Office Hrs: Mondays, 2-3; Thursdays, 11-12; & By appt

НазваOffice Hrs: Mondays, 2-3; Thursdays, 11-12; & By appt
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Blacks in Contemporary American Society

Sociology 217

Spring 2012

Tues. & Thurs. 2:30 – 3:50

Kauke 136

Instructor: Raymond Gunn

Office: Kauke 024

Phone: x2524


Office Hrs: Mondays, 2-3; Thursdays, 11-12; & By appt.

Course Description:

This course is designed to be an introduction to the sociological study of people who identify as Black in the present-day United States. As an introductory course, it is not possible for the course material to cover every aspect of Black life – such an endeavor falls well beyond the purview of this course. Nevertheless, this course will provide you with a solid foundation to pursue any sociological question you might have about contemporary Black experiences. While the course emphasizes contemporary Black life in the US, we will always do so with an eye on the linkages between the past and the present. That is, we will always ask the question: What are the historical roots of this present-day phenomenon? We will explore the complex world of Black America through a series of themes. The themes all overlap with one another, and as such you will be expected to reflect the overlapping themes in your analyses as the class progresses. The course material will be presented to you through discussion, readings, and films.

Required Reading: All books are in the campus bookstore

Anderson, E. (2011). The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life

Touré (2011). Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now

Wise, T. (2010). Color-blind: The Rise of Post-racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity

Course Requirements:

  1. There are three take-home exams.

  2. You will be responsible for leading discussion in small groups on one of the three required books for the course.

  3. There will be an optional final paper.

  4. Attendance Policy: You are expected to attend each class session and actively participate in class discussions. You will be allowed up to 3 absences for the semester with no questions asked. After 3 absences, each absence will subtract one grade-notch from your overall average for the course. For example, if you are maintaining a B average, your 4th absence will lower it to a B- average. There will be no exceptions to this policy.

  5. I will expect for you to share your thoughts about the readings, class discussions, and pertinent social observations with me and your classmates.

  6. You will be responsible for staying current on all reading assignments. The discussions are the heart of the course, and as such, I will expect you to take them seriously. I will consider it an egregious offense if you attend class unprepared to discuss the assigned material. I will often randomly select a student to start off the discussion for an assigned reading. You are free to talk about anything in the reading that resonates with you as long as your comments/questions are germane to the sociological enterprise. When possible, you should make attempts to draw connections to topics we have discussed in class previously. This will be good practice for the exams required in the course. I strongly suggest you keep a journal of your responses to the reading, including key points, questions you have generated by the readings, and connections you make between the concepts in the readings and your personal observations and/or current events. Nota Bene: The readings are meant to help you make informed contributions to the class discussions. They are not intended to be discussed point by point. However, if there is something in the reading that you would like the class to devote attention to, then it will be your responsibility to point our attention in that direction.

  7. The final paper will be optional for those of you who would like an opportunity to raise your overall class average. Your grade on this assignment will replace the lower of the three exams, only if the replacement grade will improve your average. If the final paper grade does not improve your average, then it will be disregarded. I will have a discussion of this assignment when we are close to it in the semester.

Final Grade:

Participation (attendance, preparedness, contributions to discussions) 20 pts

Take-home Exam One 20 pts

Take-home Exam Two 20 pts

Take-home Exam Three 20 pts

Group Activity 20 pts

Final Paper (Optional) (20 pts)

Course Grade 100 pts

Points Grade

94 – 100 A

90 – 93 A-

87 – 89 B+

84 – 86 B

80 – 83 B-

77 – 79 C+

74 – 76 C

70 – 73 C-

60 – 69 D

<60 F

Good Citizenship:

You are expected to attend each class session and actively participate in class discussions. I will expect for you to share your thoughts with me and with your classmates. I am especially interested in questions and observations you have that may have been generated from the readings, points raised in class discussion, and/or your own personal experiences.

Robust discussions are strongly encouraged, which means that it is perfectly fine that we not agree with one another on every point. It does NOT mean, however, that respectfulness should ever fall by the wayside. We will, therefore, always listen attentively to one another without interruption and address one another with comments that acknowledge the dignity of others.

Academic Integrity:

What you get out of this course will rely heavily on what you put into it. My expectation is that you will all do your best to be good citizens of the course. That is, I expect that you will engage the course material seriously, be respectful, and present your own work. This course will be run by an honor system, by which I trust you will abide. However, if I am given cause to believe that you have presented me with work that in good faith cannot be called your own, I will adhere strictly to the procedures listed under the “Code of Academic Integrity” ( as specified on The College of Wooster’s website. If you are unclear about how to cite sources properly, you should make an appointment to meet with me, Alex or someone in the Writing Center on campus.

The Learning Center:

Any student who has a documented learning difference and needs special accommodations is requested to speak with Pam Rose, Director of the Learning Center (ext. 2595), and me, as early in the semester as possible. All discussions will remain confidential.

Course Schedule and Assignments:

Week One: Understanding Race in Contemporary American Society

Tuesday, Jan. 17

Introduction to the course

Thursday, Jan. 19

Film: “The O.J. Simpson Verdict”

Week Two: Understanding Race in Contemporary American Society

Tuesday, Jan. 24

Blumer H. (1958/2007). Race prejudice as a sense of group position.

Haney Lopez, I. F. (2000). The social construction of race.

Cole, Y. (2010). Who is an African American? In J. A. Kromkowski (Ed.), Race and ethnic relations, 17th Ed.

Thursday, Jan. 26

Perea, J. F. (2000). The Black/White binary paradigm of race.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2001). Color-blind racism and Blacks.

Week Three: Post-Civil Rights Black Leadership

Tuesday, Jan. 31

Film: “Street Fight”

Thursday, Feb. 2

Obama, B. Philadelphia Speech on Race.

Marable, M., & Mullings, L. (1994). The divided mind of Black America: Race, ideology and politics in the post-Civil Rights era.

West, C. (1993). The crisis of Black leadership.

Week Four: The Structural Implications of Being Black in America

Tuesday, Feb. 7

Massey, D. S. (2001/2009). Residential segregation and neighborhood conditions in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Thursday, Feb. 9

Lipsitz, G. (1998/2008). The possessive investment in Whiteness.

Oliver, M. L., & Shapiro, T. M. (2006). A sociology of wealth and racial inequality

Week Five: Constructing a Multi-dimensional Analysis of Black Life

Tuesday, Feb. 14


Anderson, E. (1999/2009). Code of the streets.

Duck, W. (2008). Young, Black, and Male: The Life History of an American Drug Dealer Facing Death Row.

Rios, V. M. (2011). The Labeling Hype: Coming of Age in the Era of Mass Incarceration.

Thursday, Feb. 16

Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow.

Wacquant, L. (2001). Deadly symbiosis: When ghetto and prison meet and mesh.

Week Six: The Black Elite and Social Mobility

Tuesday, Feb. 21

Gates, H. L. (1998). The Two Nations of Black America.

Pattillo, M. (2005). Black middle-class neighborhoods.

Thursday, Feb. 23

Graham, L. O. (1999). Jack and Jill: Where elite Black kids are separated from the rest.

Anderson, E. (2004). The Social Situation of the Black Executive: Black and White Identities in the Corporate World.

Week Seven: Issues on Education and Black Immigrants

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Beasley, M. A. (2011). Family Effects: Is It Really Just a Matter of Money?

Beasley, M. A. (2011). The Role of the University.

Thursday, Mar. 1

Ogbu, J. U. (1990). Minority status and literacy in comparative perspective.

Week Eight: Midterm Exam Two

Tuesday, Mar. 6

Review for Exam Two

Thursday, Mar. 8

Film: “Precious”

Week Nine: Spring Break

Tuesday, Mar. 13


Thursday, Mar. 15


Week Ten: Spring Break

Tuesday, Mar. 20


Thursday, Mar. 22


Week Eleven: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Class

Tuesday, Mar. 27


Film: “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”

Thursday, Mar. 29

Hill Collins, P. (2000). It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation

Week Twelve: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Class; Group Conferences

Tuesday, Apr. 3

Harris-Perry, M. V. (2011). Myth. In Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Thursday, Apr. 5


Week Thirteen: Group Activity

Tuesday, Apr. 10


Thursday, Apr. 12



Week Fourteen: Group Activity

Tuesday, Apr. 17



Thursday, Apr. 19

Debriefing of the Group Activity



Week Fifteen: Midterm Exam Three

Tuesday, Apr. 24

Review for Exam Three

Thursday, Apr. 26



Week Sixteen: Individual Conferences

Tuesday, May 1


Thursday, May 3


Week Seventeen: Finals Week

Tuesday, May 8


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