Race War Is No Picnic

Race Unity Day was inaugurated in 1957 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States to promote racial harmony and understanding. It is sponsored annually, on the second Sunday in June, by members of the Bahá'í Faith throughout the nation to focus attention on what Bahá'ís believe is the most challenging moral issue facing this country -- racial prejudice. There have been many popular solutions offered to solve the race problem, but the only true solution will be learning to get along with our fellow humans.

Separate but equal seems to be a good philosophy, but there are two severe problems with it. One, how do you draw separation lines? What level of genetic purity defines which race you belong to? Even at very broad levels, we would end up with teeny little homelands for the purists while most of North and South America, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East would live in Mongrel Land.

The other reason is that separation means people will draw apart and refuse to interact with "those other folks." This just begets fear and animosity and eventually leads to war. When I went through the desegregation riots in high school, I thought it was really stupid that the grownups were integrating the children but not their own neighborhoods. Twenty years later, I can see the wisdom (and not just the political ease) of the solution. The children who have grown up in desegregated schools see beyond color to the goodness (or lack thereof) in a person, discovering we are each flawed individually, not racially, yet we are all human.

Some people believe that if there's only one race, then there's no problem. But that hasn't worked historically. Centuries of European wars have been fought between Caucasians. Intra racial war has also been the norm in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Just having a single race doesn't eradicate hatred and fear.

And no "pure" race, tribe, or clan can win a war based on genocide. Weapons of mass destruction could be useful against other nations or entire continents if you were able to get "your" people out of there first. But eventually, the war would have to be fought within cities such as is happening in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. When you get down to fighting with bullets and knives, then people kill until they tire of the carnage. But if giving up means total annihilation, then people will continue to fight to the death. And a lengthy war is usually decided by population. The side with the most combatants wins. Because racial purists tend to define themselves by excluding as many people as possible -- those with the wrong grandparents or great-grandparents or hair color or language or something different enough to distinguish -- they will always have a smaller population than those they hate. And many of the so-called "pure" people will drop out to join the only race that matters, the Human Race.

This year, the second Sunday in June is also Flag Day which celebrates one nation under God. America is a good country and I'm fortunate to have been born here. But at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I'm going to celebrate the far more inclusive Race Unity Day. The local Bahá'ís are sponsoring a potluck picnic beginning at noon on Sunday, June 14th. It will be in the pavilions just north of the pool. Everyone is invited. Bring some food and smiles to share and help us celebrate the oneness of humanity under God.