American Government Seen Through Race

TAMPA, Fla. (May 14, 2010) – Scholars can tell the story of the United States from many perspectives, yet one has been largely neglected until now – American government as seen through the lens of race and ethnicity.


University of South Florida political scientist t Steven C. Tauber and co-author Paula D. McClain of Duke University have written American Government in Black and White to address that omission. The contents include material on a broad range of racial and ethnic groups; the book factors in gender, geography, religion, history, philosophy, and ideological debates as well.


“This is the first book of its kind to focus on race in this arena, as surprising as that may seem,” Tauber said. “We cover all aspects of American politics: history, political theory, governmental institutions, and political behavior, and it is quite amazing the extent to which race and ethnicity are relevant in every aspect. Students can find plenty of evidence of the important role that race and ethnicity plays in every aspect of American government and politics.”


The book moves from a look at the structure and framework of American government, to an examination of each of the major political institutions (Congress, the presidency, the courts, and the bureaucracy), to various manifestations of political behavior (groups, parties, elections, and the media) and concludes with a discussion of public policy – domestic and foreign. The authors focus on historical issues of race and ethnicity, such as slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the internment of Japanese-Americans, as well as contemporary concerns, such as immigration, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the election of President Obama.


Tauber was McClain’s graduate assistant at the University of Virginia, and she was one of his mentors in graduate school. Although years have passed, she reached out to him to write this book. 


“We are both fairly quantitative in our approach to research,” he said. And the book reflects this penchant. Each chapter has empirical data, measurements and numerical analysis to help illustrate the facts presented. In addition, critical thinking exercises in each chapter introduce an interactive element to stimulate reflection long after the book is closed.


“This book isn’t the least bit ideological and we don’t try to oversell the point,” Tauber said. “We’re not saying race is the only thing that matters in American politics and history, but if we can get the reader to realize its role and importance, we will have made an important contribution.”


Tauber is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego and earned his Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia. An associate professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs at USF, he teaches courses in American government, constitutional law, judicial politics, research methods and statistics, and political parties and interest groups. 


McClain teaches political science, public policy and African and African American Studies at Duke University and is co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences and directs the American Political Science Association’s Ralph Bunche Summer Institute at Duke.