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Election! Race, Religion, and American Politics

Your chance to prove to your family, friends, and random strangers on the internet that you learned something this semester in REL200.

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So this happened.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Image

As you know, social media was a YUGE part of this election cycle. This assignment is your opportunity to use social media for good or for awesome.


Pick a topic that we discussed this semester: voter disenfranchisement, American exceptionalism, religious freedom, arguments for religious freedom, expressions of religious intolerance, etc. Then use this Buzzfeed format to define the concept, provide historical context, and explain its significance to the study of race, religion, and American politics.


Use at least nine memes/tweets/screengrabs to define, contextualize, and explain the significance of your topic. (Be sure to include the URLs of your images and links, and attributions for photos whenever possible.)

Remember that you’re writing for a general audience, so keep it simple. Everything you write should be clear and concise, designed to get your point across to non-experts.

1) Define your topic. So let’s say you want to talk about white supremacy.

Define the term in your own words, and support your definition with at least TWO sources we read this semester.

You could say something like “white supremacy is a form of systemic oppression that values whiteness and the lives of white people—or, as Baldwin would say, people who believe they are white—over other racial categories and the lives of people of color.”

Post-election graffiti in Durham, NC.

Then find two examples that support your definition from our readings this semester. For example: in “Letter to My Son,” Coates says that “the law has become an excuse for stopping and frisking you, which is to say, for furthering the assault on your body. But a society that protects some people through a safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth but can protect you only with the club of criminal justice has either failed at enforcing its good intentions or succeeded at something much darker.”

This is a good example of a source that can support your definition: Coates explains that racism is systemic, not individual — educational, financial, and law enforcement institutions benefit white folks and target black bodies.

(Bonus: the source is available online, so folks who don’t have institutional credentials and/or university library privileges can read it and learn more about your topic.)

Please be sure to include both a quote and an explanation of that quote in your own words.

(You should include at least one more source to support your definition, but since this is just an example, let’s move on.)

2) Historical Context

Find at least three examples that provide historical context for your topic. If we’re talking about white supremacy, we might want to think about Sojourner Truth, insisting that Black women’s rights are women’s rights.

View this video on YouTube

Summarize the source and tell us how it helps us understand the history of your topic — here, white supremacy. In 1851, Truth is exhorting a gathering of primarily white feminists, insisting that she is just as worthy of equal rights as they. She makes this argument specifically in religious/exegetical terms: “Where did your Christ come from?”

Again, you should have three sources to provide historical context. Malcolm X is another good example: in his 1964 “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he argued that Black people of all religions (or no religion!) have to come together to fight white supremacy — white folks controlling economic, political, and social systems. Black nationalism, X said, can be promoted by religious organizations, but it’s bigger than any one religion.

View this video on YouTube

Remember: you should be very clear about why each source helps us understand your topic in relation to race, religion, and American politics. Each example should discuss all three core concepts—race, religion, and politics—of this course.

3) Significance: why does this topic matter to the study of race, religion, and politics?


(Too soon?)

Explain the significance of your topic to the study of race, religion, and American politics using at least four assigned sources.

Again, if we’re talking about white supremacy, we could use Kelly Baker’s “The New White Nationalists” to show that while the white supremacist alt-right isn’t uniformly Christian (unlike the 1920s Klan), religious intolerance toward Muslims and Jews is consistent feature of their ideology.

Guy chants "Jew-S-A" in front of press pen


We might also talk about the way that African American folks use Christianity to resist white supremacy, like when Bree Newsome took down the Confederate flag from the SC Capitol Building after a white supremacist shot 9 members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

View this video on YouTube

Give specific examples, refer directly to the assigned texts, and explain in your own words why these examples demonstrate the significance of your topic to the study of race, religion, and American politics. Why should Americans know about your topic? How do race and religion shape the American political process?

POTUS rejects PeOTUS’s extreme vetting proposal

POTUS rejects PeOTUS’s extreme vetting proposal

Finally: remember our rules about being good internet citizens. Irreverent is okay; disrespectful or deliberately offensive is not. When in doubt, check with me first.

One last thing: DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS. NEVER READ THE COMMENTS. You can't turn the comments off, but that doesn't mean you have to look at them.

What other people think of me is none of my business

Now get out there and make America(n scholars of religion) proud!

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