The College

Examining Race, Power and Privilege

For over 30 years, Brown has had a course indicator that highlights the University's commitment to the intellectual study of race, racial formations, inequality and social justice.

Originally defined as "American Minority Perspectives" and later broadened and reimagined, the latest iteration of this course designation — "Race, Power and Privilege" — was the result of a 2016 report produced by the Task Force on Diversity in the Curriculum. 

The College Curriculum Council (CCC) supported the Task Force’s proposed curricular program, but initially voted to change the name to “DIAP Courses: Race, Gender, and Inequality” (in use from 2018-2021) to gesture toward the larger University-wide Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). In 2021, a CCC working group revisited the Task Force's recommendations to assess progress and to examine how to best support student learning about racism, racial inequities and systems of power and privilege. Reflecting on the increasing, and increasingly public, racist violence and other national events of recent years, the 2021 working group determined that it was necessary to return to the 2016 Task Force's original intent by adopting a narrower and more explicit curricular program, "Race, Power and Privilege." 

In their content and their objectives, Race, Power and Privilege (RPP) courses examine issues of structural inequality, racial formations and/or disparities and systems of power within a complex, pluralistic world. 

RPP courses may investigate:

  • the ways different forms of power and privilege construct racial and identity formations in the U.S. and/or globally; the cultural, political and intellectual responses to this racialization;
  • how categories of race and ethnicity are produced intersectionally in relation to other hierarchical structures of difference including gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, ability, citizenship status and geography;
  • the structures, institutions, practices and attitudes that enable, maintain or mitigate domestic and/or global disparities in health, income, education outcomes, media representations, etc.; and/or
  • the ways in which disciplinary structures of knowledge have been embedded in such historical formations as racism and colonialism.

Adding the RPP Curricular Designation

The vast majority of courses that carried the previous course designation, DIAP Courses: Race, Gender and Inequality, also met the criteria for the RPP designation based on a review of the course description; the RPP designation was automatically carried over for these courses. For all other courses, instructors are invited to submit syllabi in order to request the RPP designation.

For new courses and courses that did not carry the DIAP Courses designation, as with other curricular programs, requests to add RPP the may be submitted via the Banner course proposal system (by selecting "yes" in the "curricular programs" field and then choosing the appropriate type) either at the time the course is first proposed or by initiating a "modification" for an existing course (modifications may be submitted in Banner until the last day of shopping period of the semester in which it is offered).

A recent syllabus should accompany the course proposal that explicitly contains at least one of the required elements are factored into the intentional design of the course. (For example, these elements listed above may be noted as course learning objectives, such as the potential learning objectives published below, or described in the syllabus’s description of key assignment or course expectations.)

Course Development Funding for RPP Courses

Potential Learning Objectives of RPP Courses

Historical and Critical Frameworks

Students in RPP courses will:

  • Critically analyze and articulate the ways in which historical forces shape constructions of race and ethnicity, and how these categories are produced in relation to other hierarchical structures of difference including gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, ability, citizenship status, and geography; demonstrate an understanding of racial and ethnic relations as structural rather than simply individual phenomena; 
  • Understand how and in what ways slavery, settler colonialism, conceptions of race and practices of racism have shaped the modern world;
  • Understand the histories and legacies of structural violence against Black, Asian, Native and Indigenous, and other racialized peoples throughout the Global South, including but not limited to the Americas and the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands;  
  • Develop fluency in critical theories about race, indigeneity, and diaspora;
  • Apply the tools and knowledge of critical theories of race, colonialism, and power to analyze structures in their disciplines; understand the ways in which disciplinary structures of knowledge have been embedded in such historical formations as racism and colonialism.

Ethical Practice and Critical Self-Reflection

Students in RPP courses will:

  • Interrogate and critically reflect upon their own social location and experiences of marginalization, privilege and internalized dominance;
  • Apply the knowledge gained in the course to benefit racialized and Indigenous peoples and affect change on the local, regional, national and/or global scale in the areas of interest to them;
  • Demonstrate the capacity to be transformed - in knowledge, attitudes and behavior - by engagements with multiple points of view, experiences and worldviews;
  • Demonstrates understanding of ethical and social justice concerns and increased sense of social responsibility. Explores intersections between identity and privilege; possesses moral and political courage to take risks to achieve greater public good.

Courses will be reviewed by the College Curriculum Council; once approved courses are reviewed regularly for effectiveness in meeting the goals of the curricular designation. 

Opportunities for Student Feedback

In addition to the standard course feedback questions asked of students enrolled in all undergraduate courses, students in RPP courses are asked to reflect on the effectiveness of the course and on the impact of these elements on their overall learning and the development of their academic pathway moving forward.