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Culture

God Bless America—but not Our Racism

Mark Heinz | Nov 30, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Mark Heinz | Nov 30, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

So far, I’ve been mostly quiet about the American election—by design. Both my personal philosophy and my religious conviction as a Baha’i compel me to steer clear of partisan politics and avoid any party affiliation or partisanship.

At this point, however, I’m ready to say some things. First—I don’t know about you, but I’m so relieved that the campaign season, which was a complete circus (and not the fun kind), is finally over.

I voted, because I see it as my civic duty and a right other people died for, and therefore should not be taken for granted. I won’t say for whom I voted. I will say that I respect the office of the President, and I hope all the best for our new President-elect.

Regarding the protests, I can understand why some people feel compelled to object. I absolutely support your right to protest. I also absolutely condemn and refuse to support violence, property destruction or dangerous antics like trying to block streets and freeways. If I see anybody engaging in such actions, trust that I’m going to call you out on it, and then probably alert the proper authorities. And if I see anyone verbally berating or trying to attack somebody with whom they disagree, I will intervene on their behalf.

Regarding those who keep insisting the protesters are nothing but “sore losers” (and yes, there is some of that going on), I think you might be missing or deliberately ignoring some important things. By design, coincidence or accident, I think it’s clear that the tenor of the campaign cycle contained overtones of racism, xenophobia, sexism and bigotry that no reasonable person can or should deny. Some people are quite worried and even fearful, and for good reason. If nothing else, please don’t try to deny that some truly bigoted people have seen the results of this election as an affirmation of their beliefs, and are starting to act accordingly. There has been a sharp uptick in hate crimes and overt acts of intimidation toward people of color, Muslims, gays and others. So, again, please, let’s quit trying to deny the very ugly undertones and overtones this election cycle brought out.

This might surprise you: I’m actually glad those things are coming out and coming to a head. In my nearly half-century of life so far, I’ve known America to be a place that paid a lot of lip service to fairness, racial harmony and equality—but in all honesty, this country has a considerable amount of bigotry bubbling just under the surface. But now that it’s on the surface, naked and bold, it’s going to be easier to spot and deal with.

It needs to be dealt with. When Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, visited the United States over a century ago, he observed that racism was America’s most pressing problem. He said, if it wasn’t dealt with properly, racism would end up ripping this country apart. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, repeated that warning in 1954:

No less serious is the stress and strain imposed on the fabric of American society through the fundamental and persistent neglect, by the governed and governors alike, of the supreme, the inescapable and urgent duty—so repeatedly and graphically represented and stressed by Abdu’l-Baha in His arraignment of the basic weaknesses in the social fabric of the nation—of remedying, while there is yet time, through a revolutionary change in the concept and attitude of the average white American toward his Negro fellow citizen, a situation which, if allowed to drift, will, in the words of Abdu’l-Baha, cause the streets of American cities to run with blood… – Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 125.

Baha’is believe that prejudice, racism and hatred will only disappear when we recognize the oneness of all races and the unity of the whole Earth:

…the world of humanity is one race, the surface of the earth one place of residence and that these imaginary racial barriers and political boundaries are without right or foundation. Man is degraded in becoming the captive of his own illusions and suppositions. The earth is one earth, and the same atmosphere surrounds it. No difference or preference has been made by God for its human inhabitants; but man has laid the foundation of prejudice, hatred and discord with his fellowman by considering nationalities separate in importance and races different in rights and privileges. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 232.

Now, we’ve made some great strides since then—but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still a huge problem, as are misogyny and other forms of bigotry. It hasn’t been fully dealt with, not by a long shot.

So, to those who feel “empowered” in their bigotry: Know that without apology or compromise, I stand for the First Amendment rights of Muslims, the human rights of immigrants and refugees, the civil rights of LGBT people, the safety and well-being of people of color and the dignity and equality of women. The days of letting stuff slide are over—for all of us. I will call out and argue against ignorance and bigotry on social media. If I see it in person, I’ll call it out. If I see you trying to intimidate somebody, I will come to their aid. If you try to attack somebody, I will physically put myself between you and them.

Here’s to hope—and God bless America.

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Comments

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  • Chet Zaba
    May 17, 2017
    -
    Mr. Heinz editorial seems to imply that racism is a cultural institution in America. There is no racism, but there are racists. These racists come in every shape color and form and are absolutely not separated by income or location. There will always be this "fringe" as Chris Cobb points out because of the nature of the human animal and definite failings in the educational and economic construct of our culture. To repeat the same tired, volatile and irrational arguments designed to stir people up is non-productive. These arguments are a direct result of an intellectual stagnation of our educational ...system that perpetuates outdated thinking and an economic system that often times exacerbates social conditions that breed discontent.
    Read more...
  • Steve Eaton
    Dec 1, 2016
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    Thanks, Chris Cobb.
  • Steve Eaton
    Dec 1, 2016
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    Mr. Heinz, You have told it as it is!
    I'm glad we Baha'is don't have to be
    seen as unrealistic ostriches, or cowards. I also think it was a disgusting campaign that maybe served an ordained purpose:
    laying out all the race, class, and
    gender business for deeper scrutiny.
    Our country won't do very well if those conversations aren't permanently resolved, no matter how long that could take!
  • Chris Cobb
    Dec 1, 2016
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    Very judicious article. I mean to me, talk of contemporary racism in America is overstated. Of course their are racists on the fringes of society and some of them hail Donald Trump's victory as their own but I don't see how. There is nothing racist about opposing illegal migration or crime on the border or screening and vetting legal immigrants like from the Islamic world. The streets did run with blood as Abdul Baha pointed out in the 60s and 70s and now racism is as fringe a worldview or set of subcultures as it gets.
    • Myron Porter
      Dec 2, 2016
      -

      Chris, my Inupiat wife and bi-racial children have a completely different experience. Racism is alive and well, and not a fringe event. Sometimes they encounter it daily or many times a day. Please consider that just because it does not directly affect your life, that does not mean that it is the same with everyone.
      It was only a few years ago that the US National (and if I recall correctly, Universal House of Justice) re-emphasized the need to address racism in America.
      That said, I believe this is an opportunity for the Baha'is to clearly indicate the Teachings ...and the difference in the emerging Baha'i culture.
      Read more...
    • Chris Cobb
      Dec 1, 2016
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      Steve Eaton, I'm White and in New Orleans (the South) and I don't encounter racism. But depending on how you contextualize mainstream, racism is fringe!
    • Steve Eaton
      Dec 1, 2016
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      Chris, Racism is still alive and quite well in mainstream
      society, depending on where you are. I think
      we're slowly coming to our senses over time, but I have
      to say, as a white man, racism (and sexism) has
      in no way dwindled to the "fringe" stage yet.
  • suki simpson
    Dec 1, 2016
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    Dear Mark
    I wish our defending could extend to the children who have and are suffering under the likes of Podesta, Weiner and Jeffrey Epstein, plus the many who have died after researching or blowing the whistle on these people, such as Ted Gunderson, Monica Petersen last Sunday in Haiti, Seth Rich, Wikileaks' lawyer last month, please research and let everyone know IN USA what is happening, so the truth light can be shone on this great evil.
    Also, wars causing mass migration are welcomed by very dark leaders, for business, and to de-stabilise a culture, the rights of those ...who do not welcome these engineered tsunamis should also be protected.
    Read more...
    • Chris Cobb
      Dec 1, 2016
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      Not only that but their is a big difference between legal immigration and millions of illegal aliens, not racist-the legal term for it, flooding into any country. Bahai's are obliged to respect the law and be good citizens.
  • Nov 30, 2016
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    When I was in college in the 1960's we thought we would put an end to racism and war. Now it seems worse than ever. It is discouraging to be American.
  • Nov 30, 2016
    -
    Well said! This is very important article. I believe that many of us Echo your sentiments.☮️??
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