Racism, America’s most challenging issue. . .

A realistic look at man’s prejudices throughout the centuries should be sufficient to convince us that the thoughts, theories and practices of past ages are certainly insufficient for today’s drastically fast changing, multi-cultural American nation in particular. But there are so many prejudices often undetected, especially within ourselves–the first and most realistic place to come to grips with and start making change—as this is the primary one over whom one has control.

All prejudices, whether racial, religious, political, national or any number of others, “must be given up if mankind is to survive for these prejudices are among the causes of today’s severe disturbances throughout the world!

One particular entire booklet was dedicated to racism in America, released some 25  years ago by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States during the early desegregation era throughout the South in particular. It began by declaring:

“Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America. A nation whose ancestry includes every people on earth…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. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger.…Yet the responsibility of the achievement of racial peace and unity in the US rests upon both black and white alike… America’s peace, prosperity and even her standing in the international community depend on healing the wounds of racism and building a society in which people of diverse backgrounds live as members of one family.”

Several years later an ”Institute for the Healing of Racism” was initiated on college campuses across the nation through a program crafted by a prominent Jewish Baha’i. Following the showing of a film during a Martin Luther King observance in Roanoke, an Institute was started at the Downtown Public Library that met weekly at the Unitarian Universalist Church before moving 2 years later to The Roanoke Tribune building and continuing weekly for a combined total of approximately ten years. Its primary intent was not only to address racism in others but to recognize the various prejudices we harbor within ourselves. Through the huge success of the program, permanent close bi-racial and multicultural friendships were formed that continue to date, along with a more tolerant perspective of what we all share in common than on the differences so easily used to divide us.

The dire need for revising such programs is becoming increasingly clear in view of the widening divides currently being wedged through daily newscasts of increasing hate-crimes and related horrific incidents. Coupled this with a progressive pattern of resegregation over recent years in much of this nation, especially following election of our first African-American President– (that blew the sheet off of many including some who were not even aware they were wearing one), and the potential outcome is “unimaginable!”

From an intriguing book, Circle of Unity, co-authored by several prominent scholars and professors, Richard W. Thomas, Ph.D, begins his section by wondering, upon possessing much broader and more comprehensive perspectives in race relations than we can now imagine, will future historians of American relations who examine the various positive influences, personalities and movements upon black/white interactions during the 20th century, probably wonder what the racial fuss was all about. Why, they will ask, was skin color or the shape and texture of head and hair so important that the people fought and killed over them? What was it about being white, they most certainly will wonder, that infused white people in the past with such arrogance? What they will find is that few, if any of the  organizations and various labor and civil rights movements, succeeded in unifying black and white Americans into an organic multicultural community–the vital step in the long and thorny path toward the unification of humankind! We pray that today’s American Community will be spared this future judgement.