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My overall experience taking the class Black American Studies 215 was not what I had expected. I was thinking that maybe we would review what African Americans had a huge impact on the way life is lived today by black Americans. But instead we went over a lot on how African Americans today live their lives already. I learned a lot that I didn't know about before I had taken this course. It made me wake up and realize how important the history of the black American is to them. Not only the ancestry of the African had an impact to them but the movement of the people from Africa to America for use as slaves did also. If it weren't for the white man to take control of the “minority” in the past, then the problems that exist today wouldn't be as strong. In my opinion, the fact that racism exists today is only because what has happened before in the past, and has to be left in the past. Basically the view on the blacks has had a huge bad label throughout the years and it is up to today's American parents to solve the problem of the future. This class has taught me to look at things differently and put myself in their shoes. What if my family past was violated with and abused? What if my parent's parents were involved with the abuse of slavery and punishment? Would I be set aside and treated differently because of the way that many of the people with my race act on the street? Would I be looked at in a different way because I was raised to dislike the “others” because of what they had done to my past ancestors? Would I be set ahead on death row because of the color of my skin or hair? What if the slaves were my race and were treated exactly how African Americans were treated in the early days? What if racism and slavery existed for the Mexican population today? All these questions have to be asked by all others of different races and those of different races have to be put to walk in the shoes of the black past. This is histories result being suffered and questioned in today's societies. The sad thing about this is that racism is not only found in America. Racism has been spread across the world throughout the years and has to be stopped. Not only one race changing their racial views is going to change the rest of the racial views of other races. All races should explore others thoughts feelings and beliefs, to coincide with other races and learn to except the fact that people aren't always going to be like their specific race.
There are many different meanings to the word or term racism. Racism is the thought or belief that one race is better than another; it is a discriminating act towards someone because of his or her skin-color. There is a difference between being racist and being prejudice, but many people still do not understand the contrasting concepts or ideas of the two. Prejudice and racism are somewhat alike, but slightly different. Being prejudice is when one thinks that a race is better than another one. Some people might not think that they are prejudice, but they are. Being prejudice can also be defined as; not accepting anyone because they are handicap, you do not like the way that they dress, because they are fat or obese, because of their gender or sex preference. All of these are forms of being prejudice. Everyone has at least one type of prejudice. As Webster defines it, prejudice is “a biased opinion based on emotion rather than reason; bias against a race, group, or creed” (Webster). Racism is one of the major issues and conflicts that all Americans face in our world today, and will always be, unless something is done about it. Families have to figure out a way to socialize their kids with different races. Multicultural schools are a good way to get kids through that racial view. The kids can learn at an early age that everyone around them is not different than them; it's just their skin color. Also that there is no difference between them, they are all the same, and with them being kids they will have the same interest. The bottom line is that racism has to be stopped and recognized at an early age.
The eradication of racism will be the most complicated task that our nation will, if ever have to accomplish. It is also a task that many people are willing to tackle. One of our assignments this semester was to try and figure out a way to eradicate racism. Many of the students came up with different views on how to eradicate it. My group researched the way light colored black people are treated differently than those who are of darker skin color. There are many suggestions on how to eradicate racism and many African American leaders such as; Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, have all attempted to do so, and the list can go on forever. Depending on your point of view, the eradication of racism in the United States in the 21st century is a prayer to be answered for everyone; a dream deferred; a dream come true; a lack of interactions; would be a gift from God, inequality of opportunities; the beginning of new experiences. Dr. Martin Luther King's I have dream speech set the tone for African American communities all around the world, maybe even some white neighborhoods. “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Martin L.). Along with Dr. King, I also do not think that people should be looked upon based on their race or skin color, but by their attitudes and the way they treat others. People should be looked upon by what they simply are, human beings. People should look beyond one's skin color or race and be able to look with in a person rather than what they see on the outside. My classmates viewed a video named, “A Question Of Color”, during a class session. In this video I personally learned how many different names there were for a dark colored skin person. The names they stated were chocolate, skillet blonde, blue skinned, and mocha (Question of color). This made me think that people really should look beyond the skin color and get to know them, instead of sitting there and wondering what they should name the color of their skin.
In spite of ongoing efforts to eradicate acts of prejudice and racism, racial intolerance is still one of the major issues in America. There are some people that never encountered other races or cultures besides their own because they are racist, not because they were born that way, but because of what they learned about the differences from outside influences or their parents. I have personally met and socialized with people that have never seen someone of the Mexican descent. I was shocked and the first thing that came to my mind was to ask them where they have been all their lives? I couldn't believe that people are that culturally unaware that they have never seen a Mexican where they come from, and when they got down to school they finally saw what a Mexican looked like. That made me think that we as Americans, have to learn to appreciate the differences of races and cultures around us. For some people it might be too late to change their minds, and view races differently. But that might be the simple fault of their childhood. Children are easily influenced, and it might not be as hard to teach them the proper nonracial ways to view other races and cultures. If children can be taught to be racist then they can be taught not to be racist, and that's exactly what America and the world needs.
Some teenagers in America were brought up with the wrong intentions on life. In one of the lectures this semester my classmates and I watched several videos that all dealt with the non-acceptance of blacks in a community. Slavery ended back in 1865, and for some reason the white community still feels like they have control on where a Negro can be seen. The movie took place in the 70's; it depicted a group of white men socializing on the front steps of their house. As they were sitting there a group of African Americans drove by on their bikes. One white male said that they didn't belong in that neighborhood and the rest of whites agreed to what he had said. Only because of the way they grew up and were taught, that that place was their territory and no Negro was aloud in it. At this agreement they decided to assault the black men and vandalize their existence in the neighborhood. Their act of violence was pointless, and it was disturbing for me to watch that happen to an African American. It's a sad sick world of racism and to this day there hasn't been a stop of the crimes. Another video of a recent crime in the late 90's was shown in class. It had the same characteristics of the same crime that happened twenty years earlier. This involved a young black kid from Bridgeport, Illinois that was beaten into a coma for being on the wrong side of town (Hate Crime). The kid was going to a park on his bike when three students from DeLasalle High School attacked him (Hate Crime). He is suffering permanent brain damage till this day (Bridgeview). The sad thing is that the three white kids that beat him, got away with it. The only witness they had to testify left town for a couple months. Five days after his return to Bridgeport he was shot and killed before he was able to testify (Bridgeview). That murder was never solved and till this day there isn't justice to any of those racial crimes. This just goes to show you that the generations of families aren't showing their kids the right way of living. They feed them the mentality of racism, any other race is not allowed here, they are no good people, and that is what America needs to do away with.
What I thought I would get out of studying the black American history is far different to what I expected. As far as to which African Americans have made a difference on the history and future of America, is what I thought we would learn. But it turns out that what we did go over in class was critically more important than what I had expected. That being because what was went over during the semester is the starting point of the famous speeches and the historical people that helped change and put out the problems in America. Class was basically about the problems black Americans had in their lives and how their ancestors had suffered (Notes). What I expected was to learn about Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, something of that nature. But it turns out that I learned more important things about African American life. A thing that was shocking to me was the fact that there are people suffering with no water, heat or air conditioning (Notes). It was in Bayview, Virginia where this was all still happening in America in the early 90's. My whole life I had thought that that was only found in other countries and did not exist in America. I think that more Americans have to be informed about this problem and something has to be done about it. The government knew about this problem that the 300-year-old town had. The government wanted to plant a high security prison in the town of Bayview (Notes). The residents that resided there along with their ancestors 300 years ago, fought with the government and refused for them to build a prison on their land (Notes). It took the strength of one lady to change everything. She stepped up and fought with the American government to help them build new houses and have clean water to drink from. After all, every other American was living the “high life”, why couldn't they. Bayview was in total poverty. And with the help and speeches of one woman, the town was completely remodeled. Government funding started to build new houses with heat and clean water (Notes). The people of Bayview were ecstatic to live in their very own brand new houses. All the residents of the government-funded homes had to pay for rent, which was 30 U.S. dollars (Notes). The houses were a steal, and the residents of Bayview deserved every inch of them. So in the end, a black American town was given what they needed after a long hard ten years of struggling. Every one was happy, and this goes to show you that people have to stand up for their rights and fight for what they deserve.
With that being said, you now know why African American civil rights leaders went out and spoke what they believed in. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great civil rights leader. He believed in nonviolent social protest, which he got from the great Mohandas Gandhi ideas, who was also a peacekeeping activist (Martin L.). King took trips to India in the late 50's. There in India King met with the followers of Gandhi. He discussed the beliefs of Gandhi with his followers, and he became more convinced that nonviolent resistance was the most effective weapon available to subjugated people in their struggle for freedom (Martin L.). In the 50's he became a leader of the civil rights movement (Martin L.). King stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at the times of challenge and controversy” (Martin L.). I think that this basically means that you cannot judge a man because of what others have done, but you can judge a man when he does something about what the people are judging. King's beliefs of everyone being equal and keeping the peace between races upset many white Americans that believed otherwise. His vision of freedom for all of mankind; no matter what color skin, sex, or religion eventually led to his assassination in 1968 (Martin L.). This assassination hate crime was not the only one. This hate crime is also one of the many crimes that have not been solved. Every black American trying to make a difference was eventually looked at the wrong way and was eventually shut down in some way. You see King believed that racism shouldn't exist and should be put to an end so that every black person can feel equal to every American. But the fact of the matter is that although he tried to let everyone know that every man is created equal, many others didn't believe. Racism still exists today no matter what is done about it. Racism is still here and it will be here forever if something isn't done about it.
The good thing is that some people are trying to do something about it, and teaching young kids about racism and discrimination. The definition of discrimination given in class was: when an act or behavior excludes specific individuals from certain rights opportunities or privileges (Notes). This was introduced to a group of young white kids by a teacher named Jane Elliot (Notes). It was a video we watched in class that was titled “A Class Divided”. In the fall of 1984, she gathered her students and filmed the reactions of the students when half of the kids had separate labels than others (Class Divided). Instead of showing them skin color discrimination, she showed them the eye color discrimination. One day she separated the brown-eyed kids and gave them bandanas to put around their necks so that they can be recognized (Class Divided). She told the colored eyed kids that the others with the bandanas weren't smart, they were bad people, and weren't fun to play with (Class Divided). She also said that the brown-eyed kids couldn't participate in class, and couldn't have playtime during lunch (Class Divided). With this she noticed how the colored eyed kids have completely looked at the others with loath and aversion. The colored eyed kids didn't want to communicate with the kids with the brown eyes because they were better than them, and they were told that the brown-eyed kids were no good people (Notes). The next day she did the same thing, but instead she switched the rankings over (Class Divided). Now the colored eyed kids didn't get the same opportunities that the brown-eyed kids had. Both sides got the feeling the other did at one point or another. They realized that they didn't want to be treated like that and they were all equal. Years later the kids were all grown up and they had a reunion (Class Divided). They watched the video of the activity Jane Elliot had them do and they realized that that specific activity had helped them grow up and become respectful adults. This showed that Jane had successfully taught student not to discriminate to others because of their differences, and she eradicated racism within the class of students. And she proved that this could be taught to kids around the world, people just have to do it. A child isn't born racist they are raised racist, and this is the problem America has. Too many families aren't properly teaching their young ones how to react when they see “different people”.
Another problem is that people don't accept the fact that they have the black or white descent in their blood. One example of this is the ancestors of Thomas Jefferson. His bloodline is white, but with the mothers of some of his kids being black, he introduced the black bloodline into his family. To this day Jefferson's ancestors believe they are white with no black, or that they are black with no white (Notes). The people that think like that have to learn how to accept the fact that what Jefferson did made a difference in their bloodline race. The third part of the family accepts the fact that they have both black and white family members, which is what they all need to do. Stop the discrimination, accept who you are, love to be who are, live life without racism.
With all of the hardships the African American ancestors have been through, it makes you think how the black people have dealt with the reality of racism to this day. Every nationality has to understand that what has happened, is in the past, and should not exist till this day. Racism is not only found across America but around the world also, which is the major conflict that society faces today. Families have to show their children that people are different, but that doesn't make them any different than a human being. Multicultural schools, towns, jobs, all don't seem to be enough to change the view on different races of other people. Many Americans have fought the eradication of racism day after day, but that hasn't put an end to it. Teachers have tried, civil rights leaders have tried, and every one has tried. We all have to come together and somehow put an end to racism. It is pointless and it only causes harm to those that it is happening too. Stop the racism, and that will stop the many problems America comes across. The thing that makes it so hard to stop racism is because the level of thinking that created it cannot solve it, people just have to think on the bright side and realize that it doesn't have to exist. From the words of James Baldwin, “Blacks are often confronted, in American life, with such devastating examples of the white descent from dignity; devastating not only because of the enormity of white pretensions, but because this swift and graceless descent would seem to indicate that white people have no principles whatever.” (Lipsitz Pg. 1). Someday racism will come to an end, someday respect will fill the world, and someday every race will be happy to roam the world freely. But until then, America will only suffer with the seamlessly never ending stories of racism and its existence.