Inspiration for the Course

In this section, Professor Ariel White shares how she became interested in issues of race and ethnicity in government and what inspired her to develop the course, 17.269 Race, Ethnicity, and American Politics.

"I developed 17.269 Race, Ethnicity, and American Politics because I want to give students a social science lens for thinking about how issues of race and ethnicity shape government."
— Ariel White

My research focuses on voting rights and issues of race and ethnicity in the criminal justice system. I developed these interests, in part, because of my experiences working in a legal services office prior to graduate school. I had the opportunity to talk with many people who were having bad experiences with government, sometimes in ways that were race-inflected. Being able to see how people interacted with the state, and how those interactions dramatically shaped their lives in ways that are not always reflected in conventional discussions about people’s experiences with government, made me want to talk more about issues like incarceration and bureaucratic responsiveness—what it means to have people call you back or not when you ask for help from the government.

I developed 17.269 Race, Ethnicity, and American Politics because I want to give students a social science lens for thinking about how issues of race and ethnicity shape our political experiences. Although our current political climate makes teaching a class about race and politics feel particularly salient, it is always relevant.

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