Institutional racism is all around us. Many people experience it every day, whether they know it or not. My experiences from Afro classes that I have taken and am currently taking have all had common messages. One of these messages is that we are all brought up to think that the injustices of our past are just in the past, and that America has corrected its wrongs. While America may have corrected some of its wrongs, we cannot neglect the wrongs that have not been corrected. The past speaks a lot about our society today: how far we have come, and how much further we have to go. In order to progress we must first recognize our faults, and then actively engage in ways to change them.
The article “Activism and Service Learning” really stood out to me. It emphasized the difference between activism and service by showing that activism is going a step further than service. Often people shy away from the term activism, like the girl mentioned in the article who performed service work to help the environment, but when it came to being an activist for environmental concerns, she said it was against her belief. One thing that really stood out to me in this particular article was that service is based on relationships of difference, so people with advantages can help people with disadvantages in society. Activism required people to relate by sharing an interest in a particular cause. This article can really help us as college students by encouraging us to use our voices in order to create social change.
Another common lesson that I have learned from my Afro classes is that often times important history is misrepresented and left out from our education. When we go to school and learn about Black history, the main things we learn about are slavery, the Civil War, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and maybe Rosa Parks is thrown in there sometimes. This type of education ignores whole periods of history and important leaders and achievements that should be recognized. When this happens, we learn so little about Black history, which is really American history. The pilgrimage gives us the opportunity to learn about important people and events which we never even knew about before, while being able to see sites that were crucial to the Civil Rights Movement. Americans are brainwashed in this society because they are led to believe that this is a “colorblind” world, where race no longer matters.
The article “Brainwashed” spoke to me because at a point in my life I was brainwashed. I never knew so much racial oppression existed in this world, specifically in this country, until I took Afro 101 my freshman year of college. I was told that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, while really the Black agency played just as large of a role in freeing themselves as Lincoln did. I learned that Dr. King had fixed all of the racial problems in our society during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, even though now, fifty years later the dreams of Dr. King are still not reality. I look forward to going on this pilgrimage and gaining more knowledge to become an activist because it does make a difference.