Desmond Ang Photo

Desmond Ang

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

Cornell William Brooks Photo

Cornell William Brooks

Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations; Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice

Zoe Marks Photo

Zoe Marks

Lecturer in Public Policy

Sandra Susan Smith Photo

Sandra Susan Smith

Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, HKS; Professor of Sociology, FAS; Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor, Radcliffe


This course is a 6-week module that follows on DPI385M. It covers a range of topics related to the history of racial issues as well as policies and practices in contemporary society. First year MPP students can select among the following four options. 

Section A: Sandra Susan Smith.  Exploring Institutions and Modes of Racial Domination.  This module builds on the insights of DPI385M, examining power and oppression in the contemporary American context. We will explore key theoretical and empirical insights from the social sciences to highlight the role that institutions of racial domination have played in producing durable racial hierarchies, with specific attention to the modes through which such hierarchies have been created and maintained – exclusion, violence, punishment, erasure, and extraction. Each week we will also consider transformational possibilities, alternative visions, supported by empirical evidence, that have the power to dismantle hierarchies and the systems of oppression that make them possible.  

Section B: Cornell William Brooks. Justice, Advocacy, and You: Race and Crime as a Case Study.  Grounded in theory and practice, this module seeks to equip students with advocacy strategies to end systemic racism.  Using the criminal legal system as a case study (solitary confinement, death penalty, school to prison pipeline, etc.), students study successful movements and case studies, economic and moral arguments, advocacy strategies and campaigns, data and storytelling, as well as history to develop their own campaigns to address today’s injustices.  These strategies are useful in the public and private sector and in a wide variety of social justice contexts.  

Section C: Zoe Marks. International and Intersectional Approaches to Race and Racism. This module examines power and oppression in global context. Students will confront colonial legacies and explore key frameworks, from caste to global antiblackness, for understanding and redressing how racism shapes our lives and our world. Each student will build a personal toolkit of intersectional policy analysis skills and concepts – grappling with how racism interacts with sexism, classism, nationalism and other sources of inequality; together, we will work toward concrete policy and advocacy solutions to systemic racism.

Section D: Desmond Ang. Racial Inequality in the U.S.: An Empirical Perspective.   This module seeks to provide a broad empirical understanding of the causes and consequences of racial inequality in America across a range of domains - from housing and education to criminal justice and labor markets. Students will learn about the state of racial inequality today and historically and will gain the analytical skills necessary to unpack the drivers of those trends. Throughout the course, students will engage with and critically evaluate leading quantitative research examining the real-world impacts of a range of public policies relevant to racial inequality.

This course is required of all MPP1 students.