The Bahá’í International Community states:
Racism originates not in the skin but in the human mind. Remedies to racial prejudice, xenophobia and intolerance must accordingly address first and foremost those mental illusions that have for so many thousands of years given rise to false concepts of superiority and inferiority among human populations.
At the root of all forms of discrimination and intolerance is the erroneous idea that humankind is somehow composed of separate and distinct races, peoples or castes, and that those sub-groups innately possess varying intellectual, moral, and/or physical capacities, which in turn justify different forms of treatment.
The reality is that there is only the one human race. We are a single people, inhabiting the planet Earth, one human family bound together in a common destiny, a single entity created from one same substance.
Recognition of this reality is the antidote to racism, xenophobia and intolerance in all its forms.
~Bahá’í International Community, 25-August-2001
Therefore, racism can be understood to be a social construct—where all divisions are man-made inventions and hold no basis in ultimate reality. How then can we transcend our current reality and create a new paradigm? A paradigm that permits us to learn from the past, while at the same time permits us to continue to advance, contributing to our local, regional and national communities, and ultimately our world?
There are no whites and blacks before God. All colors are one, and that is the color of servitude to God. Scent and color are not important. The heart is important. If the heart is pure, white or black or any color makes no difference. God does not look at colors; He looks at the hearts.
~’Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
The solution, then, is to recognize our interconnectedness, oneness, unity, and value. The world has shrunk. We are human. We are spirit. We all bleed red. We must learn to coexist—races, nationalities, religions, genders, all. In 1938, Shoghi Effendi wrote that racial prejudice is “the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá’í community at the present stage of its evolution”. He went on to say:
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.
~The Advent of Divine Justice
Not unlike America in 1938, today’s “America” is facing a similar situation. However, the conditions in society have become increasingly more complex (e.g. due to the persistent increase in diversity). We are now confronting different challenges that require deeper levels of awareness, i.e., if we are to deal with such complexities over time. If we desire to understand the intricate and more systemic challenges that prevent us from seeing our inherent oneness, than we must be willing to regularly adapt our approaches to new contexts as they present themselves. Further, to be fair, we must take note that while there is much to do, progress is being made. We must focus our attention on our strengths—that which unites us.
Thus it is necessary to focus one’s thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force.
~’Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
We must encourage each other, build each other up.
Happy the soul that shall forget his own good, and like the chosen ones of God, vie with his fellows in service to the good of all.
~’Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization
In Part 1, we contemplated the importance of balancing the material with the spiritual and to approach life in a constant state of humility.
In Part 2, we examined the need to be patient, seek truth for ourselves, keep an open mind, and maintain our ability to judge fairly.
In Part 3, we explored our ability to transcend societal tendencies of prejudicial retribution, assured of God’s faith in our ability to rise to the challenge as we collectively come of age.
And here, in Part 4, we learn that all prejudices are, in truth, vain imaginings. All divisions are man-made. Truly, we are all God’s children. We definitely have our work cut out for us. But, we must always keep in mind that we are in the midst of this great balancing act called life. We must understand that we all have a role to play and that what we can control are our own actions. We must remain flexible to address the ever-changing landscape ahead of us. With love, patience, humility, openness, and by transcending the need for retribution, we can begin to forgive past indiscretions and move beyond our current state of unrest. Balance in our lives depends upon forgiving ourselves and one another. It is forgiveness, the ability to move beyond, that will assist us transcending racism and will ultimately lead to manifesting equality, justice, unity, and peace.
Bahíyyih Khánum wrote:
We ought to show something greater than forgiveness in meeting the cruelties and strictures in our lives. To be hurt and forgive is saintly but far beyond this is the power to comprehend and not be hurt. This power we may have … acceptance without complaint.… We ought never to be known to complain or lament. It is not that we would “make the best of things”, but that we may find in everything, even in calamity, the gems of enduring wisdom. We ought never be impatient. We ought to be as incapable of impatience as one would be of revolt. This not being so much long-suffering as quiet awareness of the forces that operate in the hours of dark or years of waiting and inactivity. Always we ought to move with the larger rhythm, the wider sweep … in that complete acquiescence, that perfect chord which underlies the spirit … itself.
~Baha’i World, Vol. V, p. 185
Baha’u’llah, born on 12 November 1817, publicly declared his mission in 1863. He came to remind us once again of the Golden Rule, to declare God’s faith in us, and to usher in humanity’s coming of age—that Golden Age foretold in all the Sacred Scriptures. The choice of acknowledging our maturity and consequently our collective unity is ours to make. If peace is to reign there must be unity, unity established by justice, and justice manifested in equality. Let us strive to find that balance, that equality, that awareness, and create a new paradigm that supports us as we attempt to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization.
A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.
Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.
~’Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
May the love of God spread from here onward and outward; may the knowledge of God be sent broadcast from this place; may spiritual forces become effective here; may the lights of the Kingdom shine…
~’Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
P.S. Spiritual education is offered by Bahá’í communities across the world in three stages that flow organically from one to another: children’s classes, junior youth groups and youth/adult study circles. Through a process of learning and reflection at the grass roots level, incredible progress is being made in communities around the world. To learn more, feel free to contact Baha’i’s in your area.
P.P.S. Finding balance in our lives is a never-ending ongoing issue … stay tuned for possible future installments.