Wednesday, March 05, 2008

World Embracing Vision

This black man spends as much time reading the news about what's happening in Pakistan as what's happening in Boston. This great piece from The Root offers insight into why:

What if Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, and Paul Robeson suddenly appeared at these proceedings on the Mississippi? What would they have to say to the group of "distinguished scholars, policymakers and leaders" Tavis Smiley assembled? What would their thoughts be about the issue they died fighting for: human rights?

My guess is that they would have asked Tavis & Co. why they weren't returning home from Switzerland, where earlier that week, another event critical for black America was being held on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

On February 21 and 22, the U.S. government defended its record on race and human rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Our government appeared at hearings before a United Nations committee charged with reviewing U.S. compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. Completed in 1966, the Convention is the preeminent human rights treaty on race. It came into existence 18 years after DuBois, Robeson and others went to the U.N. with charges that Jim Crow was one great big human rights violation. It became law one year after Malcolm X urged Afro-descendants in the United States to internationalize our struggle. (Go read the whole thing right here)

One of the first things I read in the Writings of Baha'u'llah when I was investigating the Baha'i Faith was this: "Let your vision be world embracing and not confined to your own self". Du Bois, Robeson, Malcolm, (and Martin too) distinguished themselves by having a vision of black liberation that was world embracing. The Baha'i Faith, likewise offers a context in which to understand the meaning of black experience in America that pushes it beyond narrow, local or domestic concerns. In a previous post, The Touchstone of Black Leadership, I wrote:

"My definition of black leadership is rooted in Baha'u'llah's teaching about the spiritual and historical significance of the Day in which we are living and the role of black people in fulfilling God's will for this Age. Baha'u'llah taught that humanity is entering its long-awaited stage of maturity, both in human consciousness and civilization. Having successfully mastered increasingly complex levels of social organization, from family, to tribe, to clan, to city-state, to nation-state, the human race must now engage in it's most challenging spiritual and practical developmental task, establishing a global civilization whose boundaries are those of the planet itself and in which diverse human populations are firmly united as members of one family sharing in all that the world has been so richly blessed by an All-Loving Creator. Human civilization is likened in Baha'u'llah's teaching, to the human body, whose diverse parts are integrated into a coherent whole each part contributing to the well-being of the entire body. Black people are compared to the "pupil of the eye" of this body" dark in color but a fountain of light and the revealer of the contigent world," that "reflects that which is before it and and from which the light of the spirit shines forth". Black people are viewed as having been "richly endowed" with "great gifts of mind and heart" that are of critical importance to achieving the goal of a global civilization founded on the consciousness of the oneness of humankind and fully aligned with God's will and purpose for this Day. It is the consciousness of the oneness of humankind and consecration to creating a social order that reflects this fundamental reality that is the touchstone of true black leadership..."

Maintaining a global vision while addressing the unfinished business of racial unity and justice on the home-front is a mental and spiritual challenge for black America. We must recognize that our struggle is part of humanity's long walk toward world unity. It through the unity of humankind long held aspirations will be realized:

"Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life."
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 202)