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Stephen Steinberg Named Distinguished Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College

-- Internationally Recognized as Authority on Race and Ethnicity;
Three of His Books Are Considered Classics of Scholarship --


FLUSHING, NY, July 13, 2009—Queens College sociologist Stephen Steinberg, an expert on race and ethnicity, has been appointed Distinguished Professor of Urban Studies by the City University of New York (CUNY). Author of six books—including three that are classics in their genre—Dr. Steinberg has influenced not only scholars in his field, but also historians, legal scholars and policymakers. Over 20 CUNY Distinguished Professors have been resident at QC in the present decade.  A CUNY Distinguished Professorship is an honor reserved for teachers with records of exceptional performance by national and international standards in their profession.

Stephen Steinberg

“In addition to his prodigious, powerful work that has advanced the cause of social justice, Dr. Steinberg has been an active and affirming presence on our campus for over 30 years—a professor respected and beloved by students and colleagues alike,” says QC President James Muyskens. “We are fortunate and proud to have him on our faculty and congratulate him on this much-deserved honor.”


Dr. Steinberg has challenged prevailing thought about racism with a penetrating theory that locates the blame for racial inequality on major political and economic institutions.  He reasons that racism in America—particularly as it applies to African-Americans and other non-white individuals—has been caused not by differences in race and culture, but by racism in labor markets that prevents minority workers from gaining access to jobs that pay a living wage. This in turn undermines families and generates crime and other forms of social disorganization. “I can think of few with equal scholarship in the field of race and even fewer with his courageous willingness to take positions contrary to the orthodox …” says Derrick Bell, visiting professor at New York University Law School and a renowned race theorist.

In 1981, Dr. Steinberg published The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity and Class in America. Ranked among the 50 all-time best sellers in sociology and now in its third printing, The Ethnic Myth debunked the notion that ethnic groups who languish in poverty do so because they have defective value systems. Criticizing some of the most iconic figures in the field of American race relations, Dr. Steinberg argued that the assimilation of new immigrants in the U.S. during the late 19th/early 20th century overlooked those who were not from European or westernized countries and completely ignored our country’s history of black enslavement.

Dr. Steinberg continued to break new ground with Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy, published in 1995. Chosen one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Books of 1996, the title won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship. In 2007, with the release of his third seminal book, Race Relations: A Critique, he again challenges the conventional wisdom.  One reviewer described the book as “a devastating exposé of a century of sociology’s theoretical bad faith.”


Dr. Steinberg obtained his PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He came to New York City in 1971, as an assistant professor in the PhD program in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.  From 1976 to 1977 he had a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Independent Study. Since 1978 he has taught in the urban studies department at Queens College, as well as the PhD program in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Sharon Friedman, an associate professor of literature and drama at the Gallatin School of NYU. They have two children, Daniel, 30, and Joanna, 25, who are pursuing graduate degrees in urban planning and public history, respectively.


In accepting this honor, Dr. Steinberg thanked Queens College for having “nurtured my achievements by providing me with the framework, resources and freedom to pursue my intellectual project. I also reaped the benefits of our immensely diverse student body.”


Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), founded in 1937, is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Its more than 19,500 students come from over 140 nations and speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Queens College was named one of the nation's 25 "hottest" and "most interesting" colleges by the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek How to Get Into College guide and is rated one of America’s 100 “Best Value Colleges” by 2009 The Princeton Review. The college will open its first residence hall in August 2009. More info on Queens College at Info on the Summit at Queens College at


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