A Personal Reflection About Shunning

A Personal Reflection About Shunning

Abdu’l-Baha at banquet in the Great Northern Hotel in New York, November 26, 1912

Shunning is a word that recently came to my mind since the memoir was published almost two months ago. Webster’s defines it as follows: “persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.” More specifically, shunning (or ostracizing) is a form of abuse. It is discrimination and silent bullying. I encourage anyone reading this post to click on the link above as not only a real example of this abuse, but also what the white Baháʼí group portrayed in this photo did to rectify the situation with the Black Baháʼís. Unfortunately, white racist shunning intensely prevails to this day.

Speaking personally, I have endured what I identify as shunning within my own family (specifically by four of my five younger siblings) regarding my antiracism activism. One of the reasons I wrote the memoir and as commented on in the book was that they hopefully would gain a better understanding of how the direction of my life formed my views and corresponding activism.

Sadly (and I really mean this from the depths of my heart and soul), there has been little or no interest shown on the part of my brothers and sisters other than my youngest brother to even want to read it let alone discuss anything about it. This continued shunning has been tremendously stunning to me and I’d be deluding myself if I simply ignored it. Therefore, this somewhat public revelation. As my youngest brother recently told me: “even if the book was about tree stumps, I’d read it because a family member wrote it.”

I have talked to some of my Black friends about this and to be completely honest, I do not want my own perspectives of being shunned to look in any way like a comparison to the trauma of racist shunning they have experienced routinely in their own lives as part of the overall Black experience going back centuries. One of these friends is also the oldest in her family of several siblings as is her husband and she realizes how ancient resentments can continue to creep into current mindsets and perhaps lead to major grievances, labeling someone as superior, shunning, and worse.

In conclusion, as a white person this continued experience with some of my family members provides valuable teaching moments and a cautionary tale about what Blacks experience routinely in their daily lives. I just wish it could be different but so do Blacks and the “others” in our midst who don’t have the freedoms that whites have about not even having to consider a conversation about racism.

BBeing exposed to different views provides opportunities for enlightenment and engagement; not willing to even read a book written by a family member exposes a willingness to remain entrenched in one’s own views and an unwillingness to be tempted by anything that could spark a change from that entrenchment; and then this positioning even overwhelms anything close to the relatively simple concept of agreeing to disagree as a starting point in a discussion without becoming enraged, go completely mute, and points in between.

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