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Race: America’s Achilles Heel

Bob Harris | Aug 2, 2015

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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Bob Harris | Aug 2, 2015

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

We should manifest the spirit of justness and goodwill toward each other. Shall we do this, or shall we censure and pronounce anathema, praising ourselves and condemning all others? What possible good can come from such attitude and action? On the contrary, nothing but enmity and hatred, injustice and inhumanity can possibly result. Has not this been the greatest cause of bloodshed, woe and tribulation in the past? – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 410.

By far the most controversial issue Abdu’l-Baha addressed in 1912: his outspoken comments on race unity.

W.E.B. Dubois

W.E.B. Dubois

Abdu’l-Baha was a principal speaker at the 4th Annual Convention of the NAACP. He was deeply admired by the great black intellectual leader W.E.B. DuBois, and named one of the Men of the Month in the NAACP magazine, The Crisis.

He broke all kinds of rules and conventions by insisting that African American attorney Louis Gregory sit next to him at a segregated diplomatic dinner in Washington, D.C., and encouraged the inter-racial marriage of Louis and Louisa Gregory. He would not appear at a meeting if the venue was not open to all races. He spoke openly about the bloodshed and troubles that awaited America if the races continued this wretched separation. His example of bravery, contempt for the convention of the day, and his open association with leaders of all colors was calling America to live up to its founding principle that “all men are created equal.”

Specifically, to the Baha’is, he assigned the duty of being ready to sacrifice all for this principle of unity, and work diligently to erase any and all barriers of race and color that separate people.

If more people then, and, if more people now responded to Abdu’l-Baha’s call, we might never have heard of the towns called Ferguson, Missouri, or Sanford, Florida, or a church in Charleston called “Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church.”

The key, of course, is that we must love each other, overcoming any perceived obstacle. Baha’u’llah’s primary lesson is that we be united in mind and heart, that we trust each other. We, like the people in Charleston, must forgive each other. Our hearts must be pure, and we must be motivated by only the best and most noble intentions. During his Unity Feast in New Jersey in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha challenged the Baha’is to be the first to do this: “First, you must become united and agreed among yourselves… be exceedingly kind and loving toward each other.” – (all quotes from Abdu’l-Baha’s Unity Feast address, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 213-215.)

He wanted all of us to enjoy: “…inner and complete spiritual association,” to “become ignited and made radiant,” to make the “darkness of disagreements disappear.” He said “you must become one heart, one spirit,” “become the waves of one sea, stars of the same heaven, fruits adorning the same tree.”

Then he got very specific. If you are looking for a reason to get up in the morning, if you are looking for a project for your life, listen to what Abdu’l-Baha said right here in in 1912: “Your utmost desire must be to confer happiness upon each other.”

Think about it: exactly why should we make each other happy?

“. . . that through you the oneness of humanity may establish its temple in the world of mankind, for you are the ones who are called to uplift the cause of unity among the nations of the earth.”

So, dear friends, let us be the people who do listen and do respond to Abdu’l-Baha’s call from 1912.

Let us vow that next year we will bring some new friends to this Unity Feast, whether we come in person or host a feast of unity anywhere in the world. Let us vow that we will let those new friends see what unity looks like. Let us vow that they experience what unity can truly feel like. Let us vow to let them hear what the songs of peace and harmony sound like, and let them have a small taste of what the future can bring, if we listen to Abdu’l-Baha, and if we follow his advice from 1912.

In the words of Abdu’l-Baha, “Your utmost desire must be to confer happiness upon each other.”

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