Bahá’ís believe in eliminating racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice. We should celebrate differences between people, not see them as reasons for hatred. Ignorance is the basis of prejudice, and prejudices are the sources of injustice and disunity. Bahá’u’lláh states that “It behoveth man to adhere tenaciously unto that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity.”
Below the Surface
The United States has more diversity and individual freedoms than most countries. However, even with laws intended to create a fair society, prejudices persist. When one group does not have equal freedom, they cannot contribute their unique perspective and talents to the broader community. This restriction limits everyone’s growth and progress. Prejudices in the United States are not necessarily obvious. TV shows and movies often contain socially accepted forms of prejudice that can be difficult to notice. Criminals are more often portrayed as African American. Characters are more often male than female. There are also more subtle prejudices based on someone’s preferred clothing, music, or technology. We all have prejudices. We develop them every day as our minds make judgments and assumptions about people. Bahá’ís are not immune to prejudice. If we sense the seeds of prejudice in ourselves, we must challenge them and not let them grow.
Religious intolerance is one of the most destructive types of prejudice and has caused many wars and conflicts that continue today. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentions religion first when he says “Prejudices of all kinds—whether religious, racial, patriotic or political—are destructive of divine foundations in man. All the warfare and bloodshed in human history have been the outcome of prejudice.” The Bahá’í principle of progressive revelation means that religions no longer compete with each other and the followers of the previous messengers of God all worship the same God. The fundamental principles of the major religions are similar while the social laws and practices apply to different points in human history. According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá “Religion is the light of the world. If it is made the cause of darkness through human misunderstanding and ignorance, it would be better to do without it.”
Guided By Unity
You have the Bahá’í principles to guide you, but many people do not have that guidance. Each person’s family and the environment in which they grow up shape their values and beliefs. As you explore greater freedom in your life, you are more likely to experience prejudices from others. You can stay strong in the face of prejudice by seeing all humans as one family and focusing on unity.
I grew up in North Carolina, was active in the Bahá’í community, and had good Bahá’í friends as a youth. My roommate in college had never heard of the Bahá’í Faith and asked her church pastor about it…
I grew up in a Bahá’i family with one brother. I started playing soccer in 2nd grade and loved it. I was captain of my team. During middle school, I was drafted to the highly competitive travel team…
2011 – PG-13 : DVD, Streaming, TV
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
By Phillip Hoose, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (January 20, 2009)