To a Baha’i, the most important idea propounded by our faith is the “Oneness of Mankind.” Within this idea is the notion of eliminating all forms of prejudices.
The most intractable and difficult prejudice that we as Americans face and must confront head-on is the challenge posed by racism and racial prejudice. As the Baha’i Writings state:
“As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community at the present stage of its evolution.” ("The Advent of Divine Justice," p. 33)
As we've observed Black history month it is important to look back at the history of this nation through the prism of this horrible disease called racism, and the impact racial prejudice has had in keeping this country from achieving its fullest potential.
Black history, which began with slavery progressed through emancipation, Jim Crow, The Ku Klux Klan, and the Civil Rights Movement, is also about resilience, hope, ingenuity, scientific advancements, cultural influence, etc. This history is still being written and perhaps it is our time to write the next chapter.
“Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Recognition of the oneness of mankind, implemented by appropriate legal measures, must be universally upheld if this problem is to be overcome.” (The Universal House of Justice,1985 October, "The Promise of World Peace," p. 3)
Whatever our views, science has now proved that mankind is indeed one. The Human Genome Project has demonstrated that any two humans are mostly the same genetically, and it is minute variation in our genetic makeup that accounts for all of the variation in phenotype exhibited by the human family. Science has proven that there is no biological basis for categorizing people into discrete races, and race is simply a manmade construct. Our essential reality is that we are but one race, human.
The dictionary definition of prejudice is “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Having a diverse group of friends, and getting to know them on a personal level are essential requirements for the elimination of our biases and preconceived notions. It is time that we as Americans recognize what is divinely ordained, scientifically proven, and for the good of this nation and its people, the only way forward, we are but one human race.
Many like me who come from another country, clearly recognize how America influences these nations, from their politics to their culture, clothing and music etc. Other nations look up to America, and her people. What we do, they want to do also, giving America a great deal of influence over the behavior of others. Achieving unity across the racial divide is the one example we have yet to deliver on and if the world is to change, America must change first and show the way.
“May America become the distributing center of spiritual enlightenment, and all the world receive this heavenly blessing! For America has developed powers and capacities greater and more wonderful than other nations. While it is true that its people have attained a marvelous material civilization, I hope that spiritual forces may animate this great body and a corresponding spiritual civilization be established.” (Abdu'l-Baha: "The Promulgation of Universal Peace," p. 20)
Ajit Giani is a member of the Austin Baha’i Community, and an Interfaith Action of Central Texas board member for where he is board secretary and a member of the executive committee. Doing Good Together is compiled by IACT, interfaithtexas.org.