Newsletter

Hall-mark of a True Bahá’í Character

Sep 30, 2020

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S.—The Most Vital and Challenging Issue (June 2020)
Faculty: Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, Anthony Outler, Chitra Golestani, Emily Tancredi-Brice Agbenyega, Niki Daniels

Editor’s Note: What follows are excerpts from Samaneh Rodarte’s learning self-assessment. This was Samaneh’s first Wilmette Institute course, which she took with a study group of nine friends from all across the US—North Carolina, Connecticut, Alabama, Illinois, and California.


“Prior to taking this course I was extremely discouraged by the profound lack of interest and often direct opposition in my community to addressing racism. It was heartening to experience a large group of people actively engaged and eager to acknowledge the issue head on. This course along with another that was taken simultaneously helped me navigate around resistant individuals/groups within the community. Specifically, I am not as distracted by or reactive to Bahá’ís who gaslight when the subject is raised.”

New Insights. “One insight is that it is not enough for me as a Persian to become as familiar as possible with the daily injustice and systemic racism that people of African descent endure. If that is the extent of my efforts then I am still prone to judge, compare, and challenge internally when listening to experiences of anti-black racism because I am maintaining a comfortable sense of detachment from the matter and this runs counter to carrying out my responsibilities as a Bahá’í. It is essential for me to continually reflect on how white supremacy is a force that is not only antithetical to the Faith but has distorted my own view of reality and obstructed my ability to see myself in others. The motivation to combat racism cannot be limited to altruism but also a strong sense of imminent danger to my own soul.”

“Some of the course material along with this excerpt from an April, 1927 letter from Shoghi Effendi helped strengthen this connection.”

“I cannot believe that those whose hearts have been touched by the regenerating influence of God’s creative Faith in His day will find it difficult to cleanse their souls from every lingering trace of racial animosity so subversive of the Faith they profess. How can hearts that throb with the love of God fail to respond to all the implications of this supreme injunction of Bahá’u’lláh, the unreserved acceptance, of which, under the circumstances now prevailing in America, constitutes the hall-mark of a true Bahá’í character?”

Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, 129-30
Samaneh Rodarte (left) and family
Photo: Samaneh Rodarte with her family

New skills and attitudes. “The course improved my ability to integrate themes of racial justice fluidly into a Ruhi study group for Book 3: Teaching Children’s Classes which I was tutoring for a group of youth.”

“I am much more hopeful especially after being part of a study group that put in the hard work towards unity. My attitude is to keep plugging along and do everything in my power to put things into practice. I am drawn to Mrs. Sadie Oglesby’s 1927 Convention address in which she recalls her conversations with the Guardian.”

“In this great hour of turmoil, when everybody and every group of people are talking about universal brotherhood and justice, we Bahá’ís must be that centre that is not living in the realm of thinking about it, but the ones who actually have it in practice.”

Sadie Oglesby

Contributors

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Samaneh Rodarte

Samaneh immigrated to the US as a toddler and is an aspiring writer from a previous career as a sales trainer. She and her husband are raising three children in Southern California.

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