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PWR 2RW: Not Part but Whole: Writing Mixed Race Identity

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Catalog Number: PWR 2RW

Instructor: Roberta Wolfson

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement


Was Barack Obama the first Black or biracial U.S. president? Does Kamala Harris even “count” as Asian American? Should Elizabeth Warren be considered Native American based on her genetic ancestry test results? In this course, we will explore such public debates about multiraciality, focusing on a central question: what does it mean to be mixed race and how do our words, stories, and discourses construct this identity?

It was not until 2000 that the U.S. census first allowed respondents to select more than one racial group. Yet discourses about multiraciality have an extensive history in the racially stratified United States. The white majority has long denounced miscegenation (interracial sexual relations), the government has legally defined race based on the “one-drop rule” of Blackness and Native blood quantum requirements, and the Supreme Court has issued landmark rulings related to mixed race populations, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which codified “separate-but-equal” segregation policies even for white-presenting mixed race people like the plaintiff, and Loving v. Virginia (1967), which legalized interracial marriage on a federal level. Together we will look at the ongoing rhetoric surrounding multiraciality, in which mixed race people are always and already politicized, represented as figures of shame (“mixing just isn’t natural”), exoticism (“mixed people are so beautiful”), tragedy (“that poor child will never belong”), or post-racial utopia (“soon we’ll all be beige so race won’t matter anymore”).

Examples of Research Topics

Throughout this course, you will pursue an individual research project that considers some critical aspect of mixed race identity. For example, you might explore the experiences of dual minority mixed race populations, the ethical impacts of genetic ancestry testing, the social harms of colorism, the politics of racial passing, the psychology of racial imposter syndrome, and more. Ultimately, you will walk away from this course with sharpened research and communication skills, as well as a critical framework for understanding how written and oral expression can offer a transformative platform for reimagining the mixed self.

Research Proposal (5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words, 3-4 pages; reflective memo of 250 words): You will begin the class by proposing an original research project that explores some critical aspect of mixed race identity.

Written Research-Based Argument (3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages; reflective memo of 250 words): Further honing the research and writing skills introduced in PWR 1, you will craft an argumentative essay that advances an original answer to your research question, incorporating critical reflection on secondary scholarship alongside primary source analysis.

Research Presentation (10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support; reflective memo of 250 words): Next you will practice public speaking skills by delivering your central argument about multiraciality in an oral presentation using multimedia technologies.

Genre/Modes Assignment (500-800 words; about 2 pages): In this final project, you will select an audience that would be invested in hearing your argument about mixed race identity. Then you will translate your argument into a different genre that is designed to reach this target audience, such as an advertisement, video, press release, story, blog post, song, etc.