The past is for learning from, not living in.
When I was originally inspired by this post, I thought of a number of things that I needed to let go of: friendships, relationships, familial bonds, thoughts, emotions, memories – pretty much anything that continued to weigh me down as I continued on my path forward. While that still is true, the re-blogged post about whiteness and beauty made me think of other things that people need to let go of: traditions and beliefs.
While it is important to understand and respect the ideals that shaped our culture and our nation, it is important to realize that they are also the enemy of progress. As long as we live guided by our ancestors beliefs, we cannot grow. We continually limit our potential as individuals and as society by staying stuck in the past. As I said at the top of this post, history is for learning from so we do not continue to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors.
In the US, religious and political beliefs often hold us back from the great nation and great people we could be. We allow these beliefs to keep us bigoted towards anyone who we view as different and use our religion and policy to oppress those people. Look at the fight for gay rights. The fight over immigration. The battle over women’s rights. Pro-life vs. pro-choice. Rich vs. poor. Black vs. well, everyone else. But we keep holding on to those beliefs, ready to fight, ready to kill for what we believe in.
But are you ready to die if what you believe is wrong?
Anyway, I digress. The point is that we have to learn to let go of the past in order to progress. As individuals, we may look to certain standards of beauty, but if we don’t let go of that and appreciate our own intrinsic beauty, we will spend a lifetime chasing an illusion. Similarly, holding on to memories of people you once knew or holding on to who you were, can keep you mentally stuck while the world continues to pass you by.
Some relatives still want to view me as the innocent kid I was, the math genius that I used to be, rather than the man–the word wizard–that I have become.
White America once viewed me as another black kid who would not amount to anything or as the angry black man to be feared, rather than an expressive, passionate man striving to make a difference through his words. If I allowed myself to be the version of me that they see, I would never do the great things I am meant to do.
I have learned to let go of the past, while still understanding that it has helped shaped who I am. I have let go of people, no matter how painful, who refuse to move forward with me. I have let go of limitations that once convinced me that I could not succeed. I have let go of negative thoughts and feelings I have had for myself and others. I have let go so that I can be free.
Visit Eric Foster over at his online magazine YBEmagazine.com. Catch him writing about the new young black experience in todays