Wilmette Institute Offers Course on Anti-Black Racism

The Wilmette Institute is offering a virtual course, “Anti-Black Racism in the US and Building a Unified Society”. This course will increase your understanding of the history of racism. It examines anti-black racism and racial prejudice in North American society in some of its most serious manifestations, explores the content and significance of relevant Bahá’í authoritative texts, and considers how Bahá’ís can initiate meaningful conversations and public discourse in a variety of contexts. 

How It All Began

In 2018, Gwen Etter-Lewis emailed the Wilmette Institute, urging it to create a course dealing with the epidemic of racism in America. She agreed to be on the task force with Anthony Outler, Guy Emerson Mount, Chitra Golestani, and Nicola Daniels, who drafted a seven-week course. It was immensely popular and has been offered a total of twelve times since. The Regional Bahá’í Council of the Northwestern States was the first to ask its local Spiritual Assemblies to take the course; the RBC for the Midwestern States was next. More and more LSAs in the region are participating. For many students, it has been an eye-opening and life-changing course. 

Benefits of Taking the Course as a Group

Members of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Indianapolis were concerned about racism, interested in possible Bahá’í approaches and wanted to learn more. Recently they completed the course together at the suggestion of the RBC of the Midwestern States.

When asked if there was a qualitative difference in the experience for members of the Spiritual Assembly taking the course together, this assembly stated, “We had special meetings to share our reflections on what we were learning and what we could do as an LSA. For one or two of these sessions we were joined by Wilmette Institute staff in our deliberations.”

Another question asked was if there were specific aspects of the way the course was organized and conducted that were found to be useful to the institution of the Spiritual Assembly. 

“We could share and discuss with other attendees from other communities during weekly Zoom sessions. The scenarios and resulting discussions were illuminating. The material overview by June Thomas was also very helpful, keeping students up to date with course units.” said Brian Wittman, Secretary. He further stated, “There were lots of excellent course materials, with each unit focusing on a different topic, a good mixture of reading material and videos. We appreciated the blending of Bahá’í Writings combined with secular content.”

Since 2020, “Anti-Black Racism in the US and Building a Unified Society” has been offered three times a year, in Spring, Summer, and Fall. Currently the course meets for 10 weeks. The Wilmette Institute has offered over 700 online courses on Bahá’í related subjects since 1998 in order to strengthen Bahá’ís in their contributions to public discourse and community building. The Wilmette Institute offers flexibility, is reasonably priced, with great discussions and activities. About 1,000 students and instructors have participated in this course to date.

The Anti-Black Racism course has been offered three times a year since 2020.