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Instructor: Megan Mitchell. This course meets Monday – Friday from 1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. in Caldwell 213.

“That’s racist!” Most of us have probably uttered this phrase or a variation on it at some point in our lives. But what exactly does it mean for something (or someone) to be racist? Though many agree that African Americans are subject to racism, there is widespread disagreement over both the extent and nature of that problem. Is U.S. anti-black racism largely a matter of individuals’ attitudes and behaviors? Or is it primarily institutions that perpetuate this system of domination even as personal attitudes shift towards egalitarianism?

This debate gives way to a further disagreement over exactly what should be done about anti-black racism. Proffered solutions stretch back to slavery, advocating everything from assimilation to violent insurrection to separatism. Many of these proposals embrace some form of race-based solidarity. However, critics have wondered if a demand for race-based solidarity can be reconciled with the ideals of a liberal society. After all, races are not biological groups. “Blackness,” as we commonly understand the term, is by many accounts the product of a history of racism. Can a label foisted upon a group of people and used to justify their oppression become the basis for assigning special duties to those same people? If so, how? And what sorts of duties can one’s race appropriately ground?

This course will delve into these two debates examining on the one hand, differing accounts of racism and on the other, various solutions to the problem of anti-Black racism. We will draw from classic and modern texts, tracing these disagreements through slavery and abolitionism, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights up to today. We will read texts by W.E.B DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, MLK, Jr., Malcolm X, Anthony Appiah, Lucius Outlaw, Jorge Garcia, Tommie Shelby, and others.

Megan Mitchell’s webpage