March 28, 2012

suspicion vs. freedom from racial prejudice

i have found it difficult to write what i'm thinking and feeling this past week while the momentum continued to gain in protest over the trayvon martin case.  it's very painful to think of anyone in this world falling victim to violent crime.  every soul created in this world is significant and important.  injustice is rampant and too many lives have been sacrificed to war or violent crime and terrorism that if we were to stop and dwell on each story, our hearts could not bear the pain.

so i try to think of trayvon martin's life as a true sacrifice, ultimately being freed from this world which is full of pain, suffering and sorrow, and now able to sprinkle humanity with the pure spirit of his soul from the worlds of God beyond this one.  his life is now the source of a movement toward establishing social justice throughout the legal system.  change is on the way and hearts cannot but be stirred by his death not being handled with a basic sense of justice.

i like the symbolism of the hoodie.  i hope white people start to realize how much privilege it is to be white.  looking suspicious is not a load we bear each day in our psyche.  we are free of many, many burdens that african americans bear throughout their entire lives.  it is a dialogue that must begin by white people.  white people must own their role in the healing of race prejudice.  it is our God-given duty.. it is up to us to respond to the lingering effects of hundreds of years of slavery throughout the world, especially in america.

 "Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds."

    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40)

i am white.  my husband is african-american.  we have 3 children.  we are american Baha'is living in ghana and we used to live in south africa.  we've been married for almost 18 years.  we strive to live our lives free of any form of prejudice in our hearts.  we are raising our children to love all of humanity like we love all of the flowers in a garden -- with their exquisite colors and beauty of diversity.  to be free of any form of prejudice in our hearts is a basic teaching of Baha'u'llah, so our children's hearts are full of love without boundaries of preference for any race, religion or their hearts are planted the seeds of love which will sprout to produce resistance against all these prejudices which divide humanity against itself.

when i met my husband i didn't understand the complexities of race in america until i listened to him explain the manifold aspects of 'white privilege' and what it's like being perceived as a black person by white people..everywhere..with suspicion.

i never had to think about the color of my skin.  i was able to do anything or go anywhere without anyone looking at me with suspicion.  i was free in my mind about who i was in the world -- free to be in a store without being racially profiled for to eat at any restaurant without people wondering what i'm doing there (except as i grew into an adult i chose to put myself in environments where no white person ever went or wanted to go!)..and free to pursue my life goals without the slightest sense that i was up against all odds.

america has a spiritual destiny with great capacity to utilize all of its cultural and racial diversity to the fullest.  the road is long and the struggle will persist until hearts recognize the Oneness of Humanity.. each of us is created out of the immeasurable Love of One Creator Whose Essence is Unknowable.  like a garden with infinite diversity we must live in the utmost harmony together -- seeing with our inner and outer eyes the beauty of diversity..emptying our hearts of prejudice through the power of the Word of God which is the elixir for the diseases of the soul.  these diseases -- all of the -isms -- lead to imprisoning veils which keep us all apart, isolated, and suffering as a humanity.  white people suffer spiritually if their hearts are full of prejudice, while black people suffer materially, psychologically and emotionally as a result of white people's prejudice and the system of institutional racism..

"Freedom from racial prejudice, in any of its forms, should, at such a time as this when an increasingly large section of the human race is falling a victim to its devastating ferocity, be adopted as the watchword of the entire body of the American believers, in whichever state they reside, in whatever circles they move, whatever their age, traditions, tastes, and habits. It should be consistently demonstrated in every phase of their activity and life, whether in the Bahá'í community or outside it, in public or in private, formally as well as informally, individually as well as in their official capacity as organized groups, committees and Assemblies. It should be deliberately cultivated through the various and everyday opportunities, no matter how insignificant, that present themselves, whether in their homes, their business offices, their schools and colleges, their social parties and recreation grounds, their Bahá'í meetings, conferences, conventions, summer schools and Assemblies. It should, above all else, become the keynote of the policy of that august body which, in its capacity as the national representative, and the director and coordinator of the affairs of the community, must set the example, and facilitate the application of such a vital principle to the lives and activities of those whose interests it safeguards and represents."

    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 35)

trayvon martin's life will be remembered because his life was sacrificed.  the spiritual reality is that his soul is free from this world and all of the injustice, oppression, pain and difficulty.  the material reality is that his killer hasn't been prosecuted and people are outraged, knowing full well that if trayvon was a white kid there would have been an immediate arrest.

these Xhosa children live with a natural sense of feeling interconnected with all people ~ ubuntu: we are who we are through each other

"Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country."

    (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40)

..............update may 18th, 2012 news about the Trayvon Martin case


  1. a beautiful, thought provoking piece, PJ... Susan

  2. I also have bi-racial children, now in their 30s. I have a good sense of what racism feels like through them. I've seen it since they were babies. I know of times when they were followed by the police for no reason and wrongly accused of crimes they had nothing to do with. I fear for the older one who sometimes travels cross-country. He told me about one time when he stopped for gas in the mid-west (u.s.) and a man told him to make sure he was out of town by dark! This of just one example.

    I like this quote by abdu'l-baha: "in the clustered jewels of the races may the blacks be as sapphires and rubies and the whites as diamonds and pearls. The composite beauty of humanity will be witnessed in their unity and blending."

    I love the picture of the kids in a circle!

    1. thanks for sharing, julie. everyone's stories are significant and important..

  3. What a thoughtful response to a painful situation. What lucky children you have!