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Wednesday, May 6, 2009 01:01 am

What is racial unity? Ask a child.

Ask a dozen people what racial unity is, and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers; ask a member of the Baha’i faith, and he or she will likely say that race unity is God’s ultimate destiny for humankind.

Racial unity is an evolving concept that few can envision in its final form (including this writer). The reality of race unity is unchanging; there is only one human race — long confirmed by scientists — to which we all belong. What is evolving is how we, members of a diverse human family, interact with and perceive those who are different from us. We know that most of these differences are superficial and unimportant. Yet, for many, these minor differences are what we focus on first. Why is that? Where did we learn it, and, how can we unlearn it?

Members of the Baha’i faith frequently turn to the words of the prophet Baha’u’llah to refresh our spirit and gain fresh insight into God’s vision for humanity.

Baha’u’llah wrote 160 years ago: “Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land….”

Millions of people across the globe shed tears of joy last November when our country elected a man of color to lead our great nation. This milestone is something we can all be justifiably proud of. Yet there is an equally far distance to travel before we realize true unity.

Like our follow-believers across the globe, the Baha’is of greater Springfield have long championed racial unity and a world-embracing vision of humanity (the two go hand in hand). Toward that end, we are co-hosting with several other forward-thinking organizations the 12th Annual Race Unity Rally at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7, in the Capitol rotunda. Winners of a Children’s Race Unity Art and Poetry Contest will be announced prior to an address by District 186 School Supt. Dr. Walter Milton, Jr.

Children and young people are perhaps the key to realizing true racial unity. Young people are the first to adapt new technologies, the first to consider new possibilities, new ways of thinking. Young people tend to ignore superficial differences, and make friends with people from all strata of society — a key component to building unity and interracial understanding. Young people today are much more likely to choose a life partner from a different racial or ethnic group.

It is as if the young generation has already internalized the call-to-action raised by Baha’u’llah some 160 years ago when He said, “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

Mike Lang lives in Sherman, is a member of the Baha’i faith, and is a former co-chair of the Springfield’s Race Relations Task Force.

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