Racism runs deep. It infects the hearts of both White and Black Americans.
Since without conscious, deliberate and sustained effort no one can remain unaffected by its corrosive influence, both groups must realize that such a problem cannot easily or immediately be resolved.
“Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature vision 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.”
Both groups must understand that no real change will come about without close association and friendship among diverse people. Diversity of color, nationality and culture enhances the human experience and should never be made a barrier to harmonious relationships, to friendship or to marriage.
“O well-beloved ones!” Baha’u’llah wrote. “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
One appeal is addressed primarily to the individual American, because the transformation of the whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it.
No great idea or plan of action by the government or other interested organization can hope to succeed if the individual neglects to respond in his or her own way as personal circumstances and opportunities permit.
And so we respectfully and urgently call upon our fellow Americans of whatever background to look at the racial situation with new eyes and with a new determination to lend effective support to the resolution of a problem that hinders the advance of this great republic toward the full realization of its glorious destiny.
We mention the experience of the Baha’i community not from any feeling of pride and ultimate victory, because that which we have accomplished still falls short of that to which we aspire; nonetheless, the results to date are most encouraging, and it is as a means of encouragement that we call attention to them.
From its inception in 1863, the Baha’i community was dedicated to the principle of the unity of humankind. Baha’is rely upon faith in God, daily prayer, meditation and study of sacred texts to effect the transformation of character necessary for personal growth and maturity, but their aim is to create a world civilization that will in turn react upon the character of the individual.
Thus the concept of personal salvation is linked to the salvation, security and happiness of all the inhabitants of the earth and stems from the Baha’i belief that “the world of humanity is the composite body” and that “when one part of the organism suffers, all the rest of the body will feel its consequences.”
Guided and inspired by such principles, the Baha’i community has accumulated more than a century of experience in creating models of unity that transcend race, culture, nationality, class and the differences of sex and religion, providing empirical evidence that humanity in all of its diversity can live as a unified global society.
Part 5 in a series on the Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue made in 1991. Some answers in Part 5. Printed with permission of copyright holder National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States with all rights reserved.
Annette Reynolds has served in many capacities as a member of the Bahá’í Faith. She is the author of “Trudy and the Bahá’ís Spiritual Path in S.C.” and “Survivors Thrive: A view of the Battered Women’s Movement.” She is a member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values Advisory Board. Contact her and other board members at email@example.com.
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