American Privilege

This is an exhausted reflection from keeping myself up-to-date on world news this past week.

American privilege is being able to criticize the current and past government structure and power holders without risking imprisonment or death (but probably means you will be more closely monitored in your activities). It is the power to note the social inequities and injustices rampant in our society.

American privilege is not having to fear that your children will be stolen and sold into slavery, or worse.

American privilege is living life without risk of a military attack, except from our own militarized police forces.

American privilege is being able to have a dialogue about inequality for women and POC. It is the ability to raise a voice against prejudice across a broad spectrum and fight the naysayers who would keep the status quo. Others are not able to even speak about these issues.

American privilege is being able to work long, difficult hours and actually have half a chance of getting ahead financially.

American privilege is loudly complaining that Starbucks is no longer carrying your favorite beverage and actually having other people sympathize with you, when the person across the street has to choose between groceries or the electric bill and the person across the world is starving to death.

American privilege is being able to choose whether or not to live a healthy, fulfilling life. It means we can grow or stagnate as we desire.

It is easy to forget that we do live a privileged life compared to many others in the world. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our daily woes and cultural noise and lose sight of the bigger picture. There should perhaps be more of a sense of responsibility to use our American privileges to push the boundaries for those who can’t push for themselves.


2 thoughts on “American Privilege

  1. This is “Westerner” privilege at best but to be honest I think you underestimate the developing world if you think all of the above is something that separates the States from the rest.
    In most countries you can get ahead by working hard and securing a better future for your children, that’s the pervasive mindset of the East!
    Nor is inequality a discussion reserved for the Western world, its a discussion that people fight for everywhere and all of the time. Nigeria right now would possibly serve as an example here, even in totally fucked up Saudi Arabia women still fight, still talk, still struggle (e.g. recent driving protest).

    Speaking as a European, American privilege is assuming the rest of the Western world has the same fucked up problems as the States does. If anything its assuming that you can make generalized statements about the US and apply them across the entire western world (which in online discussion happens _very_ often). “American privilege” is often intertwined with a very biased and broken understanding of history (which is euro-centric at best), cultural values and things such as racism (FYI: other Western countries ain’t quite so fucked up about racism).

    Also part of this American perspective is assuming that the US has some sort of monopoly on the subjects of morality and ethics which the entire premise of this article hints at.
    An objective analysis would imply that the US is not _that_ politically free nor economically free (certainly not as much as it used to be) yet this article suggests that these are specific privileges The States has.

    • Thank you for such a well thought out response.

      This is really less of an article and more an emotional response to the news I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of these past couple of weeks. I should have perhaps linked to an article for each point I made. Specifically, it was the mass death sentencing in Egypt (along with only being able to preach government-provided services in mosque), the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls, the memorial that turned into a protest in Bangladesh on the anniversary of the collapse of the factory building, and the news coming out of Somalia of refugees being rounded up and imprisoned and forced to pay a substantial fee to be released if their paperwork isn’t in order. There is also quite a bit of sarcasm in the piece (note the mention of only being at risk of an attack by our own militarized police force and the bit about Starbucks), but maybe that didn’t come across as strongly as I anticipated. My goal was to simply remind people here in the US that they shouldn’t take for granted what limited freedoms still remain to us. Mindful living and self-love has gotten to be very popular on an individual level, but it should maybe be taken to a community level too.

      Specifically in terms of racism, I have referenced American hypocrisy a couple of times:

      It definitely seems that our American culture has taken some massive steps backwards in recent decades on all sides, and we are rightfully the laughingstock of much of the rest of the Western world. I see the US on a very slippery slope towards a feudal society, and I try to maintain a slim hope that it isn’t too late to pull ourselves back up and restructure. But that is all. I actually was a history major in my undergrad, which I fully acknowledge was Eurocentric. But that training has proved invaluable to me in understanding certain aspects of societies, and I would never presume to apply the issues of one specific area to other parts of the world.

      And I’m sorry if you’ve come across nasty, pigheaded Americans in forums. We’re not all entirely blind to reality, nor do we all think that US is the most amazing place in the world to live. A decade ago, I considered becoming an ex-pat, but I decided that it is better to stay and try to cause social change in the small ways that I can rather than just throw my hands up and run away to a country like Finland, if I could convince them to have me.

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