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ETHS 381 Race and Racism: Philosophical Problems

What exactly is a race? How have conceptions of race changed over time? What does it mean to say that race is socially constructed? What is the relation between the idea of race, racial prejudice and racial oppression? What exactly is racism? What is the precise nature of the harm of racism? What can and should we do about racism -- its historical legacy and its contemporary manifestations? This course uses the tools and methods of philosophy to examine a variety of conceptual and ethical questions about race and racism.
4 Undergraduate credits

Effective January 1, 2024 to present

Meets graduation requirements for

Learning outcomes


  • Describe and discuss a variety of ways of understanding and defining race and racism.
  • Identify and explain, at an advanced collegiate level, some of the social, economic, historical, political and discursive factors that have played a role in the development of the idea of race and in the evolution of racist practices.
  • Explain and analyze different conceptions of social construction and, in particular, of what it might mean to say that race is socially constructed.
  • Develop some sophistication about the kinds of evidence and arguments needed to justify claims about race and racism (claims, for example, about what is or isn't racist and claims about what a person or an institution or a society ought to do about racism).
  • Use the work of the course to reflect on personal beliefs and attitudes about issues of race and racism.
  • Develop communication skills necessary for displaying and acting on those beliefs and attitudes and for carrying on difficult conversations about race and racism.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 6: The Humanities and Fine Arts

  • Demonstrate awareness of the scope and variety of works in the arts and humanities.
  • Understand those works as expressions of individual and human values within a historical and social context.
  • Respond critically to works in the arts and humanities.
  • Engage in the creative process or interpretive performance.
  • Articulate an informed personal reaction to works in the arts and humanities.

Goal 7: Human Diversity

  • Understand the development of and the changing meanings of group identities in the United States' history and culture.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the individual and institutional dynamics of unequal power relations between groups in contemporary society.
  • Analyze their own attitudes, behaviors, concepts and beliefs regarding diversity, racism, and bigotry.
  • Describe and discuss the experience and contributions (political, social, economic, etc.) of the many groups that shape American society and culture, in particular those groups that have suffered discrimination and exclusion.
  • Demonstrate communication skills necessary for living and working effectively in a society with great population diversity.

Fall 2024

Section Title Instructor books eservices
50 Race and Racism: Philosophical Problems Brito, Marisol Alhena Books for ETHS-381-50 Fall 2024 Course details for ETHS-381-50 Fall 2024