RACISM IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ISSUE confronting America. A nation whose ancestry includes every
people on earth, whose motto is E pluribus unum, whose ideals of freedom
under law have inspired millions throughout the world, cannot continue to harbor prejudice
against any racial or ethnic group without betraying itself. Racism is an affront to human
dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society.
Notwithstanding the efforts
already expended for its elimination, racism continues to work its evil upon this nation.
Progress toward tolerance, mutual respect, and unity has been painfully slow and marked
with repeated setbacks. The recent resurgence of divisive racial attitudes, the increased
number of racial incidents, and the deepening despair of minorities and the poor make the
need for solutions ever more pressing and urgent. To ignore the problem is to expose the
country to physical, moral and spiritual danger.
Aware of the magnitude and the urgency of the issue, we, the National Spiritual Assembly
of the Bahá'ís of the United States, speaking for the entire U.S. Bahá'í community,
appeal to all people of goodwill to arise without further delay to resolve the fundamental
social problem of this country. We do so because of our feeling of shared responsibility,
because of the global experience of the Bahá'í community in effecting racial harmony
within itself, and because of the vision that the sacred scriptures of our Faith convey of
the destiny of America.
The oneness of
humanity is the pivot round which revolve all the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith. It is
at once a statement of principle and an assertion of the ultimate goal of human experience
on the planet. More than a century ago, Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í
Faith, wrote: "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable
unless and until its unity is firmly established." It is a principle
that issues naturally from the genesis and purpose of human existence. The Word of God as
presented in the Bahá'í writings offers compelling insights as in the following
Veiled in My
immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee;
therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt
himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were
created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to
be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the
same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness
and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse
of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of
All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing
civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is
unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion
and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
Having gone through the stages
of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that
will witness "the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world --
a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life...." In no other
country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United
States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet
this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like
a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation.
For too much of its history and
in so many places the human race has squandered its energy and resources in futile efforts
to prove the unprovable: that one portion of itself, because of separation by geography, a
difference in skin color, or the diversity of cultural expression, is intrinsically
distinct from another portion. The ignorance and prejudice on which such efforts are
founded have led to endless conflicts in the name of the sanctity of tribe, race, class,
nation, and religion. Paradoxical as it may seem, in the consistency of these negative
efforts across the spectrum of the race, humanity has proved the exact opposite: it has
affirmed its oneness. The proof is in the fact that, given the same circumstances, all
people, regardless of ethnic or cultural variety, behave essentially the same way. In the
futility of its efforts to classify and separate its diverse elements, humanity has become
disoriented and confused. Unaided by the divine influence of religion, people are
incapable of achieving a proper orientation to their innermost reality and purpose and are
thus unable to achieve a coherent vision of their destiny. It is in this respect that the
Bahá'ís find relevancy, direction, and fulfillment in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh,
the Founder of their Faith.
The oneness of humanity is a
spiritual truth abundantly confirmed by science. Recognition of this truth compels the
abandonment of all prejudices of race, color, creed, nation, and class -- of
"everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others." The
principle of the oneness of humankind " is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism
or an expression of vague and pious hope.... It does not constitute merely the enunciation
of an ideal.... It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a
change such as the world has not yet experienced."