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. Let the Negroes, through a corresponding effort on their part, show by every means in their power the warmth of their response, their readiness to forget the past, and their ability to wipe out every trace of suspicion that may still linger in their hearts and minds. Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other. Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. 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. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country's glorious destiny.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 39)
I had a highly spirited conversation with one of my best friends, Cindy, the other day. This was before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, and we had no idea what would transpire. But Cindy was excited. I admitted to her that due some overwhelming personal issues going on in my life, I hadn't paid close attention to presidential primaries. Besides, the primaries are for party members, and as some of you may know, Baha'is do not participate in partisan politics. We vote our conscience, and that's it. But we are also supposed to educate ourselves concerning the important issues facing the nation and our local government so that we can make an informed and thoroughly reasoned decision about voting. And I haven't been doing that, I'm ashamed to say. But here's Cindy to the rescue, restoring my interest in the political races:
"Girl! Have you been keeping up with what's going on with Brother Barak?
"No, what's up?"
"Girl, it's gettin' deep! You know all those old guard "leaders" Reverend Al and Jesse Jackson--they've been hinting without outright saying that Obama shouldn't be running because 'the time isn't right.' Girl...what the f*** does that mean? And Oprah endorses Obama because she thinks no one should be telling another black person "because the time isn't right". The time is right because you make it right! So now, you know how Oprah just loves Maya Angelou and thinks of her as her spiritual mother and all like that, well, the Clinton campaign has Maya doing commercials for Hillary, and I wonder what that's doing to the relationship between Oprah and her, and folks are talkin' about "Obama ain't gonna" and how Barak ain't black enough..." (Note: Cindy said all this is one breath. No joke.)
The "ain't black enough" comment got my blood pressure rising.
"What??? Ain't BLACK enough??? What''s that supposed to mean? Just because his momma is white means he ain't black enough? Some states still have the "one drop rule"* on the books!"
"Yup. And BET is gonna have a special on whether or not black folks SHOULD support Obama!"
All right, I must say that I haven't checked out the BET show, so I don't know if the topic is about whether black folks should vote for Obama or not. And the subject is moot because I have moved into a nice little one bedroom apartment and the cable service stayed with my CNN-addicted father. I do know that I am sickened that the subject even comes up like this. NO ONE, black or white, has the right to tell another human being what to do with his or her life, with the exception of a convicted criminal who forgoes the privilege of personal freedom as soon he or she is found guilty. So what crime has Brother Barak committed? He has a white mother and a black father? Or he has the audacity to challenge the old guard system of politics and actually get people fired up about how this country has been or is being run? What is REALLY the problem here?
As a Baha'i, I endorse absolutely no candidate. No one will know my vote until I cast it in the booth. But what I'm talking about is the dialog that both black and white people are forced to have as the result of Barak Obama's decision to run for President. We can't duck and run from the issue of race anymore (not that we ever should, but the discussions usually end with both sides becoming frustrated and angry over either old wounds and/or new ones), and we can't pretend that the problem is the sole responsibility of the other side of the racial divide. We're all in this together, folks, and the big lie that's being busted here is that WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN IN THIS SITUATION TOGETHER. One country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I had to say those words in elementary school right along with the white kids. NOW is the time we live up to what those words really mean.
For black folks, we have to face the psychological wounding that we have ALLOWED to persist in our collected consciousnesses. Most of us don't like to admit this in public or out loud, but we all seem to be thinking along this line: You go, Brother Barak. I just hope those white folks don't kill you. I guess we have good reasons to be fearful for Obama's life. Nearly every influential black leader has been either slain or discredited. That's just the ones we know about. How many other potential leaders have strung up by a lynch mob or the KKK? Those names may be lost to history, but not to our present time consciousness. Even I fell into the fear and mistrust, and I told Cindy months ago that there was "no way" white folks would let Obama get into the White House alive.
But after Iowa and New Hampshire, I am questioning my own thought processes. What was all that fear about? If I thought that way about Brother Barak, what fear-ridden, self-limiting thoughts am I harboring deep within my psyche? Do I actually consider myself one-third human, as the Constitution said concerning my slave ancestors, and by the reason of silence, remains the law of the land because it has never been amended? I am looking deep within myself for these answers, and I can do nothing but thank Barak Obama for the opportunity to investigate these uncharted thoughts. Yes, it is time for a change. And the change begins with our thoughts.
*For those of you who are unaware of the "one drop rule", just type the term into your handy dandy Google search engine to read all about one pitiful aspect of this nation's sordid racial history. But I know some of y'all be triflin', so check out: