Deconstructing U.S Privilege

So the concept of so-call U.S privilege has been rolling around for a while. I was originally intrigued by the concept, and as a result, read quite a few takes on it. There was some interesting points mentioned, like the dominance of U.S media/movies. I doubt most Americans are aware of the extent of that domination, so it’s worth bringing up. However, most other points read more like a laundry list of things the authors disliked about Americans, not necessarily a part of privilege. As such, I’d like to clear them out of the way so I can discover more actual instances of US privilege.

Some of the more common points are:

1. US residents ignorance of matters outside of the good ole’ USA
2. USA military might/influence affecting other countries
3. “American” can supposedly refer to people on the 2 continents and ppl from the US STOLE THE TERM AMERICAN FROM THEM
4. the USA media is a bunch of meanies that won’t cover foreign things outside of disasters
5. american exceptionalism! americans think they’re such speshel snowflakes! WELL THEY ARE WRONG!
6. There are a lot of US-based websites! and websites in English!

Now, the first 2 tie into each other more, IMHO, more than any one has so far caught onto, and since that will be longer and complex, and since numero uno is also one of the biggest and most common complaing points, I’ll get to it last.

Rebuttal #3 “American” is a Stolen Term – This one is beaten by simple, kindergarten Geography. There is no “American” continent. Fullstop. If one wants to refer specifically to one’s continent, “North American” and “South American”, Central American, Latin American, all these work better and are more descriptive than the incorrect continental-referring term “American”. The Americas as more than one continent corresponds to both geological (N.&S. America are on separate tectonic plates) AND cultural divisions. A Canadian and an Argentinian both have very distinct, different cultural backgrounds. Let’s not erase them by smashing them together, kthx?

Rebuttal #4 The US Media Sucks – I agree with this one, actually. The US media is fracking stupid and gives more coverage on How to Cure Bad Breath than on *any* politics. Trust me dolls, your country is not being singled out- our elections aren’t any more important than Lindsey Lohan’s filthy, filthy panties* than your elections are. The mainstream USA media just fucking sucks, get over it. That’s not privilege, that’s a lack of a series resource.

“Belize doesn’t have hospitals?!?! Oh, those fucking Belizens and their Belize privilege! Running around and not needing hospitals like the rest of us!!!” Uhh if you missed the sarcasm, it doesn’t work like that. If a country lacks a resource that other countries have, that is not a privilege. That’s just sad.

Rebuttal #5: Americans and their Uniqueness – this one always makes lmao. You’d think a bunch of people that kissed psychology’s ass so much would be able to understand statistics. And the statistics show that not only is America unique, it’s a fucking sideshow freak. America leans toward extremeness in most ways of living/culture. We have the most people that live alone, we’re the most patriotic of any countries around today, of Western countries we’re one of the most religious (Ireland, Poland, and USA are all in the top 3 I think), we have the most military/defense spending. So pretty much if you’re trying to argue that America is like most other countries and not the gothy, fundy weirdo of nations; you might just need to see one of the much ass-kissed psychiatrists to get your IQ checked.

Rebuttal #6: Too Many US Websites: Sorry honey but that just comes from having a large, wealthy population. There are a lot of Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, and Russian websites too. Sucks, dun it? I would admit that *is* a kind of privilege, but it’s not one unique to the USA, so it’s not a specific US-privilege, it’s just large-country-privilege. I also don’t deny English-speaking privilege, but somehow I never see these complaining Canadians and New Zealanders owning up to that… Nonetheless, the US has one of the largest Spanish-speaking populations in the world. Claiming English-speaker-privilege=USA-privilege just serves to erase them, and once again, we’re not the only ones mouthing off in English on the internet.

Rebuttal #1&2: American Ignorance & Military Might As Privilege!

This is actually one of the sadder ones but I’ll give it an informal go. Despite our “USian privilege” we’re one of the few developed nations without government healthcare. Yeah, that’ll be changing in a couple years and we’ll see how it goes, but right now I still can’t go to the doctor with the sore throat I have today, or the sores all over my feet that were oozing pus and blood. Weird thing for a privileged USian to experience, huh? But it’s actually pretty common for us.

I didn’t really come to bitch about that though, but to point out a few facts. Here’s the 2009 USA military expenditure in US dollars: 663,255,000,000. Almost 50% of the world military expenditure is from the US. Admittedly, 4 or 5 other countries have a higher percent of their GDP dedicated to military spending (like our BFF Israel).

Now maybe if we weren’t throwing $600 or $700 billion dollars into God only knows what, I could go and show my nasty ass feet to some know-it-all doctor. But, you say, that is just a sacrifice we choose to make, and our military privilege is the pay-off?

Wrong. Most of the what the military does, when it’s creating free markets (hahahaha) for American goods and such, is done to aid a couple big corporation fat cats. If it ever helped a significant amount of Americans, I’ll smile and kiss a pig.

Then there’s the choice thing. To make a true choice, one has to be informed, don’t they? But somehow we’re known to be the most ignorant people alive. And I agree with that. It’s a sad, true fucking fact. But that’s not a choice either, as any American would know. Our history/geography/foreign/language etc. studies are fucking horrible. Here’s my old summary of it:

Cause history as taught in American schools goes something like this:

PILGRIMS PILGRIMS WIGWAMS PILGRAMS
REVOLUTIONARY WAR REVOLUTIONARY WAR REVOLUTIONARY WAR
(yeah the french may have been involved in there somewhere but WE REALLY DID IT ALL ON OUR OWN /pats america on the back)
CIVIL WAR oh them poor boys didn’t know what they was doin’, racism is bad
/repeat all that until middle school
MAYAS N INCANS N AZTECS CAUSE THAT’S SO MORE RELEVANT THAN NORTH AMERICAN NATIVES OR ANY OTHER HISTORY DUR
ANCIENT EGYPT TOTALLY RELEVANT TOTALLY
CONSTITUTION

then finally high school. Where you might not touch World History and WWII until your jr./senior year, depending on your school :/ My class that was supposed to cover WII ran out of time and only got to the Great Depression. Several other people confirmed this happening to them as well.

OH YEAH FORGOT VIETNAM NEVER HAPPENED. THE END.

Lately, and I suspect I’m being paranoid, I’ve begun to suspect it’s taught in such a repetitive and stupid way to deliberately keep us disinterested in history/politics and make us see them as boring and confusing. Because American history is NOT taught in schools. We never learned about the Spanish-American War, Guatemala, Panama, the Sandcreek Massacre, the stealing of Georgia as soon as gold was found there, we never covered Vietnam at all, ad infinitum, ad nauseum :/ All nations have nasty, shameful events in their pasts. Betcha fur I could do a study of how history is taught by each nationality, and how much of their bad shit they own up to, and the more honest they are, the less patriotic they are. And America is, as we know, the most patriotic country.

Is it so crazy to think that our education, our very knowledge, has been sacrificed so that our military might can continue keeping the world safe and profitable for big corporations and their CEOs? If we were given a decent, honest education about our history and the world, would the military keep getting their blank check and automatic approval for their wars?

It’s a lot harder when you were spoon-fed the same drivel for 18 years and now you have to go learn the rest of all the history outside of the Revolutionary War in just a couple years, and spend your life trying to catch up on that deficiency. How is being denied education and kept ignorant privilege? How is being subjected to near brainwashing privilege? How is being able to interact with non-Americans correctly privilege?

As I understood it, one of the facets of privilege was that the privileged group usually received some benefit from the privilege. Knowledge of the world and foreign language are a strength in terms of being competitive in the job market; the lack of people with the proper knowledge in the US as compared to outside is a weakness, it is no way a strength. I think even Obama has acknowledged the need for it and said it was important to change.

*I have no idea if Lindsey Lohan’s panties are filthy. Plz don’t sue.
**I also have no clue as to the state of hospitals in Belize, having never been to a hospital there :)
***If anyone thinks ignorance of history is a choice, keep class/location considerations in mind. As a kid, my family hardly ever had access to a car, let alone a computer or the internet. As an adult, one has more of a choice, but it still stands that most Americans are at a disadvantage/drastically behind people from other countries by the time they get that choice.

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8 Responses to “Deconstructing U.S Privilege”

  1. NotOT Says:

    Surprise surprise, an American denying U.S. privilege. How very special of you.

    The website issue is especially hilarious. It’s not a case there being too many American sites, it’s that Americans think that ANY site written in English is about THEM.

    Enjoy your privilege bath, the smell of ignorance suits you.

    • lasciel Says:

      I know it may be difficult to read this whole post (it does exceed 1500 words after all) but I do believe I stated in there several times that I believe U.S privilege exists. Things like the U.S domination of the movie industry, which gives Americans hoping to go into the film-making business more opportunities, as well as denying people from many countries a large selection of films set in their native country.

      However, instead of focusing on things like that, that are very real and obvious, many people seem to get side-tracked on things that I don’t believe to actually be a part of US privilege. For instance, the persistent ignoring or skewed portrayal of foreign countries doesn’t seem to give any advantage to Americans.

      Hmmm on the website issue, I’m intrigued as to what you think might cause this. No doubt it happens, perhaps even often, but myself, I’ve always found it pretty obvious when an author/blogger/website is not from the US (the .ca, .uk usually gives it away :)), as well as the spelling. I think this is mostly a problem in forums and sites with rotating authors.

      I can’t speak for all of my countries’ people though. So assuming this website mistaking is common and a result of ignorance/America=the World inculcated in us at an early age, what about the ignorance strikes you as part of U.S privilege?

      Well I do have some cotton candy bath salts that would make it more enjoyable :)

  2. April Says:

    I, too, am annoyed with the constant US privilege BS on the blogosphere. I understand a lot of the claims of privilege, and agree with a lot of it, but goddammit, I’m sick of hearing about it, when half the people I know live in near poverty, don’t have healthcare, and are undereducated and live off food stamps. I WISH I had access to all the social programs and educational experiences available in places abroad. But I can’t, because I can’t afford a goddamn passport, let alone a fucking plane ticket.

    • Lasciel Says:

      While our economy and military our large, most of the USA is the best country in the world!!! stuff is just propaganda that I’m surprised people from other countries buy into.

      We have much higher rates of violent crimes than most country, we’re very bad off academically, and it’s not a very good place to be a mother either, infant&maternal death rates are a lot higher than in most developed countries, we don’t have good maternity leave policies. Income levels are very disparate. 25% of people are *below* working class. We’re not even in the top 10 for highest living standards. I really have not found very many ways in which it is better to be a US citizen than not one.

  3. Muse142 Says:

    I love your “history as taught in [US] American schools” summary. Yeap, that’s pretty much the sum total of it.

    I think a lot of these things end up on US-privilege lists because they can frequently be tangled up with a USA-related sense of entitlement. “America is the best, greatest nation that God ever graced upon mankind! Why the hell would I care about politics *over there*?” That kind of thing.

    I have to interact with people who think like this a lot… heh, you don’t get to pick your family. :)

    • Lasciel Says:

      Oh, I know how grating American ignorance can be :) The one example that irritates me the most is the whole bit about Americans “saving” everybody’s butt in WWI & WWII.

      And that’s just so incredibly stupid and ignorant… my dad says this one and I can barely refrain from banging my head into a wall every time he does x3

      The anger is very justified, but that doesn’t mean it’s proof of privilege. Right now ignorance of foreign things is just a common trait among Americans, like politeness among Japanese people and bilingual skills among Canadians.

  4. Ochiudo Says:

    “Betcha fur I could do a study of how history is taught by each nationality, and how much of their bad shit they own up to, and the more honest they are, the less patriotic they are.”

    Nice thought! Here in germany, it certainly holds true. We have an almost masochistic take on our own history: We get taught to hate and be ashamed of our past. From grade 3 on to the end of school education, there is little else you learn. Obviously, there’s some general european and world history, but most of it is WWII along with some WWI, and how we caused both of them. Not only in history classes, either… We learn about the Nazi time in Literature (grade 11 was the first time we read a book that did not relate the story of a jewish war-survivor or -victim), in politics, even in biology german kids learn about evolution and then have to listen to a VERY elaborate account of how the Nazis abused the theory to justify their racism. German history-teaching has a quality of self-flaggellation to it.
    As a result, patriotism is severely frowned upon. I can remember a debate from a few years back when a politician dared to say that he was “proud to be German” – media hell broke lose. There was a huge controversy about wether or not it is okay to say something like that. The result: It’s not. He had to resign.

    I don’t mind the lack of patriotism here, I think it’s a pretty dumb concept to be proud of things others achieved in the past. But it is interesting to think this might be a direct result of how we teach hostory… I think it’s quite likely.

    • April Says:

      That is fascinating stuff. We’re taught to be so damn proud of every little thing about the US, even violent colonialism. I had no idea Germany was taking such an approach with education!

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