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Structural Racism and the Root Causes of Prejudice Series


The 2014 Bahá'í Chair for World Peace 1st Fall Symposium

Speaker #1:

Phil BowmanContemporary Racism, Organizational Inequality and Sustainable Diversity: Challenges for the 21st Century

Phillip J. Bowman, Ph.D.
Director, Diversity Research and Policy Program
Professor, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education
Faculty Associate, Institute for Social Research
National Center for Institutional Diversity
School of Education, University of Michigan

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” (e.g. beliefs about biological inferiority, racial hatred and explicit discrimination) in the USA.  In this presentation, I argue 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.  To make my case, I first examine how the core dimensions of three models of contemporary racism – “symbolic racism,” “laissez faire racism,” and “color-blind racism” – help to explain the persistence of both individual racial discrimination and inequality. Second, I highlight how status characteristics models can provide a deeper understanding of informal group processes that perpetuate inequalities in universities, workplaces and other organizations. Third, I describe how asustainable diversity model can help to explain national policy options under which growing racial/ethnic diversity can be more or less sustainable. Fourth, I suggest that contemporary racism continues to combine with informal status processes within organizations to impede the development of sustainable diversity policy at the national level. I conclude my talk by suggesting that this multilevel problem of 21st century racism is not only a challenge for racial/ethnic minorities but also for sustainable development in the USA and other nations in a competitive global economy.

About the Speaker:
Bowman is the founding director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan, a national think-tank for researchers and other key stakeholders in a social change agenda, and he serves as PI of the center's Diversity Research & Policy Program. Prior to joining the university, Bowman served as director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He has held leadership roles at Northwestern University, including faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, faculty affiliate at the Joint Center for Poverty Research, coordinator of the Spencer Training Grant in Education and Social Policy, coordinator of the Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology, director of the Summer Academic Workshop, director of the Social and Behavioral Science Scholars Program and interim chair of the Department of African American Studies. Bowman’s scholarship focuses on diversity issues in research methodology, higher education, and public policy; social psychological issues in racial/ethnic disparities, and African-American Studies. He is an active national and international lecturer and consultant on diversity issues in research methodology, higher education, and public policy. He has been a Rockefeller and Senior Ford Postdoctoral Fellow and his research has been supported by several sources, such as the Spencer Foundation, state agencies, and a number of federal agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Science Foundation. Bowman received a doctorate in social psychology from the university and began his professional career at the U-M Institute for Social Research. He also served as an assistant professor in psychology and Afroamerican and African studies.

Lecture Video

Speaker #2:

John JacksonWhat You CAN’T See Is What you Get: Color, Community and Citizenship in an Aspiringly “Post-Racial” Democracy

John L. Jackson, Jr., Ph.D.,Dean, School of Social Policy & Practice, Richard Perry University Professor, University of Pennsylvania

This talk will examine the ways in which traditional understandings of race/racism in American society prove less than helpful in the contemporary politico-racial landscape. We will discuss some of what makes the current moment so distinctive, trying to delineate some strategies for more accurately, effectively and inclusively approaching the emergent social moment.

About the Speaker:
John L. Jackson, Jr., is Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and Richard Perry University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Jackson received his BA in Communication (Radio/TV/Film) from Howard University and his PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University. He spent three years as a junior fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and four years teaching in Duke University’s Department of Cultural Anthropology and Center for Documentary Studies. He is the author of Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Harvard University Press, 2013); Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (Basic, 2008); Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity (University of Chicago Press, 2005); and Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America (University of Chicago Press, 2001). His current book project, to be published in September by Atria/Simon & Schuster, is Impolite Conversations, co-written with Cora Daniels. As a filmmaker, Jackson has produced a feature-length fiction film, documentaries, and film-shorts that have screened at film festivals internationally. His most recent film, co-directed with Deborah A. Thomas, is Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens (Third World Newsreel, 2012), which examines the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its iconic Rastafarian community. Jackson’s work also critically explores how film and other non-traditional or multi-modal formats can be most effectively utilized in specifically scholarly research projects, and he is one of the founding members of CAMRA ( and PIVPE, two University of Pennsylvania-based initiatives organized around creating visual and performative research projects and producing rigorous criteria for assessing them.

Lecture Video 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 2:00pm

Colony Ballroom, Adele H. Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland College Park, MD  20742



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