21st-Century African-American Perspectives on Race


Through close reading and discussion of a number of modern classics this course will seek to better understand two lines of African-American thinking about racism today. The more mainstream, “liberal” school of thought contends that America has always been — and is still today — a fundamentally racist nation. The less known, “conservative” school of thought contends not only that America has made great racial progress, but that the greatest obstacle to further progress is the “liberal” narrative itself. Readings includes works by Derrick Bell, Shelby Steele, Ta-Nehisi Coates, John McWhorter, Ibram Kendi, and Glenn Loury. Prior to the first class, please do the readings indicated on the syllabus and watch the 2020 documentary What Killed Michael Brown? … with as much “critical empathy” for each work as possible.

  • Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
  • Coates, Between the World and Me
  • Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • Loury, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality
  • Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals
  • Steele, “The Loneliness of the Black Conservative”
  • Steele, The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America
  • Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era
  • McWhorter, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
  • What Killed Michael Brown? (Steele, 2020, 109 min, English)