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Race and Death: Moving Beyond Tribalism

David House | Aug 7, 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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David House | Aug 7, 2016

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

In one tragic American week, in two separate incidents, black men were killed by cops, seemingly without reason; and then five white officers were killed by an angry black sniper, clearly without cause.

What comes to me is that prejudice has no skin color. It afflicts those high and low, black or white, the rich and powerful and the poor and oppressed.

The tribalism which afflicts us would bend us into believing that because we might share some transient characteristic like color or geography with certain others, we have a fundamental and permanent status above that of other tribes: Those others—they have the wrong skin color, the wrong politics, the wrong religion. They are not like us.

But our cells and souls testify that these thoughts are in error, scientifically and ethically, practically and spiritually. The mitochondria in every human cell on the planet has been shown in the lab to have been a gift from one woman who lived thousands of years ago. She was not the Biblical Eve, for humanity is not merely thousands, but rather hundreds of thousands of years old. Yet her DNA marks us all as her descendants, her relatives, and thus reveals us all as brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, cousins of every person on earth.

EarthSpiritually and pragmatically as well, it should be clear that we can no longer be tribal. The ground under us has shifted. It was once possible to build pyramids and pay wages in garlic and onions. It was once a driver of the civilizing process to punish, with death, those who broke the Sabbath. It was once acceptable to own slaves; to organize our society on the foundation of feudal lords and serfs; to indenture servants. It was once expected that there would be wars. But these things have now become impossible, or have become increasingly counterproductive. As a civilization, we have moved on, past the age of tribalism and into the new age of unity:

So much of what used to work, no longer works. Whatever we were once advancing toward with the use of tribalism is now receding behind us. Tribalism has become obsolete. By a profound mystery, something universal and unseen has changed, has shifted, has evolved, and our thoughts, our societies, our actions must likewise change. We must reach higher to find what now will work.

These new thoughts, new ways, new structures and renewed actions will necessarily vary. We cannot prescribe the steps by which a new principle establishes itself, because circumstances are particular. In their midst, principles can only be found with an effort of the soul, and in the best instance, in consultation with diverse others. We cannot find these principles by recourse to slogans, nor shout others into understanding. And it must be “we”, for we can only find them together.

But the pivotal principle itself is clear: humankind is one. We are one family, one people, one tribe, with only one planet. At the foundation, there is no other, no they, and this fact must so imbue our thoughts and actions that everything we think and do should be informed by this principle.

Humanity is one. That is the reality, and living in an illusion cannot bring peace.

In these days there must needs be a mighty power of accord instilled into the nations. The principles of the oneness of the world of humanity must be proclaimed, understood and put into practice, so that all the nations and religions may again remember the long-forgotten fact— that they are all the progeny of primordial humanity, Adam, and the denizens of one land. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 177.

…human brotherhood or fraternity… is of various kinds, such as the fraternity of family, of race, of nation and of ethical motives. These forms of fraternity, these bonds of brotherhood are merely temporal and transient in association. They do not insure harmony and are usually productive of disagreement. They do not prevent warfare and strife; on the contrary they are selfish, restricted and fruitful causes of enmity and hatred among mankind. The spiritual brotherhood which is enkindled and established through the breaths of the Holy Spirit unites nations and removes the cause of warfare and strife. It transforms mankind into one great family and establishes the foundations of the oneness of humanity. It promulgates the spirit of international agreement and insures Universal Peace. Therefore we must investigate the foundation reality of this heavenly fraternity. We must forsake all imitations and promote the reality of the divine teachings. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 227.

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  • Pauline Hoff
    Aug 8, 2016
    We are wondering if you are a Baha'i friend we knew in New Mexico with your name.
    The knowledge of the Oneness of Humanity is so liberating!
    Warmest love,
    Pauline & Richard Hoff
  • Linda Pearce
    Aug 7, 2016
    Yes this we know to be true and thank you for reaffirming it. Yet however much we know this we must still address the injustice perpetrated against the "black" people not only in the US but all over the world. Until we have justice we will never have unity and without unity we will not have peace.
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