Course Syllabus

Takao Ozawa

Philosophy 117AC: The Philosophy of Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship


MWF 11–12

LeConte 3


Niko Kolodny,

For office hours, see:

Graduate Student Instructors:

Sophia Dandelet,

Peer tutoring program:

Catalog Description:

This course explores philosophical questions of race, ethnicity, and citizenship, with special attention to the experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and indigenous peoples of the United States. Topics include the meaning of “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship,” border control and immigration, reparations for past wrongs, discrimination and affirmative action, civic obligation and group solidarity, and the right to vote. Three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week.


We define ourselves, or are defined by others, as members of social groups: for example, as a U.S. citizen, as Latina, as African American, as Yurok, as sansei, and so on. Needless to say, our real or perceived membership in these groups affects what we can expect of others and what they expect of us.

  • If you are a U.S. citizen, then you may stay within the U.S. as long as you like, you may vote in a variety of elections, but you will be required to pay tax on foreign income. The same will go for your children. If you are not a U.S. citizen, then you may be deported for a crime, you may not vote in most elections, but you will not be required to pay tax on foreign income. The same will go for your children, unless you happen to give birth to them in a U.S. hospital.
  • If you were of Japanese descent, living on the West Coast during the Second World War, then you were most likely confined in an internment camp. If you survived until 1988, then you were sent an apology and $20,000 from the federal government.
  • In Plessy v. Ferguson, the US Supreme Court decided, roughly, that the State of Louisiana could count the fact that you had an ancestor who would today be described as “African American” as a (decisive) reason to keep you from sitting in certain railway cars. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the US Supreme Court permitted, roughly, the State of California to count the fact that you were African American as a (partial) reason to admit you to medical school.
  • If you are Latino/a, living in certain neighborhoods, then you may find other Latinos/as offering to drive you to the polls on Election Day, when they wouldn’t if you were Anglo, living in another neighborhood. If, on the way, they find out that you can’t speak Spanish, or you support Donald Trump, they may ask you to explain yourself, in a way they wouldn’t if you were Anglo, living in another neighborhood.

This course is not about the fact, important though it is, that our real or perceived membership in such groups affects what others do to us and what they expect us to do for them. Instead, this course asks when and why, if ever, our real or perceived group membership ought morally to affect what others do to us and what they expect us to do for them.

We will begin discussion of each topic with stage-setting readings, drawn from law and history, to help us to understand the real-world, and distinctively American, contexts in which these moral questions have arisen. However, we will approach these topics not as lawyers or historians, but instead as moral philosophers. The focus will be on making precise, deciding among, and ultimately justifying the underlying values and principles that might answer these moral questions.


Addressing these questions as moral philosophers will demand a lot from us, not only intellectually, but also, at times, emotionally. Some people will argue that our assigned “identity” is more important or more definite than we think it is, while others will argue that our cherished IDENTITY is less important or less definite than we think it is. Some will argue that our complaints against them are misplaced or exaggerated, while others will argue that they have valid complaints against us, which we must hear.

We must strive, despite this, to make philosophical conversation possible. On the one hand, we must avoid, wherever we can, saying things, or saying them in ways, that diminish or exclude others, that drain them of confidence to contribute, that divert their attention away from the content of what has been said toward the feelings stirred by hearing it said like that. On the other hand, we can’t just reply, “That offends me as a …,” or “You wouldn’t understand, because you are…,” even when, in another context, such replies might be sufficient and fitting. We must listen with an open mind, take a deep breath, and then say which false assumption the other side makes, what possibility they overlook, where their analogy breaks down, how their logic goes off the rails. It’s a balancing act, easier preached than practiced. But we must try.


One prior course in philosophy is recommended.


All readings are available from links on the online syllabus.  PDF links, however, are restricted to enrolled students, who have access to UC Berkeley libraries.

Requirements (subject to modest revision):

  1. Do the reading. Before lecture, read any “setting the stage” readings at least once and the “main text” readings at least twice.
  2. Attendance at lecture. After three unexcused absences from lecture, each additional, unexcused absence will lower the course GPA by 0.1 points. All devices must be put away, with ringers turned off.  I'll aim for 20 min. of lecture, a 10-min. intermission for discussion or other activity, 20 min. of lecture.
  3. Attendance and participation in section: 10%.  GSIs will aim for 20 min. of analysis of short analytical writing assignments, 30 min. of discussion of questions from lecture. 
  4. 20 short analytical writing assignments of under ten sentences: 40%. These might ask you, among other possibilities, to summarize the main argument of a reading or to explain the role of a particular passage in it. Some of these assignments may be due before the reading is discussed in lecture. Some of these assignments may be quizzes in lecture.  Models will be provided afterward, but these assignments will receive only sparse comments.  The grade for the first assignment will be included in your average if and only if including it raises your average.
  5. Term-paper topic + one-page outline: 10%.  Identify a specific philosophical question or problem drawn from the course material. It’s absolutely fine if the question or problem is one that was explicitly discussed in lecture or section! Just make sure that the question or problem has enough philosophical substance to make possible a back and forth of objection and reply. Write out the question or problem as though it were a paper topic for a course. (It might be a few sentences or a paragraph.) Then make a one-page handout, outlining the paper. You will discuss these with your GSI and a few other students in small groups. These outlines will receive intensive comments.
  6. Five-page first draft of term paper: 20%. These first drafts will receive intensive comments.
  7. Eight-page final version of term paper: 20%.  These will receive only sparse comments.


Publicly available in this folder:


What is ethnicity? What is race? What is the point of these categories?

We begin by asking what it even means to categorize someone as having an “ethnicity” or “race.” Are these categories based on anything natural or objective (whatever “natural” or “objective” might mean here)? Finally, what is the point, if any, of such categories? Why use them? We will look to the philosophy of language, in particular, for guidance.

  1. Wednesday, August 23: Introduction
  2. Friday, August 25

Setting the stage:

Ozawa v. United States PDF (3 pages)

Main text:

Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Race, Culture, Identity" PDF (28 pages)

  1. Monday, August 28: ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE!

Presentation by American Cultures Center

Setting the stage:

Ijeoma Oluo, "The Heart of Whiteness" PDF (17 pages)

Main texts:

Sally Haslanger, "A Social Constructionist Analysis of Race" PDF (12 pages)

Charles Mills, “Racial Equality,” but only section, “Race and Racism” PDF (7 pages)

  1. Wednesday, August 30

Setting the stage:

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, pp. 284-319 PDF (35 pages)

Main texts:

Tommie Shelby, We Who are Dark, “Modes of Blackness” PDF (10 pages)

Jorge Gracia,"The Nature of Ethnicity with Special Reference to Hispanic/Latino Identity" PDF (16 pages)

What is a citizen? Who becomes one?

What it is to be a “citizen” of a country? A person with certain rights? Which rights? What entitles someone to be a citizen? Is it enough to be born to parents who are citizens? It is enough to be born within the territory of a country? In other cases, our rights do not depend on who are parents are or where we were born. Why should the rights of citizenship be different?

  1. Friday, September 1: ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE!

Setting the stage:

Fred Barbage, “Donald Trump, Meet Wong Kim Ark” WEBPAGE with photos / PDF without photos (7 pages)

Main text:

Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration, Ch. 2, "Birthright Citizenship" PDF (26 pages)

  1. Wednesday, September 6

Setting the stage:

U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind PDF (2 pages)

Kathryn Schulz, "Citizen Kahn" WEBPAGE / PDF (12 pages)

Main text:

Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration, Ch. 3, "Naturalization" PDF (17 pages)

What justifies borders?

Among the core rights of citizenship are rights to enter into, and to reside within, the borders of the country of which one is a citizen. But what justifies borders in the first place? Why, if at all, do some people, such as the citizens of the U.S., have the right to keep other people from entering U.S. territory, and doing things, such as working certain jobs or visiting their family, that they can only do on U.S. soil? Moreover, people are often kept from entering U.S. territory by force and coercion. When are force and coercion acceptable? May the U.S., for example, subject people to force and coercion who don’t get a vote about how that force and coercion are used?

  1. Friday, September 8: ASSIGNMENT 3 DUE!

Setting the stage:

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, pp. 3-5, 319-334 PDF (18 pages)

Main text:

Christopher Heath Wellman, "In Defense of the Right to Exclude" PDF (43 pages)

  1. Monday, September 11

Main text:

Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration, Ch. 11, "The Case for Open Borders" PDF (30 pages)

  1. Wednesday, September 13: ASSIGNMENT 4 DUE!

Setting the stage:

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror, Ch. 16, section "Beckoned North: Mexico" PDF (8 pages)

Main text:

Arash Abizadeh, "Democratic Theory and Border Coercion" PDF (20 pages)

Who owns the land? Who gets what?

Some argue that the citizens of the U.S. can exclude others because they own U.S. territory. But what, if anything, can give a person or group ownership of land?  What rights, if any, does ownership carry?  How, if at all, are claims to such ownership compatible with the historical seizure of land, by force, fraud, or breach of treaty, especially, from indigenous peoples and Mexico? In order to address these questions, we survey some prominent theories of property and distributive justice. This material is dry and abstract, I know, but we can’t make progress without it. At the end of this section, we return to questions of immigration and borders with new insight.

  1. Friday, September 15

Setting the stage:

Sir Robert Filmer, Patriarcha, Ch. 1 PDF (5 pages)

Main text:

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 1–4, 6 PDF of not only these chapters, but ALL chapters we will read (14 pages)

  1. Monday, September 18: ASSIGNMENT 5 DUE!

Setting the stage:

The Declaration of Independence PDF (3 pages)

Main text:

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 7–9, 16, 19 (26 pages)

  1. Wednesday, September 20

Setting the stage:

Sir Robert Filmer, Observations Concerning the Originall of Government PDF (1 page)

Main text:

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 5 (7 pages)

  1. Friday, September 22: ASSIGNMENT 6 DUE!

Main texts:

Francisco de Vitoria, On the American Indians PDF (25 pages)

James Tully, Locke in Contexts, Ch. 5 "Rediscovering America: The Two Treatises and Aboriginal Rights" PDF (32 pages)

  1. Monday, September 25

Main text:

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, §§ 3, 11–14 PDF (38 pages)

  1. Wednesday, September 27

Main text:

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. ix, 149–164, 167–182 PDF of ALL pages (33 pages)

  1. Friday, September 29: ASSIGNMENT 7 DUE!

Main text:

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 213–227, 230–1 (17 pages)

  1. Monday, October 2

Main texts:

John Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. 257–9, 265–71 PDF (10 pages)

John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, §§14–16 PDF (8 pages)

  1. Wednesday, October 4

Setting the stage:

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror, Ch. 7, “‘Foreigners in Their Native Land’: The War Against Mexico” PDF (15 pages)

Main text:

John Simmons, Boundaries of Authority, Ch. 4, "Territorial Rights" PDF (25 pages)

  1. Friday, October 6: ASSIGNMENT 8 DUE!

Main text:

John Simmons, Boundaries of Authority, Ch. 5, “A Lockean Voluntarist Account” PDF (16 pages)

  1. Monday, October 9

Main text:

John Simmons, Boundaries of Authority, Ch. 9, "Borders" PDF (26 pages)

Should reparations be made for historical injustices?

Does justice require, permit, or perhaps prohibit, repairing past injustices? Should the federal government pay reparations for slavery, as it paid reparations for the victims of Japanese internment? Should the territory of the United States be returned to indigenous peoples? What does it take to repair an injustice? Does it make sense that the current descendants (or people who are grouped with them) of a group, many of whose members wronged many of the members of another group, should make reparations to the current descendants (or people who are grouped with them) of that wronged group? After all, none of those current descendants (let alone the people who are merely grouped with them) committed or suffered the past wrong in question.

  1. Wednesday, October 11

Setting the stage:

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror, Ch. 4, “Toward ‘the Stony Mountains’: From Removal to Reservation" PDF (19 pages)

Main text:

David Lyons, “The New Indian Claims and Original Rights to Land” PDF (23 pages)

  1. Friday, October 13: ASSIGNMENT 9 DUE!

Setting the stage:

John Conyers, H.R. 40: Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, up to sect. 4 PDF (6 pages)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "The Case for Reparations” WEBSITE / PDF (30 pages)

Main text:

Bernard Boxill, “A Lockean Argument for Black Reparations” PDF (29 pages)

  1. Monday, October 16

Setting the stage:

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Ch. 14, section, “Japanese Americans: ‘A Tremendous Hole’ in the Constitution” PDF (9 pages)

Conference report on H.R. 442 Civil Liberties Act of 1987 (100th Congress) PDF (2 pages)

Main text:

Janna Thompson, “Historical Injustice and Reparation: Justifying Claims of Descendants” PDF (22 pages)

When and why is discrimination wrong? Is affirmative action wrongful discrimination?

If “discrimination” means treating people differently, then we discriminate all the time. I make time for (or feel guilt for not making time for) my children and my students, but I don’t make the same time for (or feel the same guilt for not making time for) the neighbors’ kids or Stanford students. So when and why is “discrimination” wrong? Is it wrong whenever we discriminate on the basis of “race” or “ethnicity”? If so, then is affirmative action or, say, a Mexican-American student association wrong?

  1. Wednesday, October 18

Setting the stage:

Plessy v. Ferguson PDF (4 pages)

Robert R. Alvarez, Jr., “The Lemon Grove Incident” WEBSITE / PDF (12 pages)

Brown v. Board of Education PDF (3 pages)

Main text:

Deborah Hellman, When is Discrimination Wrong? Introduction, Ch. 1, PDF (30 pages)

  1. Friday, October 20: ASSIGNMENT 10 DUE!

Setting the stage:

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke PDF (5 pages)

Proposition 209 WEBSITE (4 pages)

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 WEBSITE (2 pages)

Main text:

Louis Pojman, “The Case Against Affirmative Action” PDF (14 pages)

Note about main text: At one point, Pojman cites data on differences in test scores along race, ethnicity, and gender and speculates about whether this might be due to genetic differences.  I won't say much about this in lecture, because it doesn't have much bearing on the questions of moral philosophy that are our main focus.  But, for the record, the inference from the differences in test scores to differences in genes is based on a conceptual confusion.  For a marvelously clear discussion, see this (written in his spare time, by a philosopher of mind):

Ned Block, "How Heritability Misleads about Race"

Moreover, there many scientifically supported (not to mention commonsense) explanations of the score differences that have nothing to do with genetic differences, indeed that have to do with nothing more than how people from stereotyped groups respond in certain test settings: "stereotype threat."

  1. Monday, October 23

Main texts:

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, §§ 12, 17, 47-48 PDF (21 new pages)

John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, §§ 20–22 PDF (6 pages)

  1. Wednesday, October 25

Main texts:

Ronald Dworkin, "Why Bakke Has No Case" PDF (15 pages)

T. M. Scanlon, Why Does Inequality Matter? Ch. 4, “Procedural Fairness” PDF (17 pages)

  1. Friday, October 27: ASSIGNMENT 11 POSTPONED TO NOV. 10!

NO NEW READING!  We will skip this one:

Main text:

T. M. Scanlon, Why Does Inequality Matter? Ch. 5, “Substantive Opportunity” PDF (27 pages)

  1. Monday, October 30: Term-paper topic and one-page outlines due!

Main text:

Charles Mills, "Racial Equality" PDF (23 pages)

Term-paper topic and one-page outlines due.  Discussion sections and GSI office hours for this week and the next, as well as the lecture time on Friday, Nov. 3, will be used for small-group meetings to discuss topics and outlines.

What do we owe our country, our race, our ethnicity?

Certain things are morally expected of us in virtue of our membership in groups. We may be said to have civic obligations, as citizens, to pay our taxes, to vote, or to serve in the military. Why is this, when few of us ever chose to become citizens? If we have these duties, do they depend on whether our country is just, or treats us justly? We also belong to racial, cultural, and ethnic groups, which may likewise be said to give us obligations of solidarity. When do we have such obligations? Do these obligations depend on our choosing to identify with a group, or do we have these obligations whether we like it or not? What are we to do when these obligations conflict?

  1. Wednesday, November 1

Main text:

David Hume, "Of the Original Contract" PDF (10 pages)

Thursday, November 2: ASSIGNMENT 12 DUE!

Friday, November 3: No lecture, but Teams Emu and Falcon meet in lecture room for discussion

  1. Monday, November 6

Setting the stage:

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” PDF (3 pages)

Main text:

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, §§18-19, 55, 57 PDF (23 pages)

  1. Wednesday, November 8

NO NEW READING!  We will skip this:

Setting the stage:

Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" PDF (4 pages)

Main text:

John Simmons, Boundaries of Authority, Ch. 2 “Disobedience, Nonideal Theory, and Historical Illegitimacy” PDF (25 pages)

Friday, November 10: NO LECTURE BUT ASSIGNMENT 11 DUE!

  1. Monday, November 13

Main text:

Tommie Shelby, “Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto” PDF (35 pages)

  1. Wednesday, November 15

NO NEW READING!  We will skip this:

Main text:

Samuel Scheffler, “Relationships and Responsibilities” PDF (21 pages)

  1. Friday, November 17

Setting the stage:

E.B. Du Bois, “The Conservation of Races” PDF (8 pages)

Main text:

Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Race, Culture, Identity" PDF (12 pages)

Tommie Shelby, We Who are Dark, Ch. 6 "Social Identity and Group Solidarity" PDF (32 new pages)

Who should be able to vote? Why does a vote matter?

One of the core rights of U.S. citizenship, many would say, is the right to vote. It may seem unsurprising, then, that one of the main aspirations of the civil rights movement of the 1960s was to guarantee the right to vote, especially to African Americans living in the South. But why should having a vote matter? After all, it’s a safe bet that your vote will never make any difference to the outcome of any political election (or initiative or referendum) you participate in. Who should have this (perhaps useless?) right to vote? Is it acceptable to expect voters to show ID, to read English, to have not been convicted of a crime? In many parts of the country, the preferences of a racial or ethnic majority consistently outweigh the preferences of a racial or ethnic minority. Is this a problem, so long as everyone’s vote is counted equally? In order to answer these questions, we need to answer why have a democracy at all. Why make political decisions or delegations by voting in the first place?

  2. Monday, November 27

Setting the stage:

Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants” PDF (4 pages)

Minor v. Happersett PDF (5 pages)

Main text:

Niko Kolodny, “Rule Over None I” PDF (33 pages)


Setting the stage:

Spencer Overton, Stealing Democracy, Ch. 3 "Does Race Still Matter?"; Ch. 4 "No Backsliding" PDF (44 pages)

Jim Rutenberg, "A Dream Undone" WEBSITE

Main text:

Niko Kolodny, “Rule Over None II” PDF (19 pages)



Setting the stage:

Spencer Overton, Stealing Democracy, Ch. 5 "La Sociedad Abierta," Ch. 6 "Fraud or Suppression?" PDF (16 pages)

Lani Guinier, Tyranny of the Majority, Ch. 1, Ch. 5 PDF (22 pages)

Main text:

Niko Kolodny, “Rule Over None II” (no new pages)

  1. Friday, December 1: Conclusion; Five-page papers returned
  2. Friday, December 15: Final eight-page paper due

Course Policies:


Plan ahead. You may request extensions from your GSI up until 72 hours before papers are due. After then, extensions will be granted only for medical and family emergencies.

Submitting Work:

Papers must be submitted online, through the “Assignments” tab. Do NOT put your name on the paper. DO put your SID and name of your GSI on the paper. If you do not want your paper to be shared with other students (e.g., as a model of something done well), then please indicate this on the paper. Papers after the deadline will lose one step (e.g., B+ to B) immediately and then an additional step every 24 hours. Any mishaps in electronic submission are your responsibility: forgotten attachments, unopenable files, bounced or lost emails, and so on.


Turnitin will be enabled for all papers.  Your submission will be compared to a database of other papers and materials.  (It will be added to the database too, but only for the purposes of future comparisons within UC Berkeley.)  About 15 minutes after you submit, an originality report will be generated, which should be visible to you on the page where you submitted.  Don’t worry if the report shows some incidental matches!  That's almost inevitable, even if your work is entirely your own. 

It’s overwhelmingly unlikely that what I will now go on to say applies to you.  Academic dishonesty is far less common than is often thought.  But, for the record: What if the originality report catches something that shows that your work was not entirely your own? What do you do?  Take a deep breath, rewrite the paper so that it is entirely your own work, and resubmit.  Your history of submissions and their originality reports will be visible to us.  But so long as your final submission is your own work (and not, say, the product of just enough tweaking to get past Turnitin), we will ignore the earlier submissions as though they never happened.  The aim is not to catch anyone, just to make sure that everyone fulfills the course requirements.


You are strongly encouraged to discuss grades and comments on papers with your GSI or me. However, grades on particular papers and exams will not be changed under any circumstances. While there is no perfect system, selective “re-grading” at students’ request only makes things worse. “Second” grades are likely to be less accurate and less fair than “first” grades. This is because, among other things, the GSI does not have access to other papers for purposes of comparison, the student will inevitably supply additional input (clarifications, explanations, etc.) that the original paper did not, and there are certain biases of self-selection.  The only exception, to which none of these concerns apply, is a suspected arithmetical or recording error in your final course grade. Please do not hesitate to bring this to your GSI’s or my attention.

Academic Dishonesty:

Plagiarism or cheating will result in an “F” in the course as a whole and a report to Student Judicial Affairs. A (finally submitted) paper with a Turnitin report showing more than 10% material from other sources is likely to be viewed as plagiarism.

Any test, paper or report submitted by you and that bears your name is presumed to be your own original work that has not previously been submitted for credit in another course unless you obtain prior written approval to do so from your instructor.

In all of your assignments, including your homework or drafts of papers, you may use words or ideas written by other individuals in publications, web sites, or other sources, but only with proper attribution. ‘Proper attribution’ means that you have fully identified the original source and extent of your use of the words or ideas of others that you reproduce in your work for this course, usually in the form of a footnote or parenthesis.

—Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism Subcommittee, June 18, 2004.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:

If you have an official accommodation letter that is relevant to this course, please notify both me and your GSI at a reasonable time. We will do whatever we can to help.

Our Policy on Sexual Violence and Harassment:

Our goal is that this classroom is a participatory community where everyone can fulfill their potential for learning; there is no place for sexual harassment or violence. If your behavior harms another person in this class, you may be removed from the class temporarily or permanently, or from the University. If you or someone you know experiences sexual violence or harassment, there are options, rights, and resources, including assistance with academics, reporting, and medical care. Visit or call the 24/7 Care Line at 510-643-2005.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due