Dr. Jabari Mahiri called upon educators to push the boundaries regarding the understanding of race stating the problem with the 21st century is the color-bind.
Elaborating on the color-bind issue, Mahiri stated: “We’ve been so bound into these essentialized categories that we are not able to see the humanity that exists underneath and across and in between the people that we’re engaging on a day to day basis.”
Mahiri, an author and professor at University of California, Berkeley, spoke at the University of Maryland, headlining the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace Annual Lecture.
Bahá’í Chair for World Peace
Citing a passage from his book, “Deconstructing Race: Multicultural Education Beyond the Color-Bind,” Mahiri referenced a young boy named Santi. Mahiri explained how in society Santi would be viewed as black, but in reality, Santi’s identity is more complex; Santi’s father is African American, however, his mother is Colombian. Santi will be identified only as black within society, however, his brother, who is much lighter in skin tone, will be viewed as Latinx, therefore, giving these two boys completely different experiences.
Mahiri emphasized how race is a social construct and society must look at race from the scientific standpoint. In the United States, the constant focus on race and defining people within the black and white binary inhibits fixing larger issues, like environmental issues, Mahiri said. He furthered his argument by referring to whiteness as “ascribed whiteness” which highlights the reality that race is a social construct, not a scientific fact.
University of Maryland sociology professor, Dr. Rashawn Ray, said “[Mahiri’s] point is that race is a social construct and in order to really deal with it we have to really start viewing it in that way and I think in particular what he aimed to do is to push current college students to think outside of the box.”
Mahiri ended his lecture by stating, “race is the new flat world,” and called upon educators to reveal how race is not backed by science.
The lecture was sponsored by The Critical Race Initiative, Abdolhossein, and Guitty Ejtemai Foundation. 327 people RSVP’d to the event.