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My admonition and exhortation to you is this: Be kind to all people, love humanity, consider all mankind as your relations… Strive day and night that animosity and contention may pass away from the hearts of men, that all religions shall become reconciled and the nations love each other so that no racial, religious or political prejudice may remain… – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.

During the past week, this series of essays has discussed the issues of race, violence and the justice system. We’ve focused on the recent police killings of unarmed black males in the United States, but the principles could be applied anywhere that racial division, prejudice and hatred occur. So now that we’ve finished with a basic analysis and a brief review of the problem—what about the personal solutions?

How can we, as individuals, eradicate the last traces of racism and its ugly effects from our own interior landscape?

The Baha’i teachings on the oneness of humanity have an enormous depth and breadth of solutions when it comes to racism and its effects. In just one particularly specific, clear and pointed passage written in 1936, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, urged everyone to take responsibility for and actively own the issues of race, no matter their color:

A tremendous effort is required by both races if their outlook, their manners, and conduct are to reflect, in this darkened age, the spirit and teachings of the Faith of Baha’u’llah. Casting away once and for all the fallacious doctrine of racial superiority, with all its attendant evils, confusion, and miseries, and welcoming and encouraging the intermixture of races, and tearing down the barriers that now divide them, they should each endeavor, day and night, to fulfill their particular responsibilities in the common task which so urgently faces them. Let them, while each is attempting to contribute its share to the solution of this perplexing problem, call to mind the warnings of Abdu’l-Baha, and visualize, while there is yet time, the dire consequences that must follow if this challenging and unhappy situation that faces the entire American nation is not definitely remedied.

Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. Let the Negroes, through a corresponding effort on their part, show by every means in their power the warmth of their response, their readiness to forget the past, and their ability to wipe out every trace of suspicion that may still linger in their hearts and minds. Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other. Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. – Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 39.

Adolf HitlerWe often think of racism as an issue that belongs solely to those who suffer its effects—but that’s roughly equivalent to Adolf Hitler calling the Holocaust “the Jewish problem.” This blame-the-victim approach doubles the impact of racist actions, because it means the majority doesn’t hear the cries or feel the pain of the minority.

When questions and controversy about race arise, some white people tend to think of the entire race-based conversation as a one-sided diatribe, describing and denouncing bias and prejudice that they just can’t see. As a result, black people often feel unheard and ignored despite their calls for justice, and frustrated that whites can’t or won’t acknowledge the issues.

But Baha’u’llah asks his followers to be “upholders and defenders of the victims of oppression,” so no matter their skin color, Baha’is try their best to put that principle into practice. The Baha’i writings say “Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other.” With that in mind, here are a few suggestions, taken from the Baha’i teachings, which can help anyone from any racial background in their personal, everyday quest to conquer racism:

  1. Listen and carefully consider what others say and feel: “Man should weigh his opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72.

  2. Pay no attention to prejudice: “Do not listen to anything that is prejudiced, for self-interest prompts men to be prejudiced.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 42.

  3. Be fair: “Cleave ye to justice and fairness, and turn away from the whisperings of the foolish…” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 342.

  4. Actively and happily seek out close connections with people of other races: “Inasmuch as your origin was one, you must now be united and agreed; you must consort with each other in joy and fragrance.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 124.

  5. Don’t think of yourself as different or apart from others: “Turn your eyes away from foreignness and gaze unto oneness, and hold fast unto the means which conduce to the tranquility and security of the people of the whole world.” – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i World Faith, p. 182.

These five starting points, crucial to any interracial interaction, can help us all, as individuals, begin to build the unity we so glaringly need as a society.

12 Comments

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  • Kat Ri
    Jun 25, 2017
    Whites may not understand the positiin of one of color. However, neither can one of color understand the position of whites. This article focuses on one, but ignores that all feel unheard - whites too and yes, in today's age, they count too and also want to be heard and seen vs accused.
  • Feb 03, 2016
    Is the racism narrative doing more harm than good? Is race baiting more about politics than finding solutions to the social problems affecting not just people of color, but ALL disenfranchised people? Does racism explain every disparity between the races? Is racism the main cause of suffering for people of color? What about the failure of the war on poverty? What about the failure of our public education system? What about the failure of our criminal justice system? What about the failure of the war on drugs? There's too much hatred and bigotry in this country, that's true. But it's ...everywhere. It's not just racists on the far right, but self righteous bigots on the far left as well.
    Read more...
    • Vicki McCulloch
      Jul 12, 2016
      True- I hear you Robert! Abdu'l-Baha pointed out that news would focus on the deaths of a few from a tragedy, while every day people die from Poverty and never get mentioned. Education, social injustice and economic disparity must all be remedied... We have a lot of work to do (sleeves rolled up) hard at work...
  • Apr 11, 2015
    We continually need to make an effort. May God assist us, so that our spirits may source in the joy of knowing that we are one people.
  • Dec 27, 2014
    Thanks for writing this David, serious issue, one close to my heart and much needed advice. I ask that you consider replacing the word 'racial' from this part. "...which can help anyone from any racial background" The idea and pseudo science that continues to suggest that there is more than one human race has no place in 2014. Racism begins with a belief that there are different races. One love. Kieran.
    • Dec 28, 2014
      This is a good point Kieran.
  • Dec 25, 2014
    David,
    Great series. Thanks for opening this conversation.
  • Dec 25, 2014
    What a great series. Thank you for compiling those wonderful quotes filled with such hope that if we do our part we can solve these problems together!
  • Dec 25, 2014
    Thank you David for providing to all who have followed this wonderful series constructive spiritual steps in solving these problems that have continued too long. God bless you.
  • Dec 25, 2014
    Thanks for posting practical solutions as the cap to an awesome series.
    • Peter Defeo
      May 09, 2016
      Great attemp. Everything helps
      Some people are born nasty and hateful.
      MY TAKE ON COLOR
      First, there is one race
      I AM NOT
      WHITE OR BLACK
      I am not brown,yellow,red or tan....... I am human
      by.....pdf 2010