Heretics Lunch Deconstructs Race

Jake Gomez, Maroon-News Staff

On Thursday, February 28, students and faculty filled the seats of the Colgate Memorial Chapel basement in anticipation of the week’s installment of The Heretics Club lunch series. This time, Dr. Diane M. Stewart gave a talk regarding identity and race within African American diasporic communities titled “I Am Not a Race or Color.”

Dr. Stewart is the Alumni of Color Scholar in Residence at Colgate University and an Associate Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Emory University. Dr. Stewart’s research covers the study of Africana religions in the Anglophone Caribbean and the United States. Her re- search additionally covers feminism, religion and society and the impact of African civilizations upon religious formation in the African diaspora.

Stewart opened the lunch by talking about her involvement in African American and black diaspora studies, noting that she teaches a class at Emory called “Black Religions of Protest.”

“I realized I had to change the name, and by the end of this talk, you’ll know why,” Stewart said.

Stewart began listing a number of notable “black religious” groups that emerged after the 1880s such as the Black Madonnas, the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple.

“[These groups sought to] give black people an ethnic identity like other groups. Indeed, identities are not factual. Blackness is a construction,” Stewart said. “Blacks turned away from Christianity and its racial meta-narratives and formed new groups. Even the Black Christian church’s belief that ‘all are equal’ was not enough to combat America’s racialized reality.”

Sophomore Jailekha Zutshi ’21, who attended the lunch, said she enjoyed Dr. Stewart’s lecture.

“I thought the talk was fascinating in that it exposed us to a different way of thinking about a ‘post-racial’ world. I’ve heard the use of [race] being criticized, and this showed us how it was used as a tool of reclamation by African diasporic religious groups,” Zutshi said.

Deacon Mark Shiner, the organizer of the Heretic Lunch Series, was excited by the huge turnout.

“[The Heretics Lunch Series] has been going on since 2006,” he said. “Inspired by Peter Bürger, his idea was that everyone is a heretic to some- body in a pluralistic society. This lunch series is meant to get people to come together and speak about their interesting ideas and perspectives.”

The Heretics Club hosts weekly lunches every Thursday in the chapel basement. The next talk, titled “Taking Your Opponents Seriously,” is scheduled for Friday, March 22, following spring break.

Contact Jake Gomez at [email protected]