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796.20 - Advanced Civil Rights
Professor: john a. powell
Semester: 2010 Autumn
Second Writing Requirement? Yes
Professional Responsibility? No
In the United States, race is the major mode of social differentiation in society, cutting across class, gender, age, religious, cultural, and other differences. It is a socio-cultural construct rather than a biological one, a cosmological ordering system structured out of political, economic, and social systems. As such, issues of racialization have been central in the development of citizenship and civil rights in the United States
From this country’s inception to the present, the definition of citizenship and the content of that status has had explicit and implicit racial contours and connotations. These racial frameworks informed the reconstitution of citizenship through the civil war amendments, Reconstruction, redemption, Jim Crow, the New Deal and beyond. Throughout the development of these racially constructed frameworks of citizenship, the Supreme Court and the law have had an important role in structuring of rights of citizenship and the institutions in the country. Chief among the Court’s influence has been in interpreting the Civil War Amendments. In cases such as Slaughterhouse and Plessy, much of the reach of the Civil War Amendments was limited and its purposes misdirected. As noted by Justice Hugo Black, the Fourteenth Amendment was used more to protect corporations than Black Americans.
More recently the Courts and the country have struggled over the meaning of Brown and continued the debate about the meaning of the Civil War Amendments. Today, in a context of radically expansive multi-national corporate entities, shifting demographics and a growing wealth divide, the Court has produced a new formalism on issues of anti-subordination that rejects racial classification strategies intended to remedy group-based harms. The emerging struggle of civil rights will likely be fought along this axis and will take place in an increasingly diverse country not defined by a racial binaries, where racialized harms are not contained to specific racial groups.
At the same time, and critical to Supreme Court jurisprudence as featured in the Seattle/Louisville cases as well as Brown are important developments in the social and “hard” sciences that offer new insights into the role of institutional arrangements and motivation. An important body of research from neuro-psychology and cognitive social psychology calls into question traditional notions of “intentional” discrimination. This research coupled with growing complexities of institutional interactions and arrangements provide a new model and framework for understanding the production of racial inequality in the 21st Century. These issue will become increasingly important as the debate about post racialism and new forms are racialism is contested.
This course will survey this evolving case history with a focus on the emerging debate or the new formalism focused on anti-classification and an alternative approach that focuses on that structural racialization and implicit bias. It will also look at the assumption of knowledge and causation drawing on system thinking and contrasting it with a more conventional approach.
The course materials listed above are for informational purposes only and should not be considered final. Students must check with the Registrar for a current list of closed courses.