racial profiling is ineffective and damaging to our diverse nation. He believes it hinders effective law enforcement.
• Issue 11. Did Hurricane Katrina Expose Racism in America?
YES: Adolph Reed and Stephen Steinberg, from “Liberal Bad Faith in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina,” The Black Commentator (May 4, 2006)
NO: Shelby Steele, from “Witness: Blacks, Whites, and the Politics of Shame in America,” The Wall Street Journal (October 26, 2005)
Adolph Reed, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Stephen Steinberg, professor of sociology at Queens College in New York City, challenge the tendency of policy makers and other commentators to focus on blacks as the source of the problems faced by New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and emphasize the need to address race and poverty concerns effectively. Shelby Steele, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and political commentator, argues that blacks of New Orleans along with other blacks should focus on meaningful methods for overcoming their underdevelopment as revealed by Hurricane Katrina, rather than emphasizing the shame of white racism as the cause of their plight.
• Issue 12. Is the Reservation the Only Source of Community for Native Americans?
YES: Frank Pommersheim, from Braid of Feathers: American Indian Law and Contemporary Tribal Life (University of California Press, 1995)
NO: Susan Lobo, from “Is Urban a Person or a Place? Characteristics of Urban Indian Country,” in Susan Lobo and Kurt Peters, eds., American Indians and the Urban Experience (Altamira Press, 2001)
Frank Pommersheim lived and worked on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation for 10 years and currently teaches at the University of South Dakota School of Law where he specializes in Indian law. Additionally, he is currently providing legal services within India. Emphasizing the critical role played by land in Indian culture, he develops the argument for the significance of “measured separatism.” Susan Lobo, a cultural anthropologist and an expert on Native American studies, presents the case of Native Americans in the Bay Area in California. She demonstrates the richness of Indian community life that extends beyond the reservation.
• Unit 4 Persistent Challenges in a Changing America
• Issue 13. Are America’s Public Schools Resegregating?
YES: Gary Orfield and Susan E. Eaton, from Dismantling Desegregation (The New Press, 1996)
NO: Ingrid Gould Ellen, from “Welcome Neighbors?” The Brookings Review (Winter 1997)
Gary Orfield, professor of education and social policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Susan E. Eaton, author, demonstrate that America’s public schools are resegregating. Their argument is based on a series of legal decisions beginning in the 1970s that have successfully reversed the historic Brown decision. Ingrid Gould Ellen, writer for The Brookings Review, argues that neighborhood racial integration is increasing. She thinks researchers must balance their pessimistic findings of resegregation with increased integration.
• Issue 14. Is There Room for Bilingualism in American Education?
YES: Kendra Hamilton, from “Bilingual or Immersion? A New Group of Studies Is Providing Fresh Evidence That It’s Not the Language of Instruction That Counts, but the Quality of Education,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education (April 20, 2006)
NO: Rosalie Pedalino Porter, from “The Case Against Bilingual Education,” The Atlantic Monthly (May 1998)
Kendra Hamilton, editor of Black Issues in Higher Education, argues that the studies available for assessing the quality of such programs are inconclusive. She makes the argument that the outcomes of bilingual education programs are often jeopardized by the quality of the instruction provided. Thus, the significant question of the quality of the programs is being ignored. Rosalie Pedalino Porter, author of Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education and affiliate of The Institute for Research in English Acquisition and Development (READ), makes the case against bilingual education. She presents a negative view of the contributions of such programs to the academic achievement of non–English speaking students. Also, she is greatly concerned that such programs retard the integration of such students within the larger, English-speaking society.
• Issue 15. Is It Time to De-emphasize Diversity?
YES: Walter Benn Michaels, from “The Trouble with Diversity,” The American Prospect (September 2006)
NO: Henry A. Giroux, from “Insurgent Multiculturalism and the Promise of Pedagogy,” in David Theo Goldberg, ed., Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (Blackwell, 1994)
Walter Benn Michaels, a literary theorist and English professor, is concerned that the emphasis on diversity and race obscures the scientific reality that there is only one race of which we all are members. As such, we tend to focus on racial identities instead of emphasizing that race does not or should not matter. Lastly, Michaels is concerned that the focus on diversity obscures the very real problems of class distinctions within American society. Henry A. Giroux is an author on multiculturalism and related topics and current chair of Communication Studies at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. He emphasizes the need to focus on the cultural categories (black vs. white) that are promoted within multiculturalism and diversity in order to understand power relations and other issues that are reflective of racialized identities in society. For Giroux, one significant way to get to the problem of inequality is through identity politics.
• Issue 16. Are Asian Americans a Model Minority?
YES: David A. Bell, from “America’s Greatest Success Story: The Triumph of Asian-Americans,” The New Republic (July 15 & 22, 1985)
NO: Frank H. Wu, from Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White (Basic Books, 2002)
David A. Bell, journalist and historian, agrees that Asian Americans are a “model minority” and expresses a great appreciation for the progress and prominence they have achieved within the nation. Frank H. Wu, Howard University law professor, rejects the characterization of Asian Americans as a “model minority” based on the belief that this characterization tends to obscure problems facing Asians in America.
• Unit 5 Policy Issues for the Twenty-First Century
• Issue 17. Does Latino Immigration Threaten African American Workers?
YES: Douglas P. Woodward and Paulo Guimarães, from “Latino Immigration,” Business and Economic Review (April 1, 2008)
NO: David C. Ruffin, from “Immigration: 5 Black Leaders Lend Their Voices to the Debate,” The Crisis (July/August 2006)
Douglas P. Woodward, director of the Division of Research and Professor of Economics, and Paulo Guimarães, a Clinical Research Professor of Economics, both of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, in a strongly researched case study of the impact of Latino immigration on the workers of South Carolina, present significant statistical evidence that African American workers have lost both jobs and wages. David C. Ruffin, a writer and political analyst in Washington, D.C., interviews five black leaders who respond negatively to this question. It is their considered judgment that other factors including technological advancement and high rates of incarceration are major contributors to the lagging prospects of African American workers.
• Issue 18. Should Race Be Included Among the Many Factors Considered for Admission to Selective Colleges?
YES: William G. Bowen and Neil L. Rudenstine, from “Race-Sensitive Admissions: Back to Basics,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 7, 2003)
NO: Roger Clegg, from “Time Has Not Favored Racial Preferences,” The Chronicle of Higher Education ( January 14, 2005)
William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton University, and Neil L. Rudenstine, former president of Harvard University, make the case for race-sensitive admissions in higher education. With a focus on selective colleges, they cite empirical data that demonstrate the success of beneficiaries of race-sensitive admission policies. In their opinion, both public and private selective colleges should continue such policies. Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Sterling, Virginia, and contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, argues that universities should put racial groupings aside and give “individualized consideration” to all applicants. His center serves as a place where students can file complaints about illegal racially approved programs.
• Issue 19. Is Affirmative Action Necessary to Achieve Racial Equality in the United States Today?
YES: Robert Staples, from “Black Deprivation-White Privilege: The Assault on Affirmative Action,” The Black Scholar (Summer 1995)
NO: Roger Clegg, from “Faculty Hiring Preferences and the Law,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 19, 2006)
Robert Staples, an African American sociologist, views affirmative action as a positive policy designed to provide equal economic opportunities for women and other minorities. Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Sterling, Virginia and contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education, argues against affirmative action, citing the 2003 Supreme Court decision. He makes the case for universities to hire the best-qualified faculty.
• Issue 20. Is Now the Time for Reparations for African Americans?
YES: Robert L. Allen, from “Past Due: The African American Quest for Reparations,” The Black Scholar (Summer 1998)
NO: The Economist, from “Slavery and the Law: Time and Punishment,” The Economist (April 14, 2002)
Robert L. Allen, professor and senior editor of The Black Scholar, argues that reparations for African Americans are necessary to achieve an economically just society within the United States. Staff writers from The Economist oppose reparations and question whether such a policy is appropriate in a nation where the victims of slavery are difficult to identify and the perpetrators of past racial oppressions are no longer among us.