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Reimagining the Construction of Blackness: From Anti-Blackness to World Unity

Nov 9, 2021
Reimagining the Construction of Blackness - Derik Smith

This webinar is hosted by the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), of which the Wilmette Institute is an affiliate. Please note the time of the event is 9 pm Eastern (6 pm Pacific).

For many observers, the prevailing order of modernity appears utterly incapable of creating peace, justice, and well-being for significant segments of humanity. Rather than provide amelioration, our dominant political and economic systems often appear to extend and recapitulate forces of oppression. Arguably, anti-black racism constitutes one of the most virulent forms of oppression that the organizing systems of modernity seem to produce and abet.

In multi-racial national societies across the globe, black populations experience unique harms. In the international global order, black nations are among the most materially oppressed. Democratic liberalism, it seems, has not worked out so well for members of the African diaspora. Indeed, many black thinkers are deeply pessimistic about the possibility that the prevailing order can provide amelioration for black populations. 

But what alternatives to liberalism can we imagine? This presentation considers the conception of blackness offered by Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, as the starting point for a reimagining of the prevailing order of modernity. While Western modernity has created a symbolic order in which black life signifies aberrance and disposability, in the worldview constructed by Bahá’u’lláh, black people are metaphorized as the “pupil of the eye,” occupying a central and indispensable position in the metaphorical body of humanity. The presentation will consider the provenance and implications of this metaphor, so at odds with the racial symbolism of modernity, and so crucial to a Bahá’í reconceptualization of social order. 

GTU announcement



Derik Jalal Smith, PhD

Derik Smith is a professor in the Department of Literature at Claremont McKenna College; he is currently chair of the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies at the Claremont Colleges. His work is anchored in the analysis of American culture and, particularly, African American literary culture. He is the author of many articles, and the book, Robert Hayden In Verse: New Histories of African American Poetry and the Black Arts Era. He and his family live in Southern California.

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