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by Hanna Wondmagegn

Slavery. 

When you hear the word your mind automatically takes you to African Americans working in cotton fields for a white master. Or the segregation of water fountains in the South up until the 60’s. Or maybe even the notorious triangular trade.

slaveryMost people believe that slavery is completely exterminated in all parts of America but in reality, it has never been more prominent and everyone is both their own victim and a perpetrator.

“We as black people, have chosen to be willful slaves,” TEDxEastMecklenburg speaker Jelani Holloway said. “Though we have cast the physical chains of oppression, we are still oppressed mentally.”

Holloway brings up an interesting perspective, and as a black young male himself, he cannot be as easily accused of racist ideal. We, as a people, have chosen to live religiously to the events of the past.

Martin Luther King Jr. himself echoed the same sentiments in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1967, saying that; “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.”

Even though King’s speech focuses on physical slavery with the context of segregation and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s, it still represents the difficulties people are having in America, 50 years later.

Our problem as an American people is that we have not been able to fully embrace our history. We have become too sensitive to any issue that has historical meaning. Whether it be the Confederate flag or even the mention of cotton fields, our minds automatically connect historical issues and time periods of the past to explain why we are who we choose to be today.

“We settle for mediocrity. We choose to fall back on our history and use our history as an excuse for why we are not doing better in this country as a people,” Holloway said.

Yes, slavery happened. Yes, segregation of African Americans and other minorities from white people occurred. But that doesn’t mean we have to live to those ideals. That doesn’t mean when a black person is pulled over by a white police officer, he is always a racist, as is the instant thought of most people today.

If you made a mistake yesterday, one week ago or ten years ago, do you want to have the same mentality you did then or do you want to learn from your mistakes and move forward in the future with a different mindset?

We have been fighting a war that has spanned out for too long, but we have been approaching the issue from the wrong angle. We aren’t fighting a war against races, ethnicities, or even police against the people. We are fighting a war against our own minds and way of thinking and it needs to stop.

Is history not meant to be remembered, understood and analyzed rather than be the premise that we base our lives on?