A few days ago, the world lost one of its brightest lights: Nelson Mandela. For those of you who don’t know, Nelson Mandela was a black South African who fought against apartheid (legal segregation of people of different races). Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but was released, and became the first black Prime Minister of South Africa.
From of his inspiring story came a multitude of quotes. There is one quote in particular that I think is extremely thought-provoking, and I would like to share it with you.
The idea explored in this quote seems simple, but to be honest, the first time I read the quote, I was stunned by how much sense it makes.
We are not born with any real knowledge. Through constant question asking, and curiosity-led exploration, young children discover the world around them.
We don’t just learn by teaching ourselves, though. Another large influence on our thoughts, opinions, and overall knowledge is what others have taught us (whether it is them talking to us, or them having written a book that we read and learned from). So what if the people we learn from are biased, or don’t teach us what is “right”?
Defining what is “right” is a challenge in itself, because it means different things to different people. Right can mean politically correct, but it can also mean what is correct to each individual person.
Despite our different definitions of right, I think something we can all agree on is that discrimination is most definitely not right.
As Nelson Mandela so wisely points out in his famous quote, we are not born hating anyone. Hate isn’t a natural feeling. We are taught to hate; because of the media, because of the people we surround ourselves with, and because of the things that other people impose on us.
This alludes to the fact that we are the embodiment of our experiences, and that if our experiences have taught us to hate certain things, then we will. But, again, as Mandela says in his quote, if we have all been taught to hate, then we can also be taught to love.
We can be taught not to judge others, and to be more accepting. But these things don’t just happen overnight (if they did, the world would be a lot different). So what can we do to change this?
This is a question that Nelson Mandela devoted his life to answering, and I think it is a question that should be more openly discussed. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the discrimination that happens in our society: but it’s difficult to forget when you are a victim of it, or know someone who has been.
Though Nelson Mandela’s light is no longer with us, we can still be inspired by the quotes and stories he has left with us. It is now up to us to carry his torch, and light the way for a better future.