Friday, June 7, 2013

Teaching Race and the Last 20 Years of U.S. History

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, many journalists and commentators declared that the U.S. was now in a post-racial era. This sentiment was echoed by many White students in one of my recent studies that examined students' conceptions of Whiteness in the history classroom. However, racism still persists and can be seen in the educational opportunity gap, the differences in unemployment between racial groups, and the under-representation of people of color in government. Almost 50 years after Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," the United States is far from equal. It is crucial that social studies teachers continue to help students understand and challenge the social and political inequalities that exist in our country. As the end the school year approaches, many teachers are preparing their units on the past 20 years. Any modern U.S. history unit would not be complete without an examination of the intersection of race and history. The following three events could comprise the core of that unit.

Overarching question: Some in the media have suggested that the United States is now post-racial, meaning devoid of racial preference and discrimination. After learning about the following three events, do you agree that recent U.S. history was devoid of racial preference and discrimination?

The Rodney King Beating and the Los Angeles Riots:

Hurricane Katrina:
Katrina's Hidden Race War

NAFTA, Migrant Farm Workers, and Immigration Reform:

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