Who's White Now? An Examination of The Social Construction of Race


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The purpose of this activity is to help students in survey (Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems) or Race and Ethnicity courses understand that racial classifications are socially and legally constructed. This activity begins by outlining how students perceive race initially and then demonstrates how understandings of race in the United States have changed over time. In Part I, the instructor leads a class discussion that establishes the baseline for student’s understanding of race. Part II introduces a guided activity in which students will act as Census Enumerators and sort photos of famous individuals into census categories according to decisions of historical Supreme Court cases. Last, in Part III students will return to their original conceptions of race and discuss how the activity has impacted their understandings of race.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Quintin W.O. Myers , Kent State University  
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Racial and Ethnic Relations 
Class Level:
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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This activity begins with an informal journal where students define their everyday understanding of race. Students will then provide examples of their definitions. My experience suggests that most definitions will be based on biology. Once students have defined race in their own terms, the instructor should provide the specific definition...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students define race through their everyday understanding.
Assessment 1:
Students will journal their definitions of race and share these definitions with the class.
Goal 2:
Students demonstrate how race has been defined legally.
Assessment 2:
Students will sort individual photographs into categories defined by the census and legal cases.
Goal 3:
Students break down the definitions of White and non-White using the reasonings of the court.
Assessment 3:
Students will journal responses discussing whether their definitions of race have changed and teased apart the reasoning of the Supreme Court in their decisions.

Files for Download:

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Whos White Now_QM.pptx
Whos White Now_QM.xlsx
QM_Usage Notes.docx
QM_Whos White Now_Instructions.docx