2016 Syllabus: “The Rhetorics and Arguments of Race in the 21st Century”



Course Description: Though many have dubbed the age of Obama as “post-racial,” race still plays an important role in the identity, classification, and context of millions of Americans around our nation today. Arguably, since the struggles of civil rights in the 1960s, race has transformed to a more complicated matter, one which is often hard to define, but is often a constant variable in the news and in many people’s lives. The purpose of our class will be then to investigate race’s evolution as a rhetorical identity and to argue about how it shapes our contemporary society.

To begin, the role of our class is to first understand race is rhetorical and affects the real world, and then we will begin to create arguments about race. More specifically, we will learn to compose arguments about race’s role in theoretical terms, identity, culture, and consciousness. Our readings will pair with our assignments to generate recent debates and opinions surrounding race (for instance, the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and Confederate Flag debate), and students will work toward analyzing the role of race as a headline, as a topic of pain, as a subject of memory, and as a marker of identity.

Since the rhetorical nature of race often is politically charged and full of “hot takes,” this class will focus on race with a critical but sensitive lens, emphasizing understanding, empathy, and writing about not only personal viewpoints but the views of others as well.  I ask for all students to be respectful of others in this classroom, be open to opposing perspectives, and be willing to challenge your own presumptions about racial topics. While the purpose of this course is not to dictate a single ideology of race, we should be mindful of respectful of all viewpoints in this class. This goes for you and me.

Overall, our class will expand on race’s function in the contemporary world, and we will work together to explore how an understanding of race enriches our knowledge of American culture and society.

This course, like all courses at TCU, has certain outcomes that should be achieved by the end of the semester that are specific to our program and to this specific course. These outcomes are goals to work toward success in this classroom and should be conscious guides in thinking and writing in our classroom:

  1. Students will demonstrate facility with the language and analysis of argument
  • Will be able to employ various analytical tools, including the techniques of Bitzer and Toulmin, to construct arguments
  • Will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of critical race theory’s rhetorical terms in creating an argument within various papers and assignments
  • Will be able to utilize the language of argumentation and critical race theory in constructing individual papers and in analyzing other’s arguments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to write an argument for a specific rhetorical situation
  • Will be able to write varying arguments for different genres (manifestos, book reviews, legal arguments, public memory arguments)
  1. Students will demonstrate competency in using sources (primary, secondary, electronic) in argument construction
  • Will demonstrate knowledge in finding credible sources that help create an argument in varying assignments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to critically engage with digital environments
  • Will be able to analyze and argue about digital spaces and content
  • Will effectively use digital media in presenting book reviews and manifestos


Required Textbooks:

Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Second Edition. 2012.


ISBN-13: 978-0814721353.  $15 on Amazon. $20 through publisher.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0812993547

$15 on Amazon. $24 hardcover through publisher.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1595586438

$11 on Amazon. $15 through website.

Various articles will be provided in class

Other Required Materials: 


  • Around $20 for photocopying expenses  
  • A pocket folder to contain your writings
  • A notebook for notes



Classroom Assignments Breakdown:

Application of CRT Term Paper (3 pages) – 15%

Race and Law Paper (7 pages) – 20%

Race and Public Memory Paper (5 pages) – 20%

Book Review Project (presentation) – 15%

Race Manifesto (5 pages, plus presentation) – 20%

Class Discussion- 10%

Course Requirements

  1. CRT Term Paper –Very early in the semester, we will be analyzing and discussing the language of race in the 21st century, stemming from the emerging field of critical race theory. Our very first conversations and readings in the class will be dissecting rhetorical terms from this theory and applying them to real world situations (outside of legal cases, which will come later in the semester). For our first assignment, then, you will be taking a term we discuss in class involving critical race theory (found in various readings and in an appendix) and will apply this term to a real situation that you see in the world or in the news (spanning over the last few years). You will specifically choose a case study from a news story, real world event, or popular culture to write this paper. Since critical race theory provides a lens for understanding and interpreting race in contemporary society, you will be able to take a term from this theory and better understand its rhetorical and cultural nature. For example, if you choose the term “unconscious racism,” you might apply this to the news stories covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—where white people “stealing” food were labelled as “survivors” and black people “stealing” food were labelled as “looters.” Since CRT will be our lens of interpretation the rest of this semester, this first paper will provide the means to further construct arguments for all other assignments. You will achieve course outcomes #1 and #2 through first learning the language of cultural argument in studying your term and then producing a persuasive paper that demonstrates your knowledge of the definition, function, and rhetorical nature of this term in society.


  1. Race and Law Paper– Our second paper of the semester will interrogate the way that laws and understandings/definitions of race intersect. Since the year 2000, there have been many legal cases, even in the Supreme Court, dealing with race, such as anti-discrimination laws, overturning the Voting Rights Act, and cases on affirmative action too. After reading The New Jim Crow and discussing various legal cases/issues on race in class, you will be asked to write a paper in which you investigate the ways various laws, legal cases, and/or (un)lawful situations affect how either the American public interprets race or how the legal system interprets race. The purpose of this assignment will be to better understand how your legal case constructs, enacts, or produces race in America through a lens of critical race theory and critical legal studies. You will be asked to use the language of CRT to analyze your legal situation and to construct arguments. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #3 by asking you to construct an argument about a legal case (a specific rhetorical genre) and to utilize several primary and secondary sources to produce your finished assignment.


  1. Race and Public Memory Paper– Over the past year, America has witnessed the #BlackLivesMatter movement reappropriate sites, statues, and symbols of public memory. The Confederate Flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse due to a change in public perception/memory on its rhetorical usage and even monuments to the Confederacy were vandalized and tagged with #BlackLivesMatter in protest of the whitewashing of history. For this paper, you will investigate the rhetorical nature of a site, statue, or symbol of contested racial memory, such as the Confederate Flag or statues to Confederate generals, and will analyze how various racial groups have varying interpretations of the same symbolic structure. Your argument will not lead you to declaring one side is right and one side is not, but rather you will create a case for better understanding the site as an argument within itself. In class, we will discuss types of public memory, its rhetorical strategies, and will analyze various structures. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 through building an argument about a site of public memory, utilizing rhetorical tools to understand the idea of “public memory,” and incorporating various visual and technological sources to promote your argument of this site.


  1. Book Review Project– At the beginning of the semester, I will provide a list of 25 books in the class that cover race and rhetoric in the 21st century. In groups of three (dependent on how many students are in class), you will choose one book to read as a group. In the last half of the semester, I will provide dates for each group to give a presentation of their book to the class. For this assignment, I will ask you to present your book in 15-20 minutes, to cover the book’s aim, audience, reason for writing, and other rhetorical devices, to the classroom. On this date, you will also turn in a three page response in which the group summarizes the book and explains the most intriguing parts of the author’s analysis. We will talk more about this presentation early in the semester, and I will provide the class with a book list and dates for their presentation within the first week of classes. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #4 through building an implicit argument about your book (or, rather, understanding the argument of your book), utilizing a set of skills needed the book review genre, and employing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.


  1. Race Manifesto– Your final paper for the semester will be a race manifesto covering any subject/topic/idea that we covered throughout the semester. This will be a final summative project consisting of original research in the field on any racial topic that you choose but must offer the following: 1) An original thesis claim that provides “new” insight into race or race relations in the 21st century; 2) Research that supports such claims; and 3) An explanation for how this helps America better understand race/race relations. I want this topic to be as open-ended as possible, and the basis of your manifesto can come from any research, analysis, or topics that we have talked about in class or from anything outside of our readings as well. Finally, you will also give a brief presentation of your manifesto to the class during our final exam time. We will talk about this project occasionally throughout the semester so you can start taking notes for ideas, but our final few weeks of this semester will be spent directly working on this assignment. This paper and presentation will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 though building an original argument about the state of race in America with primary and secondary sources, employing specific rhetorical tools for the genre of a manifesto, and utilizing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.


  1. Class Discussion– Class discussion is important in this course for two reasons: 1) Writing well is essentially communicating well, so being able to discuss your ideas and thoughts with others potentially could help your writing. Since this course is workshop/discussion based, we need participation to move our conversations along. 2) Talking about race is hard. We have all seen people get mad and start yelling when race becomes a subject. But our class should be an open place to talk about race, especially when our opinions differ. While I understand many often fear being called a racist and this is what hinders so many racial conversations, you must participate to earn these points and to be a full member of the class.


Course Calendar (Subject to Change)

Week 1: The Foundations of Race in America

Tuesday, 1/12- Introductions; Class Overview; discussion of race in America

Thursday, 1/14-Introduction to Critical Race Theory; rhetoric and CRT; first assignment; book review sign-up

Week 2: Critical Race Theory, Part 1

Tuesday, 1/19- Readings Due: First two chapters of CRT book (30 pages); discuss basic principles of CRT; connect to rhetoric

Thursday, 1/21- Readings Due: Chapters 3 and 4 of CRT book (29 pages); discuss counterstorytelling and essentialism/antiessentialism as rhetorical acts; discuss structure of paper

Week 3: Critical Race Theory, Part 2

Tuesday, 1/26- Readings Due: Chapters 5 and 7 (50 pages); Discussion of paper progress; Mapping out papers; connecting theory to reality (examples); rhetorical arguments

Thursday, 1/28- WORKSHOP DAY

Week 4: Race and the Legal System

Tuesday, 2/2- CRT Paper Due; Discussion of new assignment; lecture on race and legal system

Thursday, 2/4- Readings Due: “Introduction” and “The Rebirth of Caste” in The New Jim Crow; discuss legal precedent in the history of race; brainstorm paper ideas

Week 5: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Tuesday, 2/9- Readings Due: “The New Jim Crow” in The New Jim Crow; workshop thesis statements

Thursday, 2/11- Readings Due: Various readings on Ferguson, Baltimore, and #BlackLivesMatter;  discussion on legal resources/databases; structure of paper

Week 6: Finalizing Paper Details

Tuesday, 2/16- Paper progress report, mapping papers

Thursday, 2/18- WORKSHOP DAY, finalizing paper details

Week 7: Contested Sites of Racial Memory

Tuesday, 2/23- Race and Law Paper Due; introduction to Public Memory Assignment; what are public memory and sites of public memory?

Thursday, 2/25- Readings Due: “Reappropration of Public Memory” (PDF); and “Sparring with Public Memory” (PDF); discussion of sites chosen for public memory

Week 8: Remembering, Disremembering, and Erasure

Tuesday, 3/1- Analyzing sites of public memory; erasing history; workshopping thesis statements

Thursday, 3/3- Readings Due: “Chicago Contested Memories” and the History of Mike Brown’s memorial (will give various reads in class); explore rhetorical means of contestation


Week 10: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/15- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture;” discussion on space and whiteness; analyzing space, structure, and place

Thursday, 3/17- Shaping paper; the rhetoric of memory; secondary sources

Week 11: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/22- Readings Due: “Whitewashing the Past;” use of visuals in paper

Thursday, 3/24- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture: Manifesting Whiteness through Public Memory at Texas A&M University;” finalizing analysis

Week 12: Finalizing Race and Public Memory Paper

Tuesday, 3/29- WORKSHOP DAY

Thursday, 3/31- Race and Public Memory Paper Due; Introduction to Manifesto Paper; Read: Part I Between the World and Me; discuss racial contexts

Week 13: Transitioning Public Memories to Manifestos

Tuesday, 4/5- Book Reviews; Read: Part II Between the World and Me; discuss rhetorical conventions of Coates; thesis statements; rhetorical genre of manifesto

Thursday, 4/7- Book Reviews; rhetorical strategies of manifestos;

Week 14: The Pain of Race and Coates

Tuesday, 4/12- Book Reviews; Read: Cornel West, Race Matters (Excerpt PDF); discuss West’s rhetorical strategies (especially Christian dogma); idea shares

Thursday, 4/14- Mapping papers; structure of paper discussion

Week 15: Prophecy, Christianity, and Deliverance 

Tuesday, 4/19 – Read: Derrick Bell, And we are not saved (Excerpt PDF); discuss Bell’s rhetorical strategies; mapping paper

Thursday, 4/21- DRAFT DAY

Week 16: Final Preparations on Manifesto

Tuesday, 4/26- Final touches on paper; last minute questions/details; workshopping ideas

Thursday, 4/28- STUDY DAY, no class


Tuesday Race manifesto presentations will be due at the final exam date provided on the TCU Calendar 


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