As we come to the close of Black History month, many people are reflecting on the achievements and the progressive story of African Americans. It is not a novel idea, however, to note that while African Americans have made significant advances in the fields of racial equality and opportunity, there is still so much more to overcome. It is interesting that after more than three hundred years of black history in America, racism does indeed still exist. The question is then: "Why?" Racism continues to live because minds give it life. The marks of racism are pressed upon the minds and outlooks of both the victims of racism and the people who carry racist views and actions against others.
Usually people who carry racist ideals have such ideals because they have been groomed and shaped by racist environments. At the same token, African Americans have in many respects continued to exert victim-like behavior because their minds have been shaped by popular culture, society, and even their own homes which has led them to believe certain stigmas about the possible being not possible. When ideas are implanted into the minds of people whether directly or subconsciously, then people begin a vicious cycle of behaviors that transcends generations.
The only way to change actions, is to revitalize the source that drives actions. This revitalization occurs through education and exposure. Education gives people a solid foundation to draw sound conclusions and opinions. One one hand, people who are educated often have a broader view of society. On the other hand, people who are uneducated cannot complain about the circumstances that he or she encounters. This same idea applies to various fields. People who do not vote, do not have the right to complain about the government officials in office. People who have not studied the bible, can not argue or trouble someone else's interpretation of it. Many people have heard the saying: "Knowledge is power." This saying is true because knowledge enables one to take action and change whatever situation he or she is displeased with. With education, people who are the victims of racism can know what actions to take to get their voices heard, or how to change the system that has offended them.
Education alone however, is not enough. In fact, there were many educated people who were proponents of racism. Sometimes people even used education to justify their right to have racist opinions. People with education can repeat racist ideas or actions when their minds have expanded in only one area or environment. It is hard to view the fullness of the world with squinted eyes. To rectify this, education must be paired with exposure. For those who have racist values, exposure to the good qualities in other cultures can change their viewpoints and mindsets. Sometimes all it takes is one good encounter with someone who is different, for the mind of someone who discriminates against a specific type or group of people to be changed for the good. For those who have experienced discrimination and marginalization, exposure to different environments and opportunities can broaden their optimism, and give them energy to either fight the way they have been treated, or pursue arenas where they can grow. When exposure and education are paired, people become more open-minded and will push toward more diverse and equal environments.
Racism will truly be obliterated only when the mindsets of individuals change. Paul articulated a similar idea in Romans 12:2 where he says: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." If this battle is ever going to be won, it must be won in the mind.
Follow Princeton Irvin Parker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PrincetonParker