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Think about this one for a minute: what’s the opposite of prejudice? Did you answer “tolerance,” “admiration,” “fairness,” or “affection?”
Yes, those are the words a typical antonym dictionary or thesaurus would likely recommend—but none of those terms really express the loving, accepting state of mind that a complete lack of prejudice implies.
A New York professor and author named Todd Pittinsky had that same problem, so he coined a new word when he taught at Harvard in 2006: allophilia. It comes from ancient Greek roots that mean “liking or loving the other.” Allophilia, as Pittinsky defines it, means having a positive attitude for other groups of people that goes beyond tolerance to a true feeling of actual kinship.
“Humans have organized, and always will organize, their social world into groups, and categorize others,” Professor Pittinsky says. “The study of allophilia shifts us away from the negative aspects of these tendencies, toward their potentially positive aspects.”
Pittinsky’s research into leadership and the eradication of prejudice identifies five specific stages of allophilia—all of them fatal to prejudice:
In his book Us Plus Them: Tapping the Positive Power of Difference, Pittinsky destroys the deadly assumption that human differences will always cause inherent conflict, animosity and hatred. That prejudice, as we all know, has taken a heavy toll on humanity. The book also explores the enormous positive benefits that come from the intermixing of different racial, ethnic, social, national and religious elements in a globalized world—and recommends pursuing the five steps of allophilia with all of those differing groups.
The idea of allophilia fits perfectly with the Baha’i ideal of the oneness of the world of humanity, and the inherent kinship of all people. No Baha’i principle is more important:
The most important principle of divine philosophy is the oneness of the world of humanity, the unity of mankind, the bond conjoining East and West, the tie of love which blends human hearts. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 31.
For most of human history, we’ve decided to separate people into us versus them. Whether tribal, regional or national; whether religious, philosophical or political; whether color, ethnicity or race-based, we’ve managed to split up the human family into varying factions and then demonize one another, spread hatred and ultimately go to war over those divisions.
The Baha’i teachings have a better idea:
During the last six thousand years nations have hated one another, it is now time to stop. War must cease. Let us be united and love one another and await the result. We know the effects of war are bad. So let us try, as an experiment, peace, and if the results of peace are bad, then we can choose if it would be better to go back to the old state of war! Let us in any case make the experiment. If we see that unity brings Light we shall continue it. For six thousand years we have been walking on the left-hand path; let us walk on the right-hand path now. We have passed many centuries in darkness, let us advance towards the light. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 61-62.
In order to work towards that lofty ideal, Baha’u’llah taught that humanity must come together as one. The old divisions no longer apply, he said. We all come from the same genetic stock; we all have roots in one Earth; we all share a common humanity:
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.
Exert yourselves that ye may attain this transcendent and most sublime station, the station that can insure the protection and security of all mankind. This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 14.
So it’s time, the Baha’i teachings say, for each of us to actively demonstrate our reality as one human family:
In every dispensation, there hath been the commandment of fellowship and love, but it was a commandment limited to the community of those in mutual agreement, not to the dissident foe. In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 20-21.