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Course Catalog

Conversations on Race  

This course is an opportunity for thoughtful discussion about race in America. As a white instructor, I want to help us converse about a difficult topic in a lifelong process of overcoming our country’s racist heritage. The context for our discussions will be White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, a recommended, not required, reading. Topics will include the biology and psychology of racism; white fragility; being black in America and post-traumatic slave syndrome; the New Jim Crow era; the history of US race relations; and the history of one black family presented dramatically. This is a chance to learn, not a course on politics. Classes will depend on student participation, responding to videos, lectures, and possibly poems. Students are encouraged, but not required, to read DiAngelo’s book. Other books are also recommended. Week 1: The Psychology and biology of the concept of race. Genetic variation; athletic ability and racial differences; naturalizing social differences; racial classifications as cultural; the psychology and construction of race as learned behavior; recent Cal Academy exhibit on Skin, if time. (See info about the exhibit Skin, below.) Week 2: Transcending our white fragility. The false binary; prejudice vs. discrimination vs. bias; color-blindness; deconstructing racism. Recommended background reading: Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. Week 3: Being black in America. Intergenerational black trauma; black narrative about a road trip through America’s whitest towns; poetry. Recommended background reading: Ta Nehisi Coates’s “Letter to My Son” Week 4: The New Jim Crow Era. Discussion of 13th, a Netflix documentary. Week 5: Dramatic performance by Robert Thomas Simpson of Courage under Fire, the story of Elroy Simpson; discussion of how to become antiracist. Week 6: The New Jim Crow Era. Timeline on US racial injustice; discussion of mass incarceration as continuation of Jim Crow. Recommended background reading: Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The exhibit, Skin: Living Armor, Evolving Identity at the Cal Academy of Sciences will be open daily through January 20, 2020. Free days are based on your neighborhood's zip code: There are also many other free and reduced-admission programs at the Cal Academy for those who might not otherwise be able to visit the museum: Seniors (65+ with ID) always get reduced admission:


This class is not available at this time.