June 1, 2021

In light of the recent protests and statements in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist organizing efforts, the College of Liberal Arts is highlighting how its courses incorporate issues related to Black Lives Matter. We will highlight one course each month.  You can view all of our courses here:

See the description below detailing how CLA faculty advance the anti-racist messaging of Black Lives Matter through assignments, readings, and pedagogical practices that affirm the lives, history, and culture of Black people across the globe. Descriptions fall into one of three categories—Long-Standing Practices, Recent Changes, and Future Plans—designed to demonstrate the ongoing nature of anti-racist efforts:

Instructor: Dr. Kerry Woodward
Course: SOC 460: Poverty and Public Policy

 SOC 460: Poverty and Public Policy aims to show how white supremacist policies created the disproportionate poverty faced by Black communities and how racist discourses—and the policies that followed—further entrenched this poverty by promoting policing rather than investment in Black communities. Course readings show that anti-Black racism has been a primary historical and contemporary factor in reproducing economic inequality in the U.S., and in explaining our nation’s high rates of poverty and low levels of redistribution.

Students read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein, to gain an understanding of the government’s role in the creation of poor Black neighborhoods, and wealthy white suburbs. Next semester, I plan to include parts of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s 2019 book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, which explores the linkages between government policy and predatory real-estate practices.

Later in the course, we read Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race, by Joe Soss, Richard Fording, and Sanford Schram, to explore the way racism has been a constitutive factor in shaping the anti-welfare, pro-policing policies of the past half century. As part of this unit, we also read a report from The Sentencing Project: Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System.

Throughout the semester, we read a wide variety of materials (including many policy reports) from a range of disciplines. Included in the required readings are works by many scholars of color, especially Black women, including: legal scholar Dorothy Roberts; historian Elizabeth Hinton; sociologist Alexes Harris; and welfare rights activist, Johnnie Tillmon. The course concludes with students finishing their final papers, where they research a social problem related to poverty and then analyze possible policy solutions. Issues related to racial justice—including everything from mass incarceration to immigrant rights to environmental injustice to the eviction crisis—are frequent topics.