American Privilege

As Americans, we live in a country with a foundational belief that all people are created equal.  The specific purpose of our Constitution is to protect our Natural Rights. We are encouraged by the Declaration of Independence to pursue our own individual visions of happiness; whatever those might be.

People, unfortunately, are flawed, and since nations are made up of people, all nations are flawed. In America, we still have much work to do to live up to our ideals. Historic wrongs were done to Native Americans and enslaved Blacks. Later more wrongs were inflicted with Jim Crow laws and redlining. Sometimes, great harm has been done by government policies that were meant to undo wrongs, such as Urban Renewal.

Today in America there is much discussion of “White Privilege,” and” Systemic Racism.” The Woke and BLM movements seem to see everything through the lens of race – when all you think about is skin color, everything seems racist. Just like the old saying, when your only tool is a hammer – everything looks like a nail. People, however, are far more complex than their skin color. We are a multiplicity of instincts, desires and behaviors, not defined by our skin color alone. America provides a unique environment where anyone can pursue their dreams. Many do not succeed in this difficult endeavor, but many do. Look at George Foreman, who grew up in poverty in Houston and dropped out of school at 15. He first succeeded in sports, but later became the spokesman for the George Forman Grill and made $200 million. Or what about Oprah, President Obama or now Vice President Harris?

We also need to consider the question, “Compared to what?” America is far from perfect. But, how does America compare to other countries? Haiti, for example, the only country born from a successful revolution by black slaves? What about Brazil, which imported more African slaves than any other nation, whose constitution criminalizes racism and guarantees more rights than ours?

People of all races have come to America to pursue their dreams. Not just from Europe and Africa, but from India, China, Vietnam, Central America, etc.  Census Bureau data shows that there are over 4 million foreign born blacks living in America and that African immigration grew 50% from 2010 to 2018, compared to 24% from Asia and 21% from South America.

America invents more useful thing than any other nation. Why is Tesla not a German company, Apple not Brazilian, Moderna or Pfizer (the recent inventors of successful Corona virus vaccines) not Chinese?

We have much work to do. Everyday each one of us must work to be a better person. But we should also see ourselves for what we all are – Americans with individual rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, with a government that is designed to protect even the smallest minority – the individual. Yes, white people in America are privileged, but all Americans are privileged – we all have American Privilege.

James Miller
Lyme, CT

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