“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.I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama. A little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as brothers and sisters.” These famous lines from Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr’s speech “I have a dream” delivered in Washington, D.C., gives a clear vision of an ideal society. This is the standard set for a society if it at all claims to be equal and discrimination-free towards all its people.
It had been almost three score years since this speech was delivered. Dr. King always wanted to see the American society evolving into a racist free society one day. Unfortunately, even after more than half a century, racism has remained one of the deepest-rooted problems in America, and the world.
A History of Racism.
Racism in its simplest terms is the discrimination or prejudiced behavior unto others due to their skin color, the culture one is coming from, the kind of clothing one wears or even the kind of language one speaks. It also includes discrimination due to one’s country of origin, one’s religious beliefs, etc. Several examples in history shows how people have faced racism in various forms. One of the most popular examples is the discrimination against black people by Whites simply due to their skin color in America and European countries. Another example of racism is that of anti-Semitism i.e., the hatred and mistreatment of Jews, a form of racism that targets people of the Jewish faith. The peak of this anti-Semitism was seen during The Holocaust instigated by Adolf Hitler, where millions of Jews were killed in a mass genocide just because of their Jewish background.
Even there is no need to peep into the history, we can observe our surroundings and can very easily observe racism happening in some form or other. One is alienated from the playing team if he or she has different vision, goal or views about the game or players. One is sidelined from his friends’ circle because he doesn’t agree to some of their views and thoughts. Furthermore, one is seen as a unique creature descended from some other planets if he puts a long tilak on his forehead as in Hindu system, has a long beard and white cap as followed in Muslim community, has a weird kind of turban on head as wore in Sikh traditions etc. If a person speaking a different language lives in a certain community having a different common language, then that person is made to feel separate from the entire community on certain occasions. Discrimination of people based on caste, creed or gender is also visible around the world.
Just as a cancer starts with a small portion in a body and gradually spreads over the entire body taking control of the whole body eventually leading to the death of the person, similarly this racism is also as bad as a cancer in modern society that eventually leads to vanquish the society of the purpose and goals for which it is created. It is said that Man is a social animal, and he cannot live without a society, but if man chooses to remain on the platform of animalistic thinking and propensities, then he must live without society as there is no peace, harmony and happiness in the society of animals. The kind of impact racism leaves on the lives of people is egregious, and certain incidents from the lives of people around the world are sufficient to show what a kind of society we are living in.
“As a black girl, I have experienced a lot of pain because of my skin color. A lot of my childhood friends were nonblack, and I often was made to feel like an outsider with them,” says KJ from Texas. Being an Indian Muslim in America, I can say that I have experienced racism and microaggressions quite a few times. I was in elementary school, asking my friend if I could go to her house, when she said “No, sorry, my dad doesn’t like Indians.”
Throughout the years, I have heard multiple “jokes” about all Muslims — or even just brown people in general—being terrorists says Ridah Shaikh. Lakhwant Singh was working in his suburban Denver liquor store in April 2020 when a man walked in, assaulted him, damaged products, shouted profanity and yelled “go back to your country”. Recent researches on racism post pandemic are more worrying. Asian Americans are more likely than any other group to say they have been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus outbreak. Sizable shares of Black and Asian adults say they worry other people might be suspicious of them if they wear a mask in public. A majority of Asian Americans (58%) and 45% of Black Americans say that it is more common for people to express racist views toward their group since the coronavirus outbreak. These are some of the few research results shared by pewresearch.org.
Can God help solve racism?
So far we discussed racism, its origin to some extent along with various incidents. However, I would like to discuss the root cause of racism from the perspective of religion and God and a simple solution on how to eradicate it. As it is evident from people’s experience itself, racism originates from individual’s bias or prejudice which originates from his own identity. Self-preservation is the first and the fundamental law of nature. Every individual wants to preserve his body, mind, ideas, thinking, feelings, beliefs and emotions. During this process, he creates likes and dislikes because he is the center of the activity. One who agrees with his beliefs and views is included in his circle, and rests he excludes. When this process expands from person to family to society to community and ultimately to nation, then originates discrimination in huge form, what we call as racism. In all these expansions, the aim is one’s self-satisfaction and maintenance of superiority of beliefs, thoughts and emotions. Let us see what various religious scriptures have to say upon racism.
Starting with the classic Indian spiritual text, Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna informs that we are not these bodies but souls, thereby indicating I am not Indian, American, etc. I do not belong to a particular society, community or family or even mind. I am pure spirit soul and part and parcel of God, above all these bodily designations. Since we are not purified, hence we identify ourselves with body & mind and fight with each other on superficial bodily identifications. In fact, verse 5.18 of Bhagavad Gita gives us the vision of an elevated person who has come to this realization of soul, “The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]”. As per Bible Galatians 3:26 Romans 8:14, we all are children of God and hence we all are brothers and sisters. In the holy Quran, in the matter of dealings with other people, The Qur’an says, “Do not let the hatred of others to you make you swerve to do wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety.” (Quran Surah Al-Maa’idah, 5:8) That is, do not let your enmity for your enemies exceed the limits and turn you away from justice in either words or actions. Similar instructions can be found in other religious scriptures.
So a careful study of all these scriptures gives us a clear understanding of how to treat other human beings on a level equal to oneself, free from any kind of discrimination. But someone may question, how religion can solve the problem of racism when in itself there had been ongoing conflicts between various religious groups. Yes, the answer is right. This happens when people live with a false conceptions of the Hindu God, Muslim God, Christian God without acknowledging the fact that Sun, although known by different names in various countries, is the same. It equally distributes sunshine to everyone. A rose by any other name, is still a rose and smells so sweet.
Hence, by acknowledging the fact that God is one, and we all are his children, even if this principle is practiced daily in our lives racism from its roots can be ended. If these principles are taught in all schools, colleges and homes from today onwards, very quickly the issues between God and racism can be ended. Recently, there has been a great debate on teaching Critical Race Theory in America because some fear that CRT admonishes all white people for being oppressors while classifying all black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. Yes, certainly it may happen but even if it is not taught, people can go to the internet and learn this theory in great detail. Nowadays, social media is much more influential than schools or colleges.
The differences between God and racism is known to everybody, but just by discussing the problem won’t fetch you the solution. Our government, police and society can help us to some extent but until and unless we do not revolutionize our consciousness and do not make this simple principle deep-conviction in our hearts, the evil of racism will continue in the society forever. Unfortunately we think teaching Science, Math, Engineering, Law, etc. are essential for children but lessons of practicing humility, tolerance, equal treatment, justice can not be ignored. If not supported by our elders, our leaders, where will they lead us and will it be a place we will be happy? The height of the illusion is that one knows a person can drive a plane, repair a car or fight a case in court if and only if he has practiced making himself qualified for it, but we expect these saintly qualities to manifest in oneself automatically without practice.
Whether it’s a question of external world or internal world of human beings, no skill or quality can develop without regular practice and dedication. Since it’s an internal disease of an individual, the solution also must come from inside, but encouraged and supported by us who want to because we understand the desirability of living in a just society. The preference of living in justice for all, for if not, you could be next to suffer in an untethered world ruled by fear and emotions. We owe the search and cure of racism not only on those wronged but on we that judge and have the power to affect situations when we do not follow our angels but slip into the human characteristics of anger, fear, blame, suspicion based on things we heard or told by our leaders leading us to disaster. We are responsible for the crime of judging a person, and more, judging another unknown person by only what we see and not what is inside them. We need to strive to find out what is inside God’s child. Not what is outside for all to join in a prejudiced emotional fear running unchecked without asking for God’s wisdom and universal love to help us.