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Bahais offer a model of racial unity

Evans Online
Joyce Evans
June 20, 1997

Dear President Clinton:

If you and the rest of America really want racial unity, try the Bahai faith.

The Bahais believe in racial unity: one race and one religion. It's a rocky road to one race, but one religion is just as unimaginable. We fought the civil rights battle in churches across this nation, and we're no closer to having one religion than we are to having one race.

Race relations have deteriorated in the 30 years since the civil rights movement, and we have more denominations than ever before.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of learning about the Bahais on their Racial Unity Day here, and every day I think about that experience.

I didn't hear anything about conservatism or liberalism during lengthy conversations there. What was more beautiful about the Bahais was that the multicultural group of spiritual people didn't care about what I wore or how dark my skin is.

They don't dance around the concept of racism. They denounce it straight up. I saw T-shirts and buttons that said "Racism Is Stupid" and "Racism Is a Disease." They sing songs, such as "Racism, Just Undo It." How refreshing.

While society is often conflicted over race, the Bahais know where they stand:

"Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger," reads one Bahai document, "The Vision of Race Unity: America's Most Challenging Issue."

The 1991 document continues: "The world cannot 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."

And yes, black people are capable of perpetuating a racial divide -- those who hold onto their hatred over past wrongs. They don't know that hate is too great a burden to bear, regardless of the magnitude of the wrongdoing.

Mr. President, what you're doing isn't bad, but do you really believe affirmative action is enough to protect civil rights in a country with downsizing, layoffs, rising tuition and growing urban problems?

You're fighting to save affirmative action, but the truth is that if we had true racial unity, we wouldn't need affirmative action.

I'm not saying you shouldn't make a pitch for affirmative action, but here's a reality check: Affirmative action doesn't save our behinds from discrimination. The deluge of cases at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission across the country indicates we have discrimination problems.

According to the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin of the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Logically, this wouldn't hurt a qualified black, Latino, white or Asian, but it depends on which side of the color line you're on, or who's playing God. Laws haven't stopped discrimination, and preferential treatment is a natural law among those in power.

I'm an affirmative action baby, but I wonder if we haven't sold out because we've settled for a few high-profile jobs rather than the whole remedy: racial unity.

The fight against affirmative action is a new opportunity for us to renew the struggle to end discrimination in our lifetime.

Mr. President, I have often said it wasn't possible, but the Bahais have convinced me that we can end racism in my lifetime: one person at a time.

©Copyright 1997, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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