The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri reminds us of the separation that still exists in America based on skin color. It has not gone away, and cannot be swept under the rug. It will continue to manifest, in one form or another, until all of us find a way to heal it.
One of the great reasons of separation is colour. Look how this prejudice has power in America, for instance. See how they hate one another! Animals do not quarrel because of their colour! Surely man who is so much higher in creation, should not be lower than the animals. Think over this. What ignorance exists! White doves do not quarrel with blue doves because of their colour, but white men fight with dark-coloured men. This racial prejudice is the worst of all. – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 55.
Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah came to enlighten the human spirit, and to teach us that every human being can capably contribute to our society. We all have the ability to develop a virtuous character and an enlightened heart—which means each of us should have the equal opportunity to progress and contribute to our society whether black, brown, red, yellow or white.
Unfortunately, we do not all have an equal opportunity to progress in our society. Instead, the way we view human beings has the power to create a man who will discover the cure for cancer or, a man who will become a criminal.
We already know that affording every human being a realistic and just opportunity for a quality education and equal advancement in our society allows them to achieve greatness. A human being’s potential has nothing to do with the color of their skin, but has everything to do with how we view skin color as a society. If we as a society viewed every child from birth as a noble human being, and supported and valued them as such, every child born today would have an equal opportunity to contribute to the advancement of our society, based on the depth of their character and their effort to achieve.
The Baha’i teachings describe humanity like a single human organism – a body that is either healthy and thriving, or unhealthy and dying:
The body politic may be likened to the human organism. As long as the various members and parts of that organism are coordinated and cooperating in harmony, we have as a result the expression of life in its fullest degree. When these members lack coordination and harmony, we have the reverse, which in the human organism is disease, dissolution, death. Similarly, in the body politic of humanity dissension, discord and warfare are always destructive and inevitably fatal…this is proof that peace and amity, which God has willed for His children, are the saving factors of human society, whereas war and strife, which violate His ordinances, are the cause of death and destruction. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 98.
Events like Ferguson, despite the terrible tragedy they represent, can bring to the surface and then disprove the illusion that we are separate based on the color of our skin. They can expose the reality that we are a segregated society, and can impel more and more people to work to change that fact. Ferguson has the potential to shine a light on injustice, and help us diagnose and treat the disease that affects the body of humanity.
Crisis can bring change. In the end, let us hope Ferguson will bring about increased levels of unity and understanding, health and progress towards “life in its fullest degree”. This unity and cohesion is not a dream, but a reality being built by the sacrifices of everyone who works for racial justice.
That’s the silver lining: inevitably, more and more people will awaken to our oneness and cohesion.
Are you inclined to help build a just world that gives every person an opportunity to reach for excellence? While tragic events like Ferguson, based on race, religion, and inequality, continue to happen; a cohesive and unified counter-movement is emerging all over the world, even here in America. Baha’is and their friends of every religion and culture have joined together to learn how to develop a just society, one that allows every human being to thrive and contribute.
If you would like to participate, we welcome you to join in this supremely important effort.