Confronting My Prejudice and Unfair Judgments

Emotionally, I am at peace with my impending death. However, I do have some sadness, because I fear missing my loved ones after my demise. On the other hand, I believe I will see them from the next world.  

Yes, it does seem like I’m talking from both sides of my mouth. But then again, what do I know?! I have not died before, and hopefully, I will never have a second time around. 

I don’t think I could or would be able to stand it if there was such a thing as reincarnation. Since God created our souls to grow eternally closer to Him, why would He purposely want to jerk our souls back and forth from this earthly existence and keep us away from the eternal spiritual progress we all seek? So, I am glad His kindness is constant and eternal, and I hope my soul will progress after my passing, coming closer and closer to His Throne.

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A couple of good things have happened to me since my last essay. First, I became aware that I need to work harder on the attribute of fairness. 

A little while after the working angels here in my long-term care facility changed my bed linens, I couldn’t find my reading glasses on my bed. My bed is the largest desk or table available to me, and I’m in the habit of not only falling asleep in it, but after I wake up I read and do my praying for a couple of hours — so I keep my tablet, books, and eyeglasses with me.

But when I woke up and couldn’t find my glasses, I immediately mentally accused the poor angel of losing my eyeglasses. 

Due to trauma in my childhood, I developed somewhat of a labile personality, which means I can tend to have rapid, exaggerated changes in mood. That can produce a suspicious nature, causing me to think that someone else took my stuff. Or, on the other hand, it can sometimes make me overly gullible in my thinking, completely trusting those who show any kindness toward me. Finding a moderate middle ground can be a challenge.

So, when I lose something, I usually have a knee-jerk reaction and think some other person is responsible for my loss. After a long while, when I find that supposedly lost item, I feel ashamed of my thoughts. 

Given all this background, I experienced a wonderful change a couple of days ago. Regarding my lost glasses, I talked to myself and ordered myself to withhold any mental rush to judgment before thinking negatively about the kind people who work here. Instead of my normal knee-jerk reaction, I decided that I better search closely and find the truth. Lo and behold, my glasses were where I left them. When I woke up in the morning, knowing that the linens would be changed, my suspicion disappeared within a minute. What a relief! My sense of shame was very short-lived, and I’ve resolved never to pre-judge others ever again.

This led me to the other good thing that recently happened. As an Iranian Baha’i, I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately comparing the Iranian Baha’i situation with that of the people of African descent in the West. Baha’is are seriously persecuted in Iran today, so I’ve always thought that the Iranian Baha’is had the worst possible situation — even though, according to the Baha’i teachings, we should consider racial prejudice and racism an extremely important issue. In a speech he gave in London in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha said:

God has created the world as one — the boundaries are marked out by man. God has not divided the lands, but each man has his house and meadow; horses and dogs do not divide the fields into parts. That is why Baha’u’llah says: “Let not a man glory in that he loves his country, but that he loves his kind.” All are of one family, one race; all are human beings. Differences as to the partition of lands should not be the cause of separation among the people.

One of the great reasons of separation is colour. Look how this prejudice has power in America, for instance. See how they hate one another! Animals do not quarrel because of their colour! Surely man who is so much higher in creation, should not be lower than the animals. Think over this. What ignorance exists! White doves do not quarrel with blue doves because of their colour, but white men fight with dark-coloured men. This racial prejudice is the worst of all.

Of course, intellectually, I do know a great deal about the atrocities suffered, and those still being suffered, by African Americans. However, just a couple of days ago, after reading a heart-wrenching social media post from a Black Baha’i, Mr. Van Gilmer, his words really toppled down my illusions. 

In the case of African Americans, for centuries, they have been treated as unworthy of living, without equal value to all other human beings. How can these beautiful souls possibly feel happy in life when all around them, they experience the real, everyday reminders of that horrible injustice and inequality? 

I feel ashamed of not truly understanding the differences between what we are encouraged to think about ourselves and the people of African descent — who Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, compared to “the pupil of the eye.” In this letter to Robert Turner, the first African American Baha’i, Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, wrote:

O thou who art pure in heart, sanctified in spirit, peerless in character, beauteous in face! Thy photograph hath been received revealing thy physical frame in the utmost grace and the best appearance. Thou art dark in countenance and bright in character. Thou art like unto the pupil of the eye which is dark in colour, yet it is the fount of light and the revealer of the contingent world.

RELATED: Considering Class Prejudice – and Abolishing It

So, now that I’ve begun to better apprehend these truths, what am I supposed to do about racism for the rest of my short and ever-shortening life? I can do a few things. I want to be very cognizant of my thoughts and my attitudes. I want to see clearly as soon as I become aware of my own unfairness. This is a difficult challenge, yet one I know is achievable. I know I can do it by remaining honest with myself, by confronting my own inner prejudices, and by not judging people negatively based on my past experiences. In other words, I want to stop myself from reacting emotionally or judgmentally without conducting my own independent search for truth — one of the most important Baha’i principles.

I am so grateful to Van Gilmer, who has spent the majority of his life trying to bring this sort of understanding to the hearts and minds of the rest of us. Thank you, Van. In your work eradicating racism, you’ve been successful in awakening at least one person — me.

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