Bahá'í Chair Addresses Racism in Lecture Series

On Oct. 29, the Bahá'í Chair for World Peace continued its Structural Racism and the Root Causes of Prejudice Series with remarks by Phillip J. Bowman, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan and John L. Jackson, Jr., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania. A standing-room-only crowd of students, the public and faculty members from various disciplines filled the Stamp Student Union Colony Ballroom.

The 2014 Bahá'í Chair for World Peace Spring Symposium was the first event in this series andfeatured Dr. Lawrence Bobo of Harvard University, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt of Stanford University and Dr. Vincent L. Hutchings of the University of Michigan, who explored the topic from diverse angles. (Watch the videos of Dr. Bobo’s remarks and Dr. Hutchings’s remarks.) The Chair’s focus on structural racism and the root causes of prejudice continued recently with a special event featuring Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University, who discussed “The Problem of Racism in ‘Post-Racial’ America”. Click here to watch the video.

As the incumbent of the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace, Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi is dedicated to developing a sound scientific basis for knowledge and strategies that explore the role of social actors and structures in removing obstacles to peace and creating paths to a better world.  In pursuit of this goal, she collaborates with a wide range of scholars, researchers, and practitioners. In particular, Professor Mahmoudi advocates a broad concept of peacemaking—which she refers to as a “worldview approach”—that draws insights from all cultures.

Racism has been a key area of focus for Dr. Mahmoudi, and she has taken this focus into the classroom. Dr. Mahmoudi’s academic course, “The Problem of Prejudice: Overcoming Impediments to Global Peace and Justice,” examines the root scientific causes of prejudice and discrimination as major impediments to global peace and justice. The course draws from the latest interdisciplinary scholarly research, examining and seeking to explain the prejudice of racism, sexism, nationalism, inequality, and religious strife. The course encourages the search for solutions to the blight of prejudice and to advance knowledge on framing public policy and education toward the prevention of all forms of prejudice.  The goal of the course is to bring about freedom from prejudice, to explore and understand the nobility, care, and respect that is owed to everyone. Dr. Mahmoudi believes that these are the necessary conditions for human solidarity and social integration.

“It is critical that we examine racism inside and outside the classroom, and involve everyone—students, academicians, the faith community, government leaders and beyond—in this dialogue,” Dr. Mahmoudi said. “Our recent discussions inspired us all to examine this problem and to do our part to bring about lasting change in our society and around the world.”

At the University of Michigan, Professor Bowman is founding director of the Diversity Research and Policy Program, a Professor with the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, and a Faculty Associate with the Institute for Social Research at the National Center for Institutional Diversity within the School of Education. He spoke on the topic of “Contemporary Racism, Organizational Inequality and Sustainable Diversity: Challenges for the 21st Century”.

As we move further into the 21st century, a growing body of social research shows how various conceptualizations of “contemporary racism” have essentially replaced “traditional racism” in the United States. In his presentation, Professor Bowman argued that these new concepts of contemporary racism are necessary but not sufficient for a deeper understanding of racial inequalities at the organizational, national and international levels.

Professor Jackson is Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and the Richard Perry University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His talk examined the ways in which traditional understandings of race/racism in American society prove less than helpful in the contemporary politico-racial landscape. He discussed some of what makes the current moment so distinctive, deliniating some strategies for more accurately, effectively and inclusively approaching the emergent social moment.