Religion, Race, and Justice in the US, Spring 2018

University of the Pacific
Caroline T. Schroeder ("Dr. S")
MW 3-4:45, WPC 122

You can find Dr. S at…

cschroeder [at]
WPC 101
Office Hours M 9:30-10:30 am, W 1:30-2:30 pm, by appt.
On Twitter (@ctschroeder)
On Facebook

About the Course

Throughout American history, religion has played a pivotal role in discussions of race, both in justifications for slavery and racial discrimination and in movements for social justice.  In the 19th century, white supremacists argued that a passage in Genesis about Noah and his sons preordained the enslavement of Black people.  During the Civil Rights movement, the Black church played a central role and Martin Luther King quoted extensively from the Bible in speeches such as his “I Have a Dream" speech.  Other Black civil rights advocates argued that the connection between racism and Christianity ran so deep that true liberation could not be found in the Christian church.  This course will examine the intersection of religion and race.  The course will address multiple religious traditions, although it will concentrate primarily on Christianity.  We will look at both history and pressing contemporary issues.

Fulfills General Education Requirement I-B
Fulfills the University Diversity Requirement   
Fulfills requirements for credit in Ethnic Studies

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • describe in written and oral communication ways religious identity has intersected with racial identity and the social construction of race in the history of the Christian tradition
  • analyze and explain through written and oral communication the role of religious communities, institutions, and individuals in expressions of racism in America
  • analyze and explain through written and oral communication the role of religious communities, institutions, and individuals in movements for racial justice in America
  • understand and articulate the perspectives of people different from themselves on questions of race, religion, and justice
  • develop and define some of their own positions and practices for racial justice

This course fulfills the following Learning Objectives for:

  • The University: Communication, Intercultural and Global Perspectives, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Reasoning.  
  • General Education: Written Communication, Critical Thinking, Research Skills, Ethical Reasoning, Civic Engagement. I-B objective #1: The course helps students to understand and analyze significant institutions, organizations, cultures and/or individuals in the United States.
  • The Religious Studies Program:  Critical Analysis and Communication, Cultural Sensitivity, Inquiry and Research
  • The Diversity program objectives 1-3: 1. Articulate their own developing understanding of social difference and its impact on their discipline(s), personal life and society as a whole; 2. Express, in both written and oral forms, their understanding of how ideas and beliefs about diversity and difference in the United States have changed over time, identifying relevant historical movements and players; 3. Demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of how social institutions and individuals respond to issues of difference;

Required Books and Other Media

The following required textbooks are available at the Bookstore. The readings are required for class discussion, blog posts, collaborative projects, etc. I strongly encourage you to BUY the PRINT versions.

  1. Sylvester Johnson, African American Religions
  2. Kelly Baker, The Gospel According to the Klan
  3. Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
  4. Milton S. Sernett, African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness

Required readings, films, art will also be available on websites and on the course Canvas site. See the links on the syllabus.  Some films may require an outside screening.  Deliberative and concentrated viewings of the films are mandatory.

Course Requirements

Note: Copies of student work may be retained to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met.

Attendance & Participation

Since we will all be members of a learning community this semester, diligent preparation and enthusiastic class participation are essential. Daily assignments should be completed before class on the day on which they are listed on the syllabus.

Class participation is an integral part of this course. All students are expected to participate in a thoughtful, well-prepared manner that is grounded in the course assignments. Students should come to class prepared to discuss the assignments every day. I will provide study guides to help you with the readings and class discussions.

All members of the class are expected to reflect critically on they ways in which they can contribute to constructive rather than destructive class dynamics. I often call upon students and may not wait for students to volunteer themselves.

Take notes: you will be expected to incorporate issues raised in class discussions and in your writing assignments.

The Attendance and Participation Grade will include:

• Organized class activities, individually or in groups

• Regular participation in class, which means:

✓ Informed, thoughtful, and respectful engagement in discussions, activities, and in-class writing assignments on a regular basis
✓ Listening to the professor and the other students (including taking notes)
✓ Bringing class readings and/or notes to class to enable discussion
✓ Respectful behavior in class. Disruptive or disrespectful behavior (including arriving late and leaving early) will lower Participation and Attendance grades.
✓ Regular attendance.

There are no excused/unexcused absences.  See the Grading system regarding attendance for your grade; you may use tokens to exchange for additional absences.  Come to class unless you are truly ill. Athletes and other students with with official university commitments that may cause them to miss multiple classes should contact me at the beginning of the semester to work out a plan. Likewise students with extended illnesses (and ONLY extended serious illnesses) or emergencies that may cause them to miss multiple classes should contact me immediately to work out a plan.

Lying about illness or anything else to cover for an absence is a violation of the Honor Code

Make friends: Students who miss class should get notes from a peer before coming to talk to the professor about missed material. 

Course Blog

Students will be posting to a private course blog not visible to the general public.  I will delete this blog from the internet after the semester concludes.  Together as a class, we will review a rubric I have for blog posts and revise it for the course.
Students will also respond to their peers' posts on days they have not posted themselves. Responses must be substantive (engaging with the post and course material) in order to earn credit. Responders must comment on at least 3 posts to earn Satisfactory credit.

Midterm and Collaborative Final Projects

There will be midterm and collaborative final projects that will be online, public research/scholarship created by students on themes pertaining to the course. There will be Individual and Group grades; to pass the assignment, one must earn Satisfactory or Excellent on BOTH their individual evaluation and the group evaluation. There will be milestones and rubrics to help with your work, which will be discussed later in the semester.

Class Discussion Facilitation

In pairs or threes, students will lead class discussion during the semester.  The goals for the discussion will be to facilitate a deeper understanding of the readings and to enable participation by all students in the class.  More instructions will be provided during the first few weeks of class.

The Discussion Facilitation will be graded on a satisfactory/incomplete basis.  If your facilitation is assessed as unsatisfactory, you may exchange tokens for one more attempt with the goal of improving to Satisfactory, provided there are enough slots left in the semester to lead discussion.

Grading & Evaluation

In this class, we will use specification grading.

This method of assessment is designed to encourage you to take ownership of your own education. What does this mean? Your success in the course will be evaluated in terms of course learning goals. Everything in this course will be assessed as “Satisfactory” or “Incomplete” based on whether you demonstrate the stated learning goals. Assignments will be “bundled” into tiers. Final grades will be based on which bundle(s) of assignments you satisfactorily complete. All of your work in class will be evaluated, but the only letter grade you will receive will reflect the bundle(s) of assignments and requirements that you have satisfactorily completed at the end of the semester. 
More information about each of items in these bundles is available in the Assignments section.
Please keep in mind that “Satisfactory” and “Incomplete” do not correspond to “Pass” and “Fail”; instead, an assessment of Unsatisfactory translates best to “Not done yet!"
grading bundles

* I will provide an evaluation of participation twice during the semester. Feel free to consult with me in office hours at any time about grades.

Token system

Each student will begin the semester with 6 tokens.  Tokens may be exchanged for extra time or opportunities to revise work as follows:
  • 2 tokens can erase an absence (may be redeemed at the END of the semester
  • 2 tokens can be exchanged for the opportunity to revise an Incomplete blog post. (Post must be posted and every effort made to qualify. Non-existent posts or posts with little effort cannot be "revised".) Message me within 48 hours of receiving evaluation to request revision; revisions typically due within the next 48 hours.
  • 1 token can be exchanged for an extension on a Blog post or set of Blog responses to noon; 2 tokens can be exchanged for a 48 hour extension on a Blog post or responses. Students must message via Canvas before the original deadline to redeem the tokens.
  • 1 token can be exchanged to revise an Incomplete day of Blog responses (message me within 48 hours)
  • 2 tokens can be exchanged for an opportunity to conduct another class facilitation to improve on an previous Incomplete facilitation (message me within 48 hours)
  • 1 token per person can be exchanged to revise an Incomplete collaborative project or phase of collaborative project
  • 1 token can be exchanged to revise your individual component to a collaborative project
Extra tokens may be earned by:
  • exceptional discussion facilitations
  • exceptional contributions to class participation/discussion over multiple days (including taking notes on the Google doc)
  • exceptional blog posts
  • exceptional contribution to the collaborative projects (as deemed by peers)
  • field trips and campus events as announced in advance by the professor

Policy on Make-ups, Extensions, and Late Assignments

Blog posts must be submitted by 9 pm the night before the date(s) you chose.  Except in case of a documented severe emergency, only tokens may be used to extend the deadline.

Discussion Facilitations must be conducted on the days on which you signed up.  The only exception is a documented severe emergency.

The collaborative projects will have embedded in them time for revision and peer-assessment.  Because of their collaborative nature, individual makeups and extensions cannot be provided.

Academic Integrity

Dr. S on cheating and the honor code

I take academic integrity very seriously. As your professor, I pledge to be honest with you, and I hope that you will do the same for me as well as your peers.

Students are expected to understand and follow the University’s Honor Code. For this course, academic dishonesty includes any violations covered by the Honor Code (including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, and lying to receive a higher grade), as well as submitting one’s own prior work for a new assignment—prior work from this course or another course, and prior work in whole or in part. (Specifically assigned revisions to writing assignments are exempt.) We will discuss plagiarism and citations in class. I encourage any student with questions about academic integrity, plagiarism, or the Honor Code to ask me for clarifications.

Any alleged or suspected violations will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs. All students who violate the Honor Code will receive a minimum penalty of a zero for the assignment or exam; a serious violation will merit failure of the course.

What the University has to say about the Honor Code

The Honor Code at the University of the Pacific calls upon each student to exhibit a high degree of maturity, responsibility, and personal integrity. Students are expected to:

• act honestly in all matters
• actively encourage academic integrity
• discourage any form of cheating or dishonesty by others
• inform the instructor and appropriate university administrator if she or he has a reasonable and good faith belief and substantial evidence that a violation of the Academic Honesty Policy has occurred.

Violations will be referred to and investigated by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. If a student is found responsible, it will be documented as part of her or his permanent academic record. A student may receive a range of penalties, including failure of an assignment, failure of the course, suspension, or dismissal from the University. The Academic Honesty Policy is located in Tiger Lore and online at

Our Inclusive Classroom

We have a diverse classroom with students from many places who identify with a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. We profess myriad religious traditions and in many of us profess none. This class is a space to explore material that will challenge all of us (including me!) in different ways.

It is important to me that this class becomes an inclusive environment in which our diverse community can learn and grow.

If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations, please contact the Director of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) for information on how to obtain an Accommodations Request Letter. To ensure timeliness of services, please obtain the accommodation letter(s) from the Office of SSD at the very beginning of the semester. Depending on course and session, the wait time may be as long as 1-2 weeks or as short as 1-2 days. After I receive the accommodation letter, please schedule a meeting with me during office hours or some other mutually convenient time to arrange the accommodation(s). The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is located in the McCaffrey Center, Rm. 137. Phone: 209-946-3221. Email: Online: Pacific’s 3-Step Accommodation Process: 1. Student meets with the SSD Director and provides documentation and completes registration forms. 2. Student requests accommodation(s) each semester by completing the Request for Accommodations Form. 3. Student arranges to meet with his/her professors to discuss the accommodation(s) and to sign the Accommodation Request Letter


The most important resources for the course (also available on the drop-down menu under Resources on the course site) are:

I strongly caution against using non-academic websites to find background information.

Creative Commons License
Religion, Race, and Justice by Caroline T. Schroeder at is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.