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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


Page address: Syllabi/PS426SYL.html

Political Science 426/526
Ethnic Studies 486/586
Racial and Ethnic Politics
Spring 2006
TTh 11:00-12:15
AH 215

Dr. Fred Slocum
Office: 204A Morris Hall
Phone: 389-6935
Web site:
Office Hours: M, W, F 1:00-3:00; T, Th 9:30-11:00, or by appointment


This course examines race and ethnicity in the United States, and their influence on American politics.  Our attention will focus on African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Latino Americans, American Indians and Arab/Middle Eastern Americans.  We will consider in some detail white beliefs about and racial attitudes toward African Americans, and their substantial impact on politics and policymaking.  We also will look into the experiences, political attitudes and behavior of Hispanics, Asian Americans, Arab/Middle Eastern Americans and American Indians, and to some extent other racial/ethnic groups selected by members of the class.  From the lectures, class discussions, student presentations, multimedia materials and readings in this course, several themes should emerge.  First, the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities, particularly slavery, segregation, immigration restrictions and racial profiling, continue to affect their political attitudes and behavior.  The vestiges of discrimination have also sparked interest groups and other social movements directed toward addressing minority concerns and issues.  Second, numerous issues in U.S. politics have taken on a racial cast; attitudes toward minorities strongly influence policy attitudes on certain issues, including national security policies, crime policy, welfare, affirmative action, school busing, immigration and language policies, and even tax and transportation policies.  Third, differences in history and shared experience between white and minority Americans have sparked controversial efforts to guarantee the latter greater representation in the ranks of government officials.

We will encounter many ideas this semester, some of them quite controversial.  Political scientists, politicians and political observers argue vociferously over these ideas, and you should, too.  The assigned readings include several articles authored or co-authored by the instructor.  I expect and encourage frequent participation from members of the class.  You should come to class prepared to offer opinions, observations and questions, and to use recent events to shed light on concepts learned in this class.  Although I have definite political preferences, I strongly hope that students of all political persuasions will feel equally free to express their opinions during class discussions.  No student's grade will be affected by any political or partisan agreement or disagreement with the professor!

Course Objectives:

To the extent they do well in this course, students will gain knowledge and understanding of the following:

  • How American society has treated minority groups historically, and why it matters for politics today
  • The history, accomplishments and challenges of the civil rights movement
  • The nature and effects of interest groups and social movements working on behalf of American racial and ethnic minorities
  • The various racial and ethnic groups in America, their geographic distribution and why it matters
  • Patterns of political attitudes and participation among white and minority group Americans, and why these differences matter
  • Explanations for white public opinion on racial issues
  • Minority representation among government officials; how and why it matters; theories of representation
  • Politics and issues specific to African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, Latinos and Arab/Middle Eastern Americans
  • Profiling and other racial issues after September 11 and during the 'war on terrorism' since
  • Racial issues in politics in the future

An additional objective of this course is to sharpen skills that will benefit you in gaining employment or admission to graduate or professional school.  These skills include especially those of communication (oral and written) and critical thinking that are valued increasingly in the global economy.  We will spend substantial class time discussing topics related to the readings and/or current events, as appropriate.  Students also will be asked to complete a book review/presentation and a short paper/presentation on another racial/ethnic group not covered in class.  For graduate students, an annotated bibliography will also be required.  Details on all paper assignments will be handed out separately.

Assignments and Grading:

There will be a midterm exam (March 9) and a non-cumulative final exam (May 10).  Each will consist of essays and identification items.  About a week before each exam, I will pass out a study guide to help you prepare.

For all students, the book review assignment (to be handed out separately) will be due in class Thursday, March 2, and presentations will be March 2 and 7.  This will be a critical review (5-6 typed, double-spaced pages) of a book on race and politics outside the two assigned textbooks.  The book selected must be relevant to this class, and must be cleared with the instructor.  Book choices must be submitted to me in writing no later than Thursday, February 2, and cannot be changed after that date without penalty.  No book can be reviewed by more than one student.

The second paper is a brief (4-5 pp.) research report on racial politics specific to a racial/ethnic minority group not covered specifically in this class.  Your group may be a subset of a group covered in class - for example, the Navajo tribe in the Southwestern U.S., an acceptable choice, is an American Indian group, but the tribe faces its own set of social and political circumstances that may distinguish it from other tribes, and from American Indians as a whole.  Similarly, the Hmong community in the Twin Cities area, another acceptable choice, can be seen as an Asian American subgroup, but again, it is more localized and faces social and political challenges that may not generalize to other Asian American groups.  Other examples of acceptable groups include: Alaskan Natives (Eskimos), Puerto Ricans in the New York City area, Somali immigrants, Cuban Americans in South Florida, Lumbee Indians in North Carolina and so on.  The group report will discuss racial politics within your group, highlighting areas of agreement and disagreement, and between your group and other groups, which may include a white majority/plurality or one more other minority groups in the state.  Choose your group (and get your choice to me in writing) soon!  Only one student can report on any group.  Further details will be passed out separately.  Group reports will be due Tuesday, May 2, and presentations will be May 2 and 4.

For graduate students, there is also an annotated bibliography of articles from scholarly journals (totaling 250 pages or more) on a topic relevant to race/ethnicity and politics.  The topic must be cleared with the instructor.  The topic of your bibliography must be submitted to me in writing no later than Thursday, February 23, and cannot be changed after that date without penalty.  The bibliography itself is due Tuesday, April 18.

Course grades will be determined as follows:

Undergraduate students:

  • Midterm exam: 25%
  • Racial/ethnic group report: 20%
  • Book review: 20%
  • Attendance and participation: 10%
  • Final exam: 25%

Graduate students:

  • Midterm exam: 20%
  • Racial/ethnic group report: 15%
  • Book review: 15%
  • Bibliography: 20%
  • Attendance and participation: 10%
  • Final exam: 20%

Grades will not be curved, meaning that you will not be competing against your classmates for a limited number of A's, B's and so on.  The grading scale is a straight scale, as follows:

  • A: 90%-100%
  • B: 80%-89.9%
  • C: 70%-79.9%
  • D: 60%-69.9%
  • F: 59.9% or less

Students whose point totals place them very near the cut point for the next higher letter grade will be evaluated on an individual basis for promotion to the higher grade.  In this evaluation, I will consider actors such as class participation, attitude and improvement over the term.

Students with Disabilities:

I would like to hear (early in the semester is much preferred) from students with a documented learning or other disability that might require some modification of seating, testing, or other class arrangements.  I will make every effort to accommodate students with these needs.  If you have any questions, please see me or contact Julie Snow in the Disability Services Office (132 Memorial Library, 389-1819).

Policy on Attendance:

I will note attendance frequently if not daily.  All students should plan to attend class regularly and contribute to class discussions.  Students are responsible for obtaining notes for any missed session.  Excused absences may be considered on a case-by-case basis for valid reasons (such as for certain medical reasons), or for significant opportunities, such as attending a professional conference.  Whenever possible, please notify me in advance of an absence, giving a valid reason.

Policy on Make-Up Examinations and Incomplete Grades:

Examinations cannot be made up unless the student provides acceptable, documented reason for missing the exam.  Makeup exam requests have merit to the extent that (1) the circumstance is unavoidable, (2) the reason for missing the exam can be documented, and (3) the instructor is notified well in advance of the exam.  Makeup exams will not necessarily be identical to, and may be more difficult than, the exam given in class.  Early exams will not be given.

The MSU Undergraduate Bulletin outlines University policy on incomplete grades as follows.  "The grade of 'incomplete' is reserved for special cases and means that, because of extenuating circumstances, the student failed to meet a specific need and an important requirement of the course, but has in other respects done passing work for the semester.  The incomplete must be made up in the next semester in which the student has enrolled, unless other arrangements have been made between the student and instructor.  If the deficiency is not made up within the specified time, the grade automatically becomes an F or NC" (p. 31).  I will support and enforce this policy fully.

Policy on Late Assignments:

Barring extenuating circumstances (which I must be notified of and approve in advance), late papers will be downgraded one full letter grade (10 points) for each calendar day late (20 points over a weekend), and no papers will be accepted more than three days late, unless other arrangements are made with the instructor.  These must be for valid reasons, similar to, but more compelling than, those justifying a makeup exam.  Computer-related problems (i.e. printer malfunctions, hard drive or disk crashes) are not an acceptable reason for late papers or extensions.

Academic Dishonesty:

A number of activities may be construed as academic dishonesty (cheating).  These include, but are not limited to: copying material from another source (book, manuscript or another student) without proper acknowledgment, using crib sheets during an exam, talking during an exam, or looking at another student's exam.  Any cheating will result in an automatic F in the course and possible further disciplinary action.  In papers, if you either quote a source or paraphrase (express an idea drawn from another source in your own words), you must acknowledge your use of that source in an approved citation form (i.e. APA, MLA, Chicago citation style).  Come see me if you have any questions.


There are two required texts for this class.  Although we will not read all of each book, we will read substantial portions of each.

  • McClain, Paula, and Joseph Stewart, Jr., Can We All Get Along?  Racial and Ethnic Minorities in American Politics, 4th edition.  Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2006.
  • [No author] Issues in Race, Ethnicity and Gender: Selections from the CQ Researcher, 2nd edition.  Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2005.

There will be some additional assigned readings, including several works of the instructor's own research.  These assignments will be passed out in class.

Course Calendar and Assignments:

I will make reasonable efforts to follow the schedule of topics below.  However, as time and circumstances dictate, the dates may change somewhat.  Thus, the dates given below should be considered approximate.  I will announce any changes to the schedule below in class.  Abbreviations used below are: M&S (McClain and Stewart) and IR (Issues in Race, Ethnicity and Gender).

Part I: Minority Experiences in America.

Week 1 - January 17-19: Introductions; pre-civil rights minority experiences.  Video: The Shadow of Hate.  M&S, Ch. 1.

Week 2 - January 24-26: Federalism; the civil rights era; race and politics in the South today.  Video: Mississippi (from the series Eyes on the Prize).  M&S, 151-153 (section titled "Federalism"); Slocum, "The 'New South' Thesis Revisited: The Continuing Importance of Race in Southern Politics" (class handout).

Part II: Racial and Ethnic Minorities, the Political Context and Representation in Government.

Week 3 - January 31-February 2: Geography; social and economic conditions; are reparations for slavery and other racial injustices a good idea?  M&S, 31-46; IR, Ch. 2.

(Thursday, February 2: Book selections due)

Week 4 - February 7-9: Political preferences and voting in recent elections.  M&S, 75-118; Slocum,  "Divided We Vote: Understanding Racial Differences in Turnout and Voting."

Week 5 - February 14-16: Substantive vs. descriptive representation; majority-minority congressional districts; disputes over race and redistricting.  M&S, 129-157; IR, Ch. 3.

Part III: Race, Ethnicity, Income and Place.

Week 6 - February 21-23: Environmental justice issues.  Video: Toxic Racism.  IR, Ch. 5.

(Thursday, February 23: Graduate students - bibliography topics due)

Week 7 - February 28-March 2: Income disparities.  Student presentations (book reviews).  IR, Ch. 6.

(Thursday, March 2: Book reviews due)

Week 8 - March 7: Student presentations (book reviews).

(Thursday, March 9: Midterm exam)

(Tuesday and Thursday, March 14 and 16: Spring vacation - NO CLASS)

Part IV. Racial and Ethnic Politics for Specific Groups.

Week 9 - March 21-23: African American politics and issues, part I: affirmative action and desegregation.  IR, Chs. 1 and 8; M&S, 158-174.

Week 10 - March 28-30: African American politics and issues, part II: the criminal justice system, racial profiling and racial bias in criminal trials.  Probable class handouts; IR, Ch. 4.

Week 11 - April 4-6: Latino politics and issues: immigration; 'official English', bilingual education.  IR, Chs. 9 and 11; Slocum, "Immigration and Voting" (class handout).

Week 12 - April 11-13: Asian/Pacific American politics and issues.  IR, Ch. 10; class handouts.

Week 13 - April 18-20: American Indian politics and issues.  Video: Civilization.  IR, Ch. 12.

(Tuesday, April 18: Graduate students - Bibliographies due)

Week 14 - April 25-27: Arab/Middle Eastern American politics and issues: border security issues; hate crimes and profiling.  IR, Ch. 13; class handouts.

Week 15 - May 2-4: Student presentations (group reports).  Racism and U.S. politics.  Slocum and Lee, "Racism, Racial Stereotypes and American Politics" (class handout).

(Tuesday, May 2: Group reports due)

(Wednesday, May 10, 10:15 AM: Final exam)