Man of the People – Discussion topics – Racism



When thinking about different cultures from different parts of the world one cannot help but to think of colonialism and racism and the whole meaning behind the two.  Slavery is a broad term that does not give a clear view from different perspectives of what racism is.  Do not get me wrong, slavery in the United States was based mainly on racism, but in order to understand what racism is, reading literature is a great way to learn about it.

Colonialism and racism can be used interchangebly.  What is racism?  A person or group of persons that feel they have more rights, better beliefs, and more power to expand these beliefs by physical or verbal force, over another person or group of persons, based on skin color.  I think that is a decent definition, but it needs to go beyond just skin color.  I feel there is religious racism, political racism, ethnic racism, and gender racism that involves one group having a feeling of ethnocentrism as these people think they are meant to have the most power in the world.  I think I would define colonialism very closely to racism.  Colonialism involves the expansion of one group over another based on beliefs, religion, land, money, power, and race.

In order to eliminate racism there has to be more voices like Martin Luther King Jr.  There has to be more voices like Jesus Christ.  There has to be more voices like Mother Theresa and more voices from people fighting for equality among different groups of people. Achebe and other literary writers play a big part in speaking for the country they are from. Literature in itself is a strong voice that must not be overlooked. Teachers can play a huge role in helping his or her students learn about racism.  In my high school we never talked about racism or colonialism and the repercussions they create in the world.  I came from a small town and all the people consider themselves the same race.  This environment can really cause people to focus on just at the bad points of a single race and develop a stereotype about that race.  Especially when teachers are not teaching anything about racism and colonialism, let alone pieces of literature that are from anywhere but England or the United States.

It is crucial to introduce to students pieces of literature from all different parts of the world.  This will at least allow them to think about the world from different eyes, if only for a moment, that moment is so beneficial to a person and his or her ability to relate to the world.  The world is controlled by humans and we as an organization or community need to realize that the world is continuing to grow smaller and smaller in terms of space left for humans to occupy.  Before long people are going to have to either respect their neighbor’s property or fight with their neighbor for their property.  With all hope, we can learn to respect each other before it is too late.  Unless one knows the history of the United States, for the most part, one that is born in the U.S.A. is oblivious to what it to really means to be an American.  Some kids growing up have no idea what America was founded upon and why so many people from so many parts of the world came to America.  They all had a common dream in their mind, opportunity.  People that move to America today from foreign countries still have that dream.  To escape whatever aversive factors are pushing them out of their own country and to seek favorable factors pulling them into the U.S.A.

Kids in America need to be taught why America is the most powerful country in the world.  Children and young adults need to be informed that America is the most diverse country in the world.  They need to be taught that in order to have a well-run and developed house, community, country, or world, people need to come together with a common goal.  Kids need to be taught that America is only 227 years old, and only colonized around 400 years ago.  They need to be taught how it was colonized and they need to know the literature that went along with it.  They need to be taught the true stories of colonization and of the Native Americans.  Kids need to learn that to be racist in America is like being racist against one’s own blood.

Students need to understand that America has the most technology and the strongest military in the world because of the ideas that created them.  They need to understand these ideas derived from, not one single race, but from cultures all over the world.  How better to learn about the lifestyle of another country than to actually talk to a person from that country?  Imagine a huge group of diverse people mixed together with the same goal in mind.  This was the reality for newcomers coming to the U.S.A. during the last 4 centuries.  However, some children today are never taught these things, the true meaning of America and how lucky he or she is to be living in a land so diverse and so advanced.  They need to understand that these ideas and advancements did not come from one man or one race, but from millions of men and women and hundreds of different cultures.

Malcolm Wells writes in an article called A Jigsaw Puzzle, “Still at 62, it’s hard to convince myself that this is not the country I was taught to love.  It’s painful to look at the truth.  My grade-school indoctrination was so effective I still want to believe it all, from the home of the brave to the purple mountains majesty.  I’d been told about slavery, about the great buffalo massacres, and about the Indian wars, but they had all been presented in such a rosy light each page of the nation’s history seemed justified, almost sanctified, when seen against the grand tapestry of our progress across this shining continent.  Waving field of grain, great heroes, American know-how. . . I bought them all.  That we had stolen this shining continent from its native people bothered my not in the least.” (Whole Earth Review, 24) These beliefs come from the ways Wells was taught growing up as he was oblivious to the problems that stem from America and was only taught about America the beautiful.

He goes on to say, “Before I looked in the mirror, however, I looked everywhere else, blaming racists, the military, politicians, hunters, developers.  When I finally saw my reflection I said Oh my god, and saw that he too had been part of the myth.  I wanted to go back and start over, to undo all I’d done.  When we see the whole picture we may stop all this brutalism and cruelty and get ourselves together just in the nick of time.” (Whole Earth Review, 25)



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