Face to Face with “America’s Most Challenging Issue”

“Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America,” begins a statement issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in 1991. “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,” continues the statement from a booklet entitled The Vision of Race Unity-America’s Most Challenging Issue.

As the clock ticks down to the most historic election this nation has ever faced and the results of whether we sink or swim ironically lies now on her scale of balance is racism. For too much of its history and in too many places the human race has squandered its energy and resources in futile efforts to prove the improvable-that one portion of itself, because of separation of geography, a difference in skin color, or diversity of cultural expression, is intrinsically superior or inferior to another portion. The ignorance and prejudice on which such efforts are founded have led to endless conflicts in the name of the sanctity of the tribe, race, class, nation or religion.

“Throughout time, however, humanity has proven the exact opposite-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.”

Imagine the results if each member of the human body attempted to prove its superior function in the composition of the whole. Without the proper interaction of all, each would become defective and the entire body would eventually malfunction, cease and die. Mere knowledge of such interdependency in itself is insufficient, however, as far away as acceptance of such knowledge may be. There must be a plan, a Divine plan, through which to put it into action-voluntarily at first by a select few adherents before the eventual following by troops-through necessity. The higher, less trod path is through knowledge, volition and action. The crowded highway is that of survival of the fittest.

“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,” ends the statement from the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly which appeals to both Black and White Americans. “The transformation of a whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it.”