The Answer, in the End, Will Rely on Our Shared Humanity
Baha’is of Chatham County
The Baha’is of Chatham County, as part of the Baha’i Faith community of the United States, join our fellow citizens in heartfelt grief due to appalling acts of violence against fellow human beings, violence in the context of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected the health and livelihoods of people of color. This has come to pass against a backdrop of longstanding racial injustice throughout American life. It remains clear that racial prejudice is one of the most vital and challenging issues we face as a country.
Yet, amidst these tragedies, there are also signs of hope. Countless citizens have arisen to proclaim the truth that we are one nation, and to demand specific actions to address the pervasive inequities that for too long have shaped our society. We have remembered who we aspire to be as a people and are determined to make a change for the better.
To create a just society begins with recognition of the fundamental truth that humanity is one. But it isn’t enough simply to believe this in our hearts. This belief creates a moral imperative to act and view all aspects of our personal, social, and institutional lives through the lens of justice. It implies a reformation of our society more profound than anything we have yet achieved. And this requires the participation of Americans of every race and background, for it is only through such inclusive participation that new moral and social directions can emerge.
Whatever immediate results might come from this year’s demonstrations, the elimination of racism will require a sustained and concerted effort. It is one thing to protest against particular forms of injustice. It is a far more profound challenge to create a new framework for justice. Our efforts can only succeed when we learn to build relationships with each other based on sincere friendship, regard, and trust, which, in turn, become pillars for the activities of our institutions and communities.
It is essential for us to join hands in a process of learning how to create models of what we want to see in every dimension of American life, as we learn to apply the principle of oneness through practical engagement and experience. An indispensable element of the process will be honest and truthful discourse about current conditions and their causes, and understanding, in particular, the deeply entrenched notions of “anti-other” that pervade our society. We must build the capacity to truly hear and acknowledge the voices of those who have directly suffered from the effects of racism. This capacity should manifest itself in our schools, the media, and other civic arenas, as well as in our work and personal relations. This should not end with words, but lead to meaningful, constructive action.
For the past several years, the Baha’is of Chatham County have hosted public monthly gatherings at the Chatham County Library with one overarching theme: the oneness of humanity. We created a space where diverse perspectives could emerge, and attendees could forge bonds of fellowship while discussing various topics of importance. A main focus has been racial justice. We have also hosted regular interfaith devotional gatherings open to all to share our common spiritual beliefs.
We have also created “junior youth groups” to help channel the surging energies of middle-school aged adolescents into activities that will help them form a strong ethical identity and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities. And we have worked with other, larger organizations in Chatham County on issues related to alleviating poverty and eliminating racial prejudice.
The Baha’is of Chatham County have been under no delusion that our efforts alone would directly address deep-seated prejudice and discrimination born of a long history, much less the violent crimes committed against people of color. But we see the need to bring people together to listen, to learn, and to break down barriers that can keep us from truly embracing our shared humanity despite our unshared experiences, particularly of being black in America.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baha’is of Chatham County have temporarily halted their public gatherings. However, we are planning race unity events in Chatham County as soon as circumstances permit. We eagerly look forward to partnering with likeminded individuals and organizations so that our country progresses toward its goal of becoming a more perfect union for all people. You are welcome to join us in our community building efforts! To connect with Baha’is about upcoming events, involvement in community building, and general information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and check the national Baha’i website. (https://www.bahai.us/)
This is the first in a series of articles about pressing social issues that the Baha’is of Chatham County are planning to publish in the Chatham County Line.