Bahais offer a model of racial unity
June 20, 1997
Dear President Clinton:
If you and the rest of America really want racial unity, try the Bahai
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
While society is often conflicted over race, the Bahais know where they
"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
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
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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