The Beatles sang that “All you need is love.” Out on Medium today someone argued that when it comes to racial prejudice, this is not true.
I think they’re right and wrong. It depends, I suppose, on how you define love and what you feel its limitations and manifestations are.
I’m not sure anyone really believes “All you need is love.” When it comes to any social ill, we also need justice.
“The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.”
— Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words
On the individual level justice looks a lot like love. In fact, I’d say justice is, itself, a manifestation of love. It manifests itself, for example, in treating others as we would like to be treated (which is a key tenet of every major revealed religion). But it also calls for firmly, but compassionately, refuting what is vain and false, speaking out against injustice and hatred—not with personal attacks on those who are unjust and hateful, but with strong, measured, rational and clear words and actions that demonstrate we will not allow intolerance and bigotry to touch people’s lives.
“O son of man! If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee, and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
What does that look like?
Maybe it looks like interrupting someone telling a racist joke—not angrily or spitefully, but firmly. It may mean taking vitriol on the chin and returning calm, reasoned, rock solid resistance against returning hate with hate. Maybe it looks like stepping in to help someone who’s being “othered” in a social or work situation. For example, when a Muslim woman is being harrassed beause of her hijab, or a person of color (especially a child) in a store is being treated as if they are suspected of intending to shoplift, or being harrassed by the police, or ignored when in line for a service.
It may mean making yourself the target of venom, so be prepared for that. This isn’t something you can deputize someone else to do. It isn’t something governments can legislate away or institutions act on without individuals taking a stand on it, in word and deed. If we’re going to eliminate racial and other forms of prejudice we need to engage in our own social situations, not just online, but where we work, live, and play.
So, let’s do this thing, day by day, inch by inch, step by step.