January 1, 2018.
The concept of race has informed almost every institution and social structure in US society since the early days of nation formation. Today, despite widespread claims that the United States has become post-racial, race still retains a unique power to influence most, if not all, contemporary institutions. Although race is a socially constructed concept, it nevertheless produces significant and long-lasting material effects in many institutional contexts. These effects can manifest in the form of racism, the systemic and institutional practices that put specific racial groups at a disadvantage (in the United States, these racial groups are defined as “not White”). For example, race plays a role in determining one’s residential neighborhood and housing conditions, level of access to quality health care and education, income level, job opportunities, treatment in the political and legal systems, and freedom to move in certain spaces without being subjected to surveillance or policing. Race also structures many institutions of higher education in the United States, like Cal Poly, which tend to teach curriculum centered on White perspectives and cultures, employ predominantly White faculty and staff, and enroll and graduate a majority of White students.
This resource module will introduce Cal Poly faculty and students to the interconnected concepts of race and racism and help them see that race plays an influential role in all institutions in US society, including academia and the university setting. This module is divided into two sections.The first section addresses the concept of race and covers the following topics:
• The development of race as a concept in US society.
• How and why race is a biological fiction.
• How and why race is a social construct.
• How race is distinct from ethnicity, nationality, and culture.
• Examples of how race produces material consequences in the lived experiences of individuals.
The second section addresses the concept of racism and covers the following topics:
• The definition of racism.
• How racism is distinct from stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination.
• How reverse racism has been defined and why it is a problematic concept.
• Examples of how racism manifests in different sectors of society.
Ultimately, this resource module is designed to empower faculty members from all academic disciplines to feel comfortable talking about race and racism with their students. The goal is to provide faculty members with the skills to facilitate informed and candid conversations about race and racism, so that our campus community can grow more culturally inclusive. This objective is rooted in the belief that members of the Cal Poly community will be better positioned to work actively to challenge racism if they are equipped to recognize it.