American Baha'is have yet to deal with and erase "The Most Vital and Challenging Issue"
My opinion is that Baha'is can no longer afford to remain, as Mr. Mitchell states in the above quote, "largely introverted". As predicted by Abdu'l-Baha' and Shoghi Effendi*, the blood of unarmed Americans who are of African ancestry have been denied due process of law has been flowing in the streets, and the deaths have been stacking up while the people who killed their own countrymen have, for the part, escaped prosecution.
...If it has any standards at all, they are to be found in a convenient cross-fertilization of existential philosophy and socialist aspirations. With such a shapeless movement, it is difficult to separate black from white, to condemn totally or accept totally. There is no clearer example in all the world of mass confusion among idealistic, well-intentioned people who have lost their spiritual bearings. It requires impeccable fair-mindedness and divinely-inspired insight to judge it aright. One could summarize it as a revolt triggered by the unprecedented rampage of materialism, racism, and establishmentarianism, fueled by the heightened anxieties of the down-trodden and the aroused conscience of the affluent, and made magnetic by the vigorous commitment of its youthful supporters.
3) In the face of such turmoil, the importance of teaching Negroes the Baha’i Faith becomes increasingly urgent. This urgency becomes more obvious as "other agencies that stand outside the orbit" of the Baha'i Faith flounder in their attempts to manipulate the loyalty, anxieties and frustrations" of America’s largest minority. But a large percentage of the Baha’is are uninformed about minorities and therefore are dangerously naive on the Negro question. This naiveté should be supplanted, if we are to assert ourselves effectively, with all the knowledge and insights that can be provided through books, planned experiences, and Baha'i conferences and institutes.
While the non-Baha'i society breaks at the seams, the Baha'i Community remains largely introverted, scarcely taking advantage of the priceless opportunities which lie in the wake of this social turmoil, notwithstanding Shoghi Effendi's long-standing and apt directive.
Here is a partial list, meaning this is only some of the people have been documented as killed by police or another person acting in a position of authority: Trayvon Martin, Miami Gardens, Florida. Michael Brown, Ferguson. Missouri. Eric Garner, Staten Island, New York. Dontre Martin, Milwaukee, Minnesota. John Crawford III, Dayton, Ohio. Ezell Ford, Florence, California. Dante Parker, Victorville, California. Tanisha Anderson, Cleveland, Ohio. Akai Gurley, New York City, New York. Tamar Rice, Cleveland, Ohio. Rumain Brisbon, Phoenix, Arizona. Jarame Reid, Bridgeton, New Jersey. Tony Robinson, Madison, Wisconsin. Philip White, Vineland, New Jersey. Eric Harris, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Walter Scott, North Charleston, South Carolina. Freddie Gray, Baltimore, Maryland. Damian Hunt, Saratoga Springs, Florida. There has also been a disproportionately high number of Black women killed by police officers, although this is not as widely reported as the other deaths.
As previously stated, the list of people killed by police is not comprehensive, as there have several unarmed Black women shot by the police and others who were shot but did not die. In a more recent case, an unidentified Black man was shot in the head three times yesterday (I am writing this on o6/21/2015) by two Los Angeles Police Department officers as he approached them for help with an apparent injury to his arm, which was wrapped in a towel. The officers claim that they thought he was hiding a gun. So far, there have been no updates about his condition.
The United States of America is in trouble. We, the people of this country, have been languishing in denial that we have racial problems, especially when we compare the conditions of African Americans during slavery and post Civil War segregation under the harsh "Jim Crow" laws. More specifically, the Baha'is of the United States have been charged by Abdu'l-Baha' during his his historic visit to the United States with ending racial animosity and helping to create a country that could demonstrate to the rest of the world what slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. referenced in his famous "I Have A Dream" speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Martin Luther King, Jr.
If American Baha'is had acted in accordance to what Abdu'l-Baha' asked of them during his visit and what Shoghi Effendi wrote about in the Advent of Divine Justice, which I have included in this post, perhaps the bloodshed that we have seen since the death of Trayvon Martin, and more recently, the nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church who were massacred by White supremacist Dylann Roof, and the climate of fear on the part White Americans and distrust for Black Americans toward their fellow citizens could have been abated. It is not, however, too late to shake off American Baha'is reluctance to confront this virulent disease of the soul. It is time for each one of us to study Shoghi Effendi's words, have consultations about them with our communities, and carry its healing message to the people of all races living in the United States of America. We cannot have the bloodshed that has been running in the streets continue to stain our souls. Here are the words of the Guardian:
As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá'í community at the present stage of its evolution. The ceaseless exertions which this issue of paramount importance calls for, the sacrifices it must impose, the care and vigilance it demands, the moral courage and fortitude it requires, the tact and sympathy it necessitates, invest this problem, which the American believers are still far from having satisfactorily resolved, with an urgency and importance that cannot be overestimated. White and Negro, high and low, young and old, whether newly converted to the Faith or not, all who stand identified with it must participate in, and lend their assistance, each according to his or her capacity, experience, and opportunities, to the common task of fulfilling the instructions, realizing the hopes, and following the example, of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Whether colored or noncolored, neither race has the right, or can conscientiously claim, to be regarded as absolved from such an obligation, as having realized such hopes, or having faithfully followed such an example. A long and thorny road, beset with pitfalls, still remains untraveled, both by the white and the Negro exponents of the redeeming Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. On the distance they cover, and the manner in which they travel that road, must depend, to an extent which few among them can imagine, the operation of those intangible influences which are indispensable to the spiritual triumph of the American believers and the material success of their newly launched enterprise.
Let them call to mind, fearlessly and determinedly, the example and conduct of 'Abdu'l-Bahá while in their midst. Let them remember His courage, His genuine love, His informal and indiscriminating fellowship, His contempt for and impatience of criticism, tempered by His tact and wisdom. Let them revive and perpetuate the memory of those unforgettable and historic episodes and occasions on which He so strikingly demonstrated His keen sense of justice, His spontaneous sympathy for the downtrodden, His ever-abiding sense of the oneness of the human race, His overflowing love for its members, and His displeasure with those who dared to flout His wishes, to deride His methods, to challenge His principles, or to nullify His acts.
To discriminate against any race, on the ground of its being socially backward, politically immature, and numerically in a minority, is a flagrant violation of the spirit that animates the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The consciousness of any division or cleavage in its ranks is alien to its very purpose, principles, and ideals. Once its members have fully recognized the claim of its Author, and, by identifying themselves with its Administrative Order, accepted unreservedly the principles and laws embodied in its teachings, every differentiation of class, creed, or color must automatically be obliterated, and never be allowed, under any pretext, and however great the pressure of events or of public opinion, to reassert itself. If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favor of the minority, be it racial or otherwise. Unlike the nations and peoples of the earth, be they of the East or of the West, democratic or authoritarian, communist or capitalist, whether belonging to the Old World or the New, who either ignore, trample upon, or extirpate, the racial, religious, or political minorities within the sphere of their jurisdiction, every organized community enlisted under the banner of Bahá'u'lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it. So great and vital is this principle that in such circumstances, as when an equal number of ballots have been cast in an election, or where the qualifications for any office are balanced as between the various races, faiths or nationalities within the community, priority should unhesitatingly be accorded the party representing the minority, and this for no other reason except to stimulate and encourage it, and afford it an opportunity to further the interests of the community. In the light of this principle, and bearing in mind the extreme desirability of having the minority elements participate and share responsibility in the conduct of Bahá'í activity, it should be the duty of every Bahá'í community so to arrange its affairs that in cases where individuals belonging to the divers minority elements within it are already qualified and fulfill the necessary requirements, Bahá'í representative institutions, be they Assemblies, conventions, conferences, or committees, may have represented on them as many of these divers elements, racial or otherwise, as possible. The adoption of such a course, and faithful adherence to it, would not only be a source of inspiration and encouragement to those elements that are numerically small and inadequately represented, but would demonstrate to the world at large the universality and representative character of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and the freedom of His followers from the taint of those prejudices which have already wrought such havoc in the domestic affairs, as well as the foreign relationships, of the nations.
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.
"O ye discerning ones!" Bahá'u'lláh has written, "Verily, the words which have descended from the heaven of the Will of God are the source of unity and harmony for the world. Close your eyes to racial differences, and welcome all with the light of oneness." "We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations," He proclaims, "...that all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled." " Bahá'u'lláh hath said," writes 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "that the various races of humankind lend a composite harmony and beauty of color to the whole. Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side without discord or disagreement between them." " Bahá'u'lláh," 'Abdu'l-Bahá moreover has said, "once compared the colored people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth."
"God," 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself declares, "maketh no distinction between the white and the black. If the hearts are pure both are acceptable unto Him. God is no respecter of persons on account of either color or race. All colors are acceptable unto Him, be they white, black, or yellow. Inasmuch as all were created in the image of God, we must bring ourselves to realize that all embody divine possibilities." "In the estimation of God," He states, "all men are equal. There is no distinction or preference for any soul, in the realm of His justice and equity." "God did not make these divisions," He affirms; "these divisions have had their origin in man himself. Therefore, as they are against the plan and purpose of God they are false and imaginary." "In the estimation of God," He again affirms, "there is no distinction of color; all are one in the color and beauty of servitude to Him. Color is not important; the heart is all-important. It mattereth not what the exterior may be if the heart is pure and white within. God doth not behold differences of hue and complexion. He looketh at the hearts. He whose morals and virtues are praiseworthy is preferred in the presence of God; he who is devoted to the Kingdom is most beloved. In the realm of genesis and creation the question of color is of least importance." "Throughout the animal kingdom," He explains, "we do not find the creatures separated because of color. They recognize unity of species and oneness of kind. If we do not find color distinction drawn in a kingdom of lower intelligence and reason, how can it be justified among human beings, especially when we know that all have come from the same source and belong to the same household? In origin and intention of creation mankind is one. Distinctions of race and color have arisen afterward." "Man is endowed with superior reasoning power and the faculty of perception"; He further explains, "he is the manifestation of divine bestowals. Shall racial ideas prevail and obscure the creative purpose of unity in his kingdom?" "One of the important questions," He significantly remarks, "which affect the unity and the solidarity of mankind is the fellowship and equality of the white and colored races. Between these two races certain points of agreement and points of distinction exist which warrant just and mutual consideration. The points of contact are many.... In this country, the United States of America, patriotism is common to both races; all have equal rights to citizenship, speak one language, receive the blessings of the same civilization, and follow the precepts of the same religion. In fact numerous points of partnership and agreement exist between the two races, whereas the one point of distinction is that of color. Shall this, the least of all distinctions, be allowed to separate you as races and individuals?" "This variety in forms and coloring," He stresses, "which is manifest in all the kingdoms is according to creative Wisdom and hath a divine purpose." "The diversity in the human family," He claims, "should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord." "If you meet," is His admonition, "those of a different race and color from yourself, do not mistrust them, and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness." "In the world of being," He testifies, "the meeting is blessed when the white and colored races meet together with infinite spiritual love and heavenly harmony. When such meetings are established, and the participants associate with each other with perfect love, unity and kindness, the angels of the Kingdom praise them, and the Beauty of Bahá'u'lláh addresseth them, 'Blessed are ye! Blessed are ye!'" "When a gathering of these two races is brought about," He likewise asserts, "that assemblage will become the magnet of the Concourse on high, and the confirmation of the Blessed Beauty will surround it." "Strive earnestly," He again exhorts both races, "and put forth your greatest endeavor toward the accomplishment of this fellowship and the cementing of this bond of brotherhood between you. Such an attainment is not possible without will and effort on the part of each; from one, expressions of gratitude and appreciation; from the other, kindliness and recognition of equality. Each one should endeavor to develop and assist the other toward mutual advancement.... Love and unity will be fostered between you, thereby bringing about the oneness of mankind. For the accomplishment of unity between the colored and white will be an assurance of the world's peace." "I hope," He thus addresses members of the white race, "that ye may cause that downtrodden race to become glorious, and to be joined with the white race, to serve the world of man with the utmost sincerity, faithfulness, love, and purity. This opposition, enmity, and prejudice among the white race and the colored cannot be effaced except through faith, assurance, and the teachings of the Blessed Beauty." "This question of the union of the white and the black is very important," He warns, "for if it is not realized, erelong great difficulties will arise, and harmful results will follow." "If this matter remaineth without change," is yet another warning, "enmity will be increased day by day, and the final result will be hardship and may end in bloodshed."
(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 33)
*The predictions made by Abdu'l-Baha' and Shoghi Effendi made no reference to the specific race of Americans whose blood would be flowing in the streets. And it doesn't matter. Any blood, even a drop, shed because of racial hatred between Blacks and Whites is unacceptable.
An aside: There is no I can verify the statement I am about to make, but I think that when White Americans think of violent uprisings, they fear that it would be their blood flowing in the streets, as a consequence of the actions taken by their predecessors during slavery and segregation. I feel that this is an irrational fear, since the population of African Americans is comparatively less than that of Whites, and access to the money, resources and weaponry necessary for such a massively violent act is much more available to them. To debate that point is useless, however, as fear is a potent adversary that intercepts the logical functions of the mind. Because of these growing fears and simmering resentments, I pray that the American Baha'i community can heed the warnings of our times, and get into action.