Race remains, after hundreds of years of struggle for equality, a source of differential life

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1 IDIM: Race, Identity, and Social Change in the United States Race remains, after hundreds of years of struggle for equality, a source of differential life opportunities and experiences in the United States. Systems of oppression and privilege develop parallel to one another, and prove a stubborn example of our failure to live up to our ideologies of egalitarianism and freedom. An explosive issue, race produces passionate opinions and can divide groups against each other. At the same time, race can be a source of pride and self-identity. Differential treatment breeds divergent experiences. Experiences of race, though arbitrary and socially constructed, become the basis for cultural identities that hold great meaning. In this way, race often becomes a lens through which people negotiate their self-identities. Thus, my definition of race recognizes that race is socially constructed, and this construction confers or withholds privilege on different groups. There is nothing biological or natural about race. However, the different experiences that result from these social categories give meaning to the word race, meanings that are both negative and positive. Accordingly, I strive to discuss race in a manner that acknowledges its constructed nature as well as respecting its tangible realities. This definition informs the way I envision future movements for racial justice. I want to see systems that privilege some and oppress others removed. But I do not hold illusions of a color-blind society; instead I hope for one that understands and values the unique histories and experiences of different groups without allowing these differences to dictate differential treatments. To me, this is the way we can best address our ugly racial legacy. My proposed IDIM major, Race, Identity, and Social Change in the United States, seeks to explore and expand these ideas. It will examine race from three perspectives: from a systemic view (Systems of Race, Class, and Gender), through a cultural lens (Racial and Cultural Identity), and

2 through the study of the struggle for societal change (Social Movements and Societal Change). By taking this multi-faceted approach, I strive to gain a deep understanding of the way race functions in the U.S. and use this understanding to work for change. The first concentration, Systems of Race, Class, and Gender, explores the way race functions on a societal level. Our society assigns meaning to different racial identities; these classifications help determine the life opportunities of people within these groups, opportunities which vary hugely. Understanding these processes allows us to begin dealing with racial injustice. It is also important to keep in mind that race never functions alone, but at a crossroads of many different forces such as class, gender, ethnicity, and geographic location. Thus, I include courses that explore the way race interacts with these other systems. SOC 3211W: American Race Relations gave me my first chance to think about race in a systemic way. It supplemented this larger societal viewpoint, however, with narratives of individual experiences of race. In this way, I saw how examining both levels were vital to understanding the role of race in the United States. SOC 3251W: Race, Class, and Gender expanded my framework beyond race, and forced me to think about the ways that it intersects with other social systems that affect people s lives. Though I mainly focus on the racial dynamics of the United States, it will benefit me to maintain a broader international viewpoint. POL 3739: The Politics of Race, Class, and Ethnicity compared our history to that of South Africa and Cuba. This global perspective illuminated not only the racial legacies of those countries, but delivered new perspectives on ours. I found that, far from being separate histories, the three were deeply intertwined. This helped me see that to understand my own country, I must look both within and outside of it. ANTH 4071: Race and Culture takes a more abstract approach to the study of race, examining different theories about the origins and mechanisms of racism in a society. This allows me to sharpen my theoretical understanding of systems of race, an important complement to my

3 anecdotal experiences of it. Finally, AAS 4231: The Color of Public Policy explores the manifestations of race in politics. Historically, the government has helped define race and institutionalize racism. For example, one-drop laws classified anyone with any amount of African ancestry as Black, and were used to narrowly define the life opportunities of Black Americans. The state of race in the U.S. can t be understood without examining the role the government has played in shaping it. The second concentration, Racial and Cultural Identity, acknowledges that race is socially constructed while emphasizing the role it plays in the way people perceive themselves. How do these classifications, while constructed, become a source of culture and self-identity? In what ways can racial identity be both a source of pain and pride? With this concentration, I want to investigate the ways race shapes peoples awareness of themselves and their realities. Studying race on this individual level keeps in perspective that these systems have very real effects, both immediate and indirect, on peoples lives. The courses I take in this concentration will focus on the way people experience different racial identities. AMST 3001: Contemporary Perspectives on Asian-America will expose the narratives of different Asian-American ethnic groups. The experience of a fourth-generation Japanese-American would likely prove very different from that of a newly arrived Cambodian immigrant. But the U.S. classifies them all as Asian-American. Does this artificial classification assume real significance? This question is important to understanding the individual experiences of Asian Americans, but can also tell us about the larger functions of race in the United States. In AFRO 3112: The Poetry of Rap I was taught to see rap music in the context of the legacy of Black artistic tradition, along with jazz, blues, and rock and roll. I connected this artistic legacy with specific experiences of race, allowing me to see how a forced identity became the source of new cultural traditions. We also spent significant time talking about current race relations; hip-hop, as the major youth culture in the country today, provides an excellent

4 space to discuss not only Black cultural realities but larger racial dynamics as well. My final project in that class investigated white privilege through a lyrical analysis of several white rappers. CHIC 3212: La Chicana forced me to think beyond the black/white binary. It introduced other issues that can influence experiences of race, such as language and immigration. CSCL 3321W: Theories of Culture dissects the concept of culture, evaluating both its place in a society and the way that it is created and perpetuated. This will force me to resist using the word vaguely, and to really ponder the meaning of culture. AFRO 3592W: Black Women Writers in the United States will afford me the chance to reflect on racial and cultural identity through literature, something I found useful in AFRO 3910: Black Intellectual Traditions. AFRO 3910 followed the spectrum of Black scholarship from Post-World War II to the present day. Reading Ralph Ellison s Invisible Man as a scholarly work on race provided one of the most powerful experiences of the course. It opened up the possibility of exploring race through literature and other cultural forms, and encouraged me to look for courses outside the traditional social sciences. Beyond that, the class spent time with a broad range of intellectuals- from hardcore progressives to moderates to conservatives, and I found that I could see truth in all of them. It helped me step outside of my own ideology and adopt less dogmatic stances. Often discussions and scholarship about U.S. race relations neglect an examination of whiteness. I want to avoid this shortcoming by including in the Racial and Cultural Identity concentration several courses that deal specifically with whiteness. I plan to set up a directed study to explore the available scholarship on white privilege. This area of scholarship is relatively new, and it will be exciting to delve into lines of thought that are still taking shape. I also will take ANTH 4980: Whiteness: The Trouble with Trash, which digs into the history of white trash as a social group and explores individual experiences as they relate to larger racial questions in the United States. These classes will be personally beneficial as well, pushing me to reflect on my own racial identity.

5 The third concentration, Social Movements and Societal Change builds on the first two concentrations by adding to them a study of social movements and an exploration of the future direction of American race relations. This concentration feels very personal because I have been involved with several different grassroots efforts that commit themselves to racial justice. It is also important to me because most scholarship on race has much to say about the problems we face but little to say about how we can fix them. I m often left with a feeling of Where do we go from here? I strive to contribute positively to this line of study by honestly examining our shortcomings, celebrating our successes, and thinking about the way we can translate these to affect social change. For this third concentration, I include both historical studies of racial justice struggles as well as general theories of social movements. For a theoretical base, I plan to take SOC 3322W: Social Movements, Protest, and Change. This class will examine the formation and the impact of social movements within a society. AFRO 3866: Civil Rights and Black Power will provide an in-depth history of those movements, but will also shed insight on racial justice movements that have followed them. Both the Civil Rights and Black Power movements exerted a huge amount of influence on later racial justice movements, such as the Chicano and the Yellow Power movements, and continue to do so to this day. I ve seen its influence in my own activist work. I routinely see the rhetoric and methodologies of both the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the organizations with whom I work. In my CHIC 3900: Latina/o Social Movements course, we read narratives of activist work and outside analyses of different social movements. Open-ended discussion after each reading allowed me to put the information into the context of my own activist work and the issues that were important to me. For the final project, I wrote a racial autobiography detailing my own experiences with race. I read it to the class and broke down in tears. It was an immensely powerful experience. I felt the potential that deep personal reflection has to help create change. AMIN 4515: Contemporary American Indian Social Movements explored

6 issues at the heart of different American Indian social movements and their histories. The course also touched on the intersection of African-American and American Indian resistance throughout the history of the United States. Observing the similarities between the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups is an important step towards changing destructive patterns. By drawing these connections, we can see the larger systems that oppress groups of people. We must also examine racial experiences within contexts outside the United States. Accordingly, I will enroll in a program entitled Multiculturalism and Social Change in South Africa. South Africa s history with race and ethnicity parallels ours in many ways, and studying both this history and the battles of South Africans to create change can give me insight into racial dynamics here. I include from the course work of this program the Multiculturalism and Social Change Seminar and the independent study project. Through the seminar I expect to encounter both theory of social movements as well as South African history and current events as they relate to race and social movements. For the independent study project I plan to investigate the participation of white South African youth in racial justice movements. Does the average white youth find it important to examine their privilege? How do white youth see themselves in the context of a changing South Africa? How do those that fight racism through social activism challenge or reinforce systems of privilege? This project gives me the opportunity to explore the concept of white privilege from the perspective of a different society. It should also provide me an important chance for reflection on my own interests in racial issues. My proposed major, Race, Identity, and Social Change allows me the flexibility to explore the multi-faceted nature of race and gain a broad understanding of what it means to our society and in the lives of its people. I also see in it a chance give my studies a real sense of purpose- this major will allow me to think about racial justice and paths we can take towards change. In contemplating our racial future, I seek to produce ways to influence this future. I plan on continuing this line of study in graduate

7 school and would like to become a professor continuing my research and putting my stamp on the discourse on race. I also hope to use the position to open up students to a frank investigation of race, to connect it to issues in their immediate community, and to furnish them with the tools to act on these issues. My students will also challenge me; the on-going dialogue of academia forces ones thoughts to continuously evolve. At the same time, this major requires intense self-reflection. As much as I want to contribute to social change, I am deeply exploring myself. I want to use this major to question and understand my privilege as a middle class white person, in a manner that informs the choices I make and the way I live my life. This, too, is a vital method of creating social change. I have already been pushed to some moments of powerful honesty, and I look forward to continuing this self-exploration.

8 BIS/IDIM Program Course Worksheet Name: ID#: Total # of credits in proposed program (see Page 2 for credit requirements): 58 Total # 3xxx-5xxx level credits in proposed program: 58 Total credits in program left to complete: IDIM Title: Race, Identity, and Social Change in the United States Title: Systems of Race, Class, and Gender Dept. Course Course Title Complete: Not Complete: Code Credits (Grade) Credits (Term) SOC 3211 American Race Relations 3 SOC 3251W Race, Class, and Gender 3 POL 3739 The Politics of Race, Class, and Ethnicity 3 ANTH 4071 Race and Culture 3 AAS 4231 The Color of Public Policy 3 TOTALS: 3/4/5xxx level credits in area: 15 Total credits in area (IDIM only): 15 Title: Racial and Cultural Identity Dept. Course Code Course Title Complete: Credits (Grade) Not Complete: Credits (Term) AMST 3001 Space, Place, and Movement in Asian America 3 AFRO 3112 The Poetry of Rap 3 CHIC 3212 La Chicana 3 AFRO 3592 Intro to Black Women Writers in The United States 3 AFRO 3910 Black Intellectual Traditions 3 ID 3993 Directed Study: Whiteness and White Privilege 3 ANTH 4980 Whiteness: The Trouble with Trash 3 TOTALS: 3/4/5xxx level credits in area: 21 Total credits in area (IDIM only): 21 Title: Social Movements and Societal Change Dept. Course Code Course Title Complete: Credits (Grade) Not Complete: Credits (Term) AFRS 3000 SIT Study Abroad: Multiculturalism and Social Change Sem6 ISPR 3000 SIT Study Abroad: Independent Research Project: 4 Anti-Racist Action and White South African Youth SOC 3322 Social Movements, Protest, and Change 3 AFRO 3866 Civil Rights and Black Power 3 CHIC 3900 Latina/o Social Movements 3 AMIN 4515 Contemporary American Indian Social Movements 3 TOTALS: 3/4/5xxx level credits in area: 22 Total credits in area (IDIM only): 22

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