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The Matrix of Race

The Matrix of Race
Social Construction, Intersectionality, and Inequality

First Edition
Additional resources:

Race & Ethnicity

October 2017 | 480 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Proud sponsor of the 2019 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

The Matrix of Race: Social Construction, Intersectionality, and Inequality
is a textbook that makes race and racial inequality “visible” in new ways to all students in race/ethnic relations courses, regardless of their backgrounds–from minorities who have experienced the impact of race in their own lives to members of dominant groups who might believe that we now live in a “color blind” society. The “matrix” refers to a way of thinking about race that reflects the intersecting, multilayered identities of contemporary society, and the powerful social institutions that shape our understanding of race. Its goals are to help readers get beyond familiar “us vs. them” arguments that can lead to resistance and hostility; promote self-appraisal; and stimulate more productive discussions about race and racism.

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Chapter 1. Race and the Social Construction of Difference
The Social Construction of Race  
The Social Matrix of Race  
The Operation of Racism  
Our Stories  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 2. The Shaping of a Nation: The Social Construction of Race in America
Race Today: Adapting and Evolving  
Indigenous Peoples: The Americas before Columbus  
Discovery and Encounters: The Shaping of Our Storied Past  
The U.S. Matrix and Intersectionality— Where Do We Go from Here?  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 3. The Social Construction and Regulation of Families
Historical Regulation of the Family  
Family Inequality Theories  
Family Inequality through the Matrix Lens  
Transforming the Ideal Family Narrative  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 4. Work and Wealth Inequality
Recent Trends in Work and Wealth  
Theories of Economic Inequality  
Applying the Matrix to the History of Economic Inequality in the United States  
Transforming the Story of Race and Economic Inequality  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 5. Health, Medicine, and Health Care
Patterns of Inequality in Health and Health Care  
Theorizing Inequality in Health and Health Care  
Applying the Matrix to Health Inequity and Inequality  
Resisting and Transforming Inequality in Health and Health Care  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 6. Education
The Shaping of the Matrix of U.S. Education  
Theories of Education  
Examining the Concealed Story of Race and Education through the Matrix  
Alternative Educational Movements and the Future of Education  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 7. Crime, Law, and Deviance
A History of Race, Crime, and Punishment  
Sociological Stock Theories of Crime and Deviance  
Applying the Matrix to Crime and Deviance  
Transforming the Narrative of Race, Crime, and Deviance  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 8. Power, Politics, and Identities
Contemporary Political Identities  
Critiquing Sociological Theories of Power, Politics, and Identity  
Applying the Matrix of Race to U.S. Political History  
Building Alternatives to the Matrix of Race and Politics  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 9. Sports and the American Dream
The State of Sport Today  
Examining Stock Sociological Theories of Sport  
Applying the Matrix to Sports in the United States  
Creating a New Playing Field  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  
Chapter 10. The Military, War, and Terrorism
Class, Gender, and Race in the U.S. Military  
Military Sociology Stock Theories  
Applying the Matrix Approach to U.S. Military History, War, and Terrorism  
A More Inclusive Future  
Key Terms  
Chapter Summary  


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Key features


  • Unlike many texts, The Matrix of Race is organized around the social institutions where race is lived and experienced, rather than the examination of individual groups.
  • A historical perspective throughout allows students to see how race has been shaped, maintained and transformed at multiple points across time.
  • The “Matrix” framework helps readers see the complexity and dynamic aspects of race, and incorporates a number of important theories and perspectives throughout:

o   Race is socially constructed—it changes from one place to another and across time.

o   Race is intersectional—it is embedded in other socially-constructed categories of difference like ethnicity, gender, social class, ethnicity, sexuality.

o   There are two sides to race—oppression and privilege—and many of us experience forms of both.

o   It is more useful to focus on the structures of society than to blame individuals for racial inequality.

  • The text emphasizes the powerful role of narrative in the social construction of race and difference, using four different types of stories:

o   Stock stories told mainly by the dominant group.

o   Concealed stories that reveal hidden truths about race.

o   Resistance stories that directly challenge the status quo.

o   Transforming stories that offer a vision of a racial justice.

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