By Rukhsana Rahman
Co-chair of the YWCA Gettysburg and Adams County Board of Directors
I believe that the perfect philosophy for eliminating racism is the African phrase, “Ubuntu” – pronounced o?’bo?nto? – which means “the essence of being human.”
Ubuntu says that it is not possible for us to exist as human beings in isolation. It is all about our interconnectedness. I can’t be human all by myself, and when we all possess this quality – Ubuntu – there is generosity, there is love and there is caring. In this modern day and age, we tend to think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, I and Me, separated from one another. However, we are connected, and what we do as individuals ultimately and indirectly affects the entire planet. When you do good things, there is a ripple effect: it is for the whole of humanity and God’s Kingdom.
I believe that if you and I embody this philosophy of Ubuntu, we can eliminate racism and all “isms” from the face of the earth.
I was inspired to believe in this way of life after living in Zambia, Africa, where many follow this philosophy. Ubuntu affects my daily life by affecting my friendships and encounters. I have very close friends from all traditions and religions. My Hindu best friend from college has helped me be a better Muslim, and my Jewish co-workers and I share many close bonds.
In our world, it is difficult to encourage all people to adopt this philosophy. We have to stop believing that we are better than the next person. We need to get past this notion that our thinking is the only correct way to do things. This demonizing or marginalizing of communities that seem different from our own is unhealthy for all of us. For example, I listened to an inter-cultural talk where an African American gentleman said that one thing we can do is to go to church with “The Other” and feel what it is like to be a minority. I think that is powerful, having attended services at churches, synagogues and Hindu temples, and it is amazing to feel the connection due to our commonalities.
Instead of pushing others away, why don’t we actually go out and get to know people from all different races and backgrounds? Let’s try to see the human side of every person. Only after you get to know them do you realize that they have the same dreams, the same fears, and the same worries. I believe I have the same fears about my teenage sons (and their driving!) as any white, Latino, African-American or Iranian-American mother does.
As co-chair of the YWCA Gettysburg Board of Directors, I am active in the Hallmark Mission Committee. We have many ongoing programs dedicated to eliminating racism, such as the Time to Talk series, book discussions, Race against Racism, Unity Walk and Holiday Stories from Around the World. We have partnered with Gettysburg College as well as Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) for many events. Being a Muslim, I have given numerous talks to the community on Islam in America, and will be talking to an intercultural communication class at HACC. These experiences have allowed me to practice the philosophy of Ubuntu and to teach this philosophy to others.
Stand against racism: stand with the philosophy of the African phrase Ubuntu. We are all humans who share the same dreams, fears, hopes, and worries.
Rukhsana Rahman was born in London, England, and lived in Pakistan and Zambia before moving to New York when she was 24. She is a board-certified radiologist and lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with her husband and two adopted sons, ages 21 and 23. She also has an adopted daughter, who is 26 and lives in California. She is co-chair of the YWCA Gettysburg and Adams County Board of Directors.
This post is part of the YWCA USA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.