VIDEO: Bahá'í Chair Examines Concepts of Solidarity, Passivity

For its second Fall Symposium, the Bahá'í Chair for World Peace launched its Solidarity Across Differences Series with a special event featuring Assistant Professor Rashawn Ray of the Department of Sociology and Dr. Beth Douthirt Cohen, Director of Education and Training for UMD’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. A standing-room-only crowd filled the McKeldin Library Special Events Room on Nov. 12. Once again, the Chair drew distinguished discussants and audience members, including BSOS alumna Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden, the University’s Chief Diversity Officer. Watch Professor Ray's remarks. Watch Ms. Cohen's remarks. View the photo gallery.

Panelists sit togetherProfessor Ray presented “Being Color Brave rather than Colorblind: Forming a Racially-inclusive Sociological Imagination,” in which he focused on the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and gender inequality. Professor Ray discussed how to form solidarity and build coalitions across racial, ethnic and gender identities. The presentation was designed to help participants develop strategies to combat race and gender inequality in a socially-conscious manner. Professor Ray also reminded the audience that to take no action to promote dialogue and progression is to hinder social development.

“Passivity doesn’t lead to progressive change. It reaffirms and maintains social inequality,” Professor Ray said.

As the coordinator of the Critical Race Initiative, a group of scholars who center critical race theory as an important framework by which to understand inequality in society, Professor Ray has been an invaluable partner to the Bahá'í Chair as it addresses the critical topic of racism, both explicit and structural. He has served as a guest speaker, panelist and moderator at several Bahá'í Chair events, and has played a central role in bringing together thought leaders from across campus and the nation to examine timely topics related to prejudice and racism.

In her role as a diversity leader on campus, Dr. Cohen directs various training and educational initiatives to strengthen inclusion and further social justice on campus for staff, faculty and students, including the Words of Engagement: Intergroup Dialogue Program, a series of social justice intergroup dialogues between groups with historical tensions.

Dr. Cohen’s presentation, “Forging Alliances, Seeking Justice: How Relatively Privileged Young People Imagine and Build Solidarity across Difference” drew from data on a study of relatively privileged young people who see themselves as allies of marginalized populations and touched on the strengths and struggles of people who are enacting various forms of solidarity. Dr. Cohen also discussed how habits of thinking, feeling, and associating limit or extend possibilities for diverse educational communities.

“If we have to state that we are in solidarity with someone, it is because it is not assumed; there is some question,” Dr. Cohen said.

The Bahá'í Chair is uniquely poised to foster dialogue and cooperation among diverse individuals and groups. Its incumbent, Dr. Mahmoudi, is dedicated to engaging people of all backgrounds and perspectives in productive dialogue to bring about lasting, unified change.

“Our differences–which comprise our diversity–have been the impetus for building civilization, have brought about great human achievements, have been the motivation for finding solutions that eliminate human suffering, and have brought beauty to life. So for us to draw on scholarship in order to understand how better to bring about solidarity across differences is extremely important to our actions in creating a better society,” Dr. Mahmoudi said.

The Chair concludes an exceptionally active semester of presentations and dialogue on Monday, Nov. 24 with its second Fall Lecture at 2 p.m. in the McKeldin Library Special Events Room (6137). Professor Fruma Zachs will deliver the lecture “Women in Conflicts, Past and Present: The Syrian Case”. Learn more and RSVP.