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d-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-size-adjuRace and Ethnicity in the United States
In 1958, your instructor’s third-grade teacher at Pacoima Elementary in the San
Fernando Valley was Mrs. Hunter, an African-American. Only four years earlier
the U.S. Supreme Court had handed down its historic Brown v Board of
Education ruling that declared unconstitutional separate public schools for
blacks and whites.
The landmark ruling overturned the Supreme Court’s own 1896 Plessy v
Ferguson decision that effectively made public school segregation legal.
Yet, in 1958 my teacher could not eat at many restaurants or stay at the same
hotels as whites in the Deep South. Segregation remained the law in much of
the country. A turbulent civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
would finally make that possible.
Even at an early age, your instructor heard his parents recall how they, as
ethnic Mexicans in El Paso, TX, could only attend grammar schools and a single
high school designated for Mexicans. They also were barred from many public
His paternal grandparents, Maria and Jose Chavira, were banned from “whites
only” rural Texas schools, effectively condemning them to illiteracy.
While your instructor had no idea that African-Americans were being subjected
to outrageous racial discrimination, he was acutely aware of what his family
had endured simply because they were Mexican. Jose, a native of Shafter,
Texas, told your instructor that he grew up knowing he was a U.S. citizen but
would never have the same rights and opportunities afforded to his “white”
Plainly, America is not the overtly and aggressively racist country it once was.
There was a long and fruitful civil rights struggle and a bi-racial man was
elected our president.
Indeed, several years ago scholars and pundits had begun to seriously ponder
the question, “Does race still matter in America?”
Today, that question no longer is being asked. That’s because the clear
consensus is that it matters a great deal.
Several polls conducted in 2014 and 2015 conclude that race relations are not
only poor, but have worsened in recent years.
Survey the United States and for the most part you will not find a collection of
integrated cities, communities and schools. Instead you will find ethnic
enclaves and schools that are far from racially balanced.
African Americans and Latinos continue to lag economically and educationally.
Without question, the starkest aspect of race and ethnicity has to do with the
justice system. Here are some findings gathered by the NAACP:
Incarceration Trends in America
• From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America
quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
• Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world
• Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole
or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the
population is under some form of correctional control
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
• African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million
incarcerated population
• African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
• Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners
in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up
approximately one quarter of the US population
• According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were
incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail
populations would decline by approximately 50%
• One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends
continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in
prison during his lifetime
• 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
• Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of
youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to
criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on
Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
Drug Sentencing Disparities
• About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an
illicit drug
• 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African
Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of
• African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users,
but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state
prison for a drug offense.
• African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug
offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).
(Sentencing Project
Asians, once dubbed “the model minority,” generally occupy higher economic
and educational levels than the norm. However, Asians are not homogeneous.
Laotians and Cambodians, for instance, typically have not prospered in this
country as much as Korean, Chinese or Japanese-Americans.
It’s also been said that to some extent Asians have been victims of their own
success. See this story:
The Real Problem When It Comes to Diversity and Asian-Americans
Look around UCI, and it’s likely you will see plenty of self-segregation. Whether
that’s a healthy phenomenon is matter of perspective. This Duke student minidocumentary raises intriguing questions:
This video provides a lively look at how race affects dating:

Your final exam will require you to offer a concise assessment of race relations
based on seven to 10 interviews and independent research. You will find
posted several background documents. These are intended to offer you just
the basis of your own research.
Based on your interviews and research, you will produce a feature story of
between 1,200 and 1,400 words. Deadline and submission details are provided
So, how to proceed?
Start with a bit of research. You will find many studies and media stories with a
simple Google search. Google Scholar will produce exhaustive studies.
However, the heart of your story will be the interviews.
Aim for a good cross section, with an eye to a mix of generations, ethnicities,
socioeconomic status and general life experience.
Be sure to get complete names and ages. You will be required to list the names
and contact information—email address or phone number will suffice—at the
end of your story.
Plan to interview your subjects in person or by phone. Email interviews
generally are of marginal value.
Your goal is to gauge how your subject feels about race relations. It’s up to
you to devise appropriate interview questions.
However, among the ones you likely would ask are:
1. How would you characterize relations?
2. Are they better now compared to several years ago?
3. What evidence do you see to support your view?
4. Do you consider yourself a racist? (You can be sure no one will answer in
the affirmative, but you never know.)
5. Do you know racists?
6. What is your opinion of them?
7. Do you have friends (not just co-workers or classmates) of other races or
8. Why or why not?
9. Do you live in an integrated neighborhood?
10. Are there some racial groups with whom you would not associate?
Which ones, and why?
Of course, you can and should come up with your own questions.
Organize your story by themes, blending research with interview material.
For instance, let’s say you discuss residential segregation (a nationwide
phenomenon). You have a few good quotes. Use them, followed by pertinent
research, or you can first introduce the research, and then the quotes.
You want to avoid divorcing the research from the quotes. Similarly, you
don’t want to “stack” quotes, but simply summarizing the interviews one by
You do not have to use all of the interviews. In our experience one or more
interviews will not produce much of interest. It happens, and so we have you
conduct a few more interviews than you probably will use.
Most likely you will paraphrase some of what your interview subjects tell you,
but also be sure to incorporate good quotes.
This is a labor-intensive and challenging exam. Devoting too little time to the
research and writing will unavoidably lower the quality of your story.
There is no draft portion, and we will not read your story until it is submitted.
Do, however, consult with us on the approach and your research findings.
We will be as available as possible to answer questions and offer guidance.
A Few Words about Whites
While it is commonly accepted to use “whites” or “white people” as an ethnic
or racial designation, in fact the term covers a broad spectrum of peoples.
Here is the United States Census Bureau’s definition:
The U.S. Census Bureau must adhere to the 1997 Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity which guide the Census
Bureau in classifying written responses to the race question:
White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the
Middle East, or North Africa.
Further complicating matters, millions of Latinos have white skin. Argentina,
for instance, is a country whose population is more than 80 percent of
European descent.
And here are two white-skinned Mexicans, a boxer and soap opera actress.
Not what comes to mind when you picture Mexicans, right?
White-skinned Americans who identify themselves are simply white are quite
likely to be of European descent. Ask your interviewees where their
ancestors came from.
For purposes of this exam we will use European-American and not white.
We trust you will find this exam not only challenging but a great learning

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