During the past several years, Americans made a distressing “discovery:” we are not a post-racial society and racial animus is still very much alive.
We must focus on recognizing the problems and issues this hard fact calls upon us to face. Where do we start?
Here’s a suggestion: the passages below, from the statement “The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue”, published in 1991 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, begin by setting forth the foundational principle of Baha’i belief—the oneness of humanity:
The oneness of humanity is the pivot round which revolve all the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. It is at once a statement of principle and an assertion of the ultimate goal of human experience on the planet. More than a century ago Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” It is a principle that issues naturally from the genesis and purpose of human existence. The Word of God as presented in the Baha’i writings offers compelling insights as in the following examples:
Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from the same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.
All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
Having gone through the stages of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that will witness “the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world—a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life.” In no other country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation.
The italicized passages above come from the writings of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith. These scriptures, penned by Baha’u’llah in the latter half of the 19th century, form the foundation of Baha’i belief that we humans are one family—as singer/songwriter Red Grammer put it, “a coat of many colors”.
The U.S. has been called “a grand experiment,” “a nation of immigrants,” “a melting pot” of diversity. As the National Assembly notes, it is “a microcosm of the diverse populations” of the world we live in.
A maxim Baha’is live by, given to us by Baha’u’llah, is Unity in Diversity. Fans of Star Trek may recognize Unity in Diversity as a byword among Vulcans and a concept revered by the United Federation of Planets. (A couple of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s writers were Baha’is; coincidence?) Anyone who saw the most recent Star Trek movie—Star Trek: Beyond—will recognize this theme throughout the film: that there is strength in the unity of diverse peoples.
Conversely and obviously, there is weakness in disunity. Racism is a force for disunity that can erode the strongest of foundations, and ultimately cause the disintegration of the fabric of our society. It is doing that even now.
Baha’is believe that we are not powerless against this dis-unifying force. To preserve this “coat of many colors” we must resist the forces of disintegration. The good news? Each of us has the capacity to do this, and to counter those ugly forces with love, faith, and reason through thought, word and action in any and all of the interactions we have with other human beings.