“No one is qualified to change a system that he does not understand. Education brings that understanding.” John H. Johnson
Today as I sat quiet and still being open and waiting to receive inspiration for what I would write about today to address the question “Where Do We Start” on the journey of healing the gaping wound of racism that is so deeply embedded in American culture and society, I was reminded of the quote above. I had actually used this quote in an essay I wrote way back in high school over 30 years ago. Side note: it is absolutely amazing to me how our brain works, our brains are our first personal computers because they hold a wealth of information all about our life experiences and in a moments notice things that have been filed away for years can come front and center – Amazing! Anyway, in case you don’t know, the late John H. Johnson is the founder of Ebony magazine and was a strong advocate of the importance of education!
I believe it is critical for everyone engaged in this healing process to educate ourselves about “racism” and to learn as much as we can about it and the multitude of ways it has continued to operate in America. In some instances it may even be necessary to re-educate ourselves and to dig a little deeper than a shallow surface understanding of the issue.
We can start with the basics, like knowing exactly what “racism” is! For example, three definitions of “racism” are:
- The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. (Dictionary.com)
- The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. (The Free Dictionary)
- A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. (Merriam-Webster)
Just reading these 3 definitions alone provide a good basic understanding of “racism”. Along with a basic understanding, I believe they also provide a cause for hope to everyone engaged in this healing process. Why you might ask? Well it is simple. When you read the definitions of the word “racism” you will soon come to the realization and conclusion that “racism” is learned! All beliefs are learned! And if a belief such as “racism” is learned, then there is also an opportunity that people can be re-educated and that this re-education process can provide an avenue for racist systems to be confronted, challenged and changed!
As I write this today I’m reminded of a recent news story I heard earlier announcing that the governor of South Carolina stands with others in that state calling for the removal of the confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital! This is an example of how a racist systematic belief can be confronted, challenged and changed. Of course the confederate flag will always be a part of America’s history as it should be. However, it will no longer stand as a symbol of pride for the state of South Carolina and for that I say yahoo!
In conclusion for today I would say a resounding -Yes! Education is another essential to be added to the list of “Where Do We Start” in our activism efforts to heal the gaping wound of “racism” in America. And, No – we don’t have to become pedagogical experts on the subject. However, we do need to have a basic understanding of “racism” and know that it is learned and is not inherent and that it can and should be confronted, challenged and changed!