American Media and the 'Problem' of Race

Presented by Jason Ruiz

W.E.B. Du Bois famously predicted in 1903 that the problem of the twentieth century would be “the problem of the color line.” Anyone paying attention to the news—from police shootings to the most recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action and the debate over whether athletes should stand during the national anthem—will understand that the United States did not leave our racial conflicts behind with the turn of the twenty-first century. Rather, even though we often avoid discussing the topic in our everyday lives, our nation continues to very explicitly grapple with race and its various social meanings. This course has two main aims. First, it will posit that U.S. media and popular culture actively shape Americans’ ideas about race. We will survey a wide variety of cultural texts, including television commercials, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and even stand-up comedy and a recent Beyoncé video, to analyze how our society frames race as a social problem through popular culture. Second, since teachers have great potential to help our society face this problem in the twenty-first century, the course will provide practical strategies for approaching sensitive topics associated with race in a classroom setting.

About Jason Ruiz

Jason Ruiz is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where is affiliated faculty with the Program in Gender Studies and the Institute for Latino Studies. He teaches courses in Latino studies, race and representation, border studies, and popular culture. Ruiz’s first book, Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empirewas published by the University of Texas Press in January 2014. He is a 2016 recipient of the Edmund P. Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Notre Dame.