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paper doll family

Welcome to Modules 4 & 5 on Race, Ethnicity and Immigration. The materials for both modules 4 & 5 will be on this one blog posting, but please be aware that there are two assignments spanning these two modules: The first Blackboard exam is due before October 9th, midnight, and the first discussion board writing assignment for prompt 1 is due by October 16th, midnight. As always, you are encouraged to complete assignments way before the deadline. You are responsible for turning in your assignment on time, regardless of technical difficulties.

Module 4: Race & Ethnicity (Sept 26-Oct 2)
Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109
Assignment: Blackboard exam 1 (Oct 3-9)

Module 5: Immigration (Oct 10-16)
Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109 (cont.)
Video: Documented (2014) (watch entire feature length)
Assignment: Discussion board posting 1: “prompt”

Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration


Transracial family portrait

How does the author, Philip Cohen, define race, while arguing that “biology doesn’t support the classification of people into races” (75)? What is the foundation of our contemporary understandings of race and how does it enact itself in our culture? In the first chapter, the sociological theory called “symbolic interaction” is a good beginning for understanding race. How is this understanding of race established by our historical and institutional processes that define race? What are they? How has the U.S. Census been a party to the construction of racial boundaries (76-7)? How has it changed over time? What are the current racial demographic numbers in the U.S. according to the Census? How does white racial identity relate to our historical and social understanding of race? What does it mean to be white in North America? How are mixed race people classified and understood in this context? (You can optionally address some of these questions in the comments section below in order to practice writing on this topic for our first assignment on the discussion board due October 16th by midnight.)

American Indians


picture of children playing at water spigot 

“By 2010, there were 2.5 million American Indians counted by the census. That number rises to 5.2 million if we include those who self-identify as American Indian as well as another race” (83). Therefore, American Indians make up less than 2 percent of the entire population. “The largest tribes today are the Cherokee, Navajo and Choctaw, who together account for 40 percent of those American Indians who specify a tribal identity” (84). Historically, during the colonial period, as we saw in the history chapter, American Indian culture was disrupted by white Christian institutions, which set out to break indigenous cultural practices and replace them with white structures, and those was most intimately done through boarding schools and placing indigenous children with white foster families. Native American children today are three times more likely to live in foster homes than other racial groups. By 2010, 22 percent of American Indians lives on reservations or tribal lands, which can be very high in poverty levels. Many social and health issues related to poverty are very prevalent in trial lands and within the population in general: obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, family disruption, early death, suicide, and domestic violence. Indian-owned gambling facilities have provided an income for such communities, generating $25 billion in revenue.

African Americans


Historic photo of black industrial workers

Historically, African Americans came to the U.S. through the institution of slavery, which broke the cultural connections with African traditions, languages, and religions. This disrupted family life and cultural continuation. Structural racism since slavery, and continuing today, has impacted the larger African American community, which has shaped the formation of family life. Because many men were unable to get jobs that would support their families, women were often required to work and contribute to the household income; compared to white women who were idealized for being able to be a full time housewife. Many men had to travel in search of work, leaving behind wives and children. After WWI, many workers, around 6 million, left the south in what has been called the Great Migration. Industrial jobs, providing a family wage for those without a college education, was a great boost for the middle class. However, residential segregation was rampant, with the government and industry participating in redlining (racially discriminatory mortgage and housing policies). Manufacturing jobs reached one third of the job market in 1960, and by 1990 it was down to one fifth of workers, and today, it is just one-tenth of jobs. This decline especially hurt black communities. Currently, there is a large black middle class, yet, overall, poverty persists. African Americans have the highest rates of poverty of any major racial-ethnic group. Poverty impacts all aspects of live, including diminishing the marriage rate, as marriage currently is viewed as a crowning accomplishment after financial security is established to some degree. Men without jobs do not provide good prospects for marriage, as women will consider having to take care of their spouses, on top of any children they may already have. In 2011, while 52% of the total population was married, about 32% of the black population was married. Besides lack of employment, imprisonment impacts one out of four black males, with the subsequent rippling effect that impact those family and community members related to the individual. Thus, a great deal of black children are impacted by having an incarcerated parent. Therefore, extended families, and grandparents, become important support for taking care of children in the situation of absent parents.


“At more than 50 million, Latinos are the largest minority group in the country and quickly growing” (93). The majority are Mexican origin (63 percent), followed by Puerto Ricans (9 percent) and Cubans (4 percent). However, there are Latinos in the U.S. from all of the central and south american countries, with varied histories of coming to this country. For example, what historical conditions create these top three groups of immigrants listed? And of course, Mexicans have been a part of this country from the very beginning, as the southwest was originally part of Mexico that was annexed by the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848. “Puerto Rico was also annexed–first as a U.S. colony and later as a partly self-governing commonwealth–when Spain ceded the island to the United States in 1989” (93). Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. After WWII, many of them migrated to New York and New Jersey in search of work. Because of the differential history with colonialism and segregation in Latin American countries, their understanding and relationship to racial and cultural mixing is different than the white dominated U.S. with its history of strict racial segregation, outlawing such practices as interracial marriage until 1977.

Asian Americans

Today the U.S. population is 6 percent Asian. The largest groups are the Chinese (23 percent), the Philippines (20 percent), and Indian (18 percent) (97). Because of restrictive immigration policies and decades long wait lines, immigration slots are mostly reserved for professionals, students, or family members of people already established, this contributes to the stereotypical idea of “the model minority.” Confucian religious background contributes to an emphasis on schooling, related to the historical Confucian exam system. Only 3 percent of Asian Americans drop out of high school, compared to 8 percent of the total population. But this association of Asians with schooling is more likely an association between class privilege and educational access and achievement. Also think about how geography plays into immigration, with Asians at such far away distances that it becomes very difficult for them to gain access to the U.S. compared to Latin America, which is closer and shares a land border.


“At 13 percent, the proportion of the U.S. residents born in another country is higher than it has been since 1010” and if you include Americans whose parents were born elsewhere, it is twenty-five percent (100). Immigration laws are central in shaping the demographics of various immigrants groups. The 1965 change in policy was a federal shift that moved away from maintaining quotas of different racial groups so that whites would maintain certain percentages. Be sure to overview and understand the significance of the following laws and policies:

For our class assignment, please watch the feature length version of Documented (2013). [On the movie website you will be able to purchase the DVD or a digital copy for rent or purchase. You may also be able to search for the movie online.] In this documentary it follows Jose Antonio Vargas, who began his immigrant journey at age 12, when he was sent to the United States from the Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, California. After attending San Francisco State University, Vargas pursued a print journalism career — landing jobs at newspapers in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. for the Washington Post — all the while, managing to keep his true citizenship status a secret.

You can find the video on Netflix:

Besides immigration restrictions, the U.S. government restricted racial groups from intermarriage as a means of keeping the white race pure. All states enacted rules against whites marrying other racial groups. There were also hypo descent laws, or one-drop rule, where only whites without any other “blood” of different racial groups were considered white. This would force mixed race individuals to identify as their non-white descent, or else “pass” as white. It was not until the Supreme Court case ironically named Loving v. Virginia, that these bans on interracial marriage were struck down in 1975.