Other posts in this series:
A More Perfect Union Through Race Unity. (See this for an important disclaimer.)
A More Perfect Union Through Race Unity: Cure the Cancer!
In his “A More Perfect Union” speech, Sen. Barack Obama spoke these words:
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
Obama is undoubtedly right: Where else could someone of his background find a place, and even earn a fair shot at the highest office in the land? Although the process has been slow and painful, America is irresistibly evolving to live up to its motto “e pluribus unum” or “out of many, one.” Yes, there is resistance, argument, confusion, but no turning back the clock.
Barack Obama’s story is only possible in America, but his is by no means the only story. It is my story, my family’s story, and the Baha’i Faith made it possible. I was a New Yorker, a former agnostic, of Lithuanian, German and Irish descent, when my friend Jan Smith introduced me to Terri Earl. Terri’s background is African American, with the family tree including Cherokee and a man rumored to be a white English spy. Terri’s mother, the youngest of eight, married a white man, and from that union came her biracial half-sister. That sister’s children extend the family tree to Holland, and they include two blue-eyed redheads, and others that could be mistaken for Hispanic.
But the family tree also branches out to India, via Botswana (in southern Africa). Terri’s cousin Charles encountered the Baha’i Faith on his travels to Africa, and in Botswana he met Gayatri, of East Indian descent, one of many East Indians living in various parts of Africa. Charles and Gayatri later married. They now live in Metro Atlanta, and have two African American English Cherokee East Indian children, a boy and a girl.
It’s not that Baha’is are required to marry across racial and ethnic lines, but we get plenty of encouragement. When our son was little, he asked if he had to marry somebody with a different color. The married Baha’i couples he knew included Black-White, White-Iranian, Black Iranian and Biracial-Hispanic. (Because the Faith began and grew in Iran, there are many Baha’is of Iranian descent in America and around the world.)
Baha’is believe that marriages unite not only individuals, but families. In my case, I don’t regard the people on the Kulkosky side as “my family” and the people on the Earl side as “her family.” Everyone is my family and our family:
Thou must endeavor that they intermarry. There is no greater means to bring about affection between the white and the black than the influence of the Word of God. Likewise marriage between these two races will wholly destroy and eradicate the root of enmity. — Abdu’l-Baha
… This union will unquestionably promote love and affection between the black and the white, and will affect and encourage others. These two races will unite and merge together, and there will appear and take root a new generation sound in health and beauteous in countenance. — Abdu’l-Baha
In marriage the more distant the blood-relationship the better, for such distance in family ties between husband and wife provides the basis for the well-being of humanity and is conducive to fellowship among mankind. — Abdu’l-Baha
For more information:
David Douglas and Barbara Douglas, “Marriage Beyond Black and White: An Interracial Family Portrait.” Wilmette, Ill., Baha’i Publishing Trust.
“The Vision of Race Unity: A Statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States“