The Land of the Free?


Joshua Johnson-Domio

POLS 437-CSU Chico

Professor Pinder

The Land of the Free?

Growing up in the United States children are taught that America is superior to other countries due to its industrialization, military strength, and multicultural background. Although still relatively young, throughout history America has played and continues to play a big role in the world. We contribute to wars, as well as organizations such as NATO, and American english is even becoming the universal language across the world. We have even been socialized to refer to what we see as an undeveloped or non industrialized nation with norms we don’t understand as “third world countries” (in other words inferior). We try to bring these “inferior” cultures democracy, and pollute them with western cultural norms as well as technology, thinking we are improving these non developed societies. Although America is supposed to be a highly industrialized and “advanced” country, who is to say that our values and norms are the best in the world?

Since the beginning of America, Europeans have classified the cultures of first nations as well as blacks to be uncivilized, leading to years of genocide and racism as a means of providing “civility”. Modern America consists of many different races and cultures, but somehow white culture is always seen and portrayed as the dominant American culture, making it hard for non whites to relate to being an American. Being an American in America means to conform to the dominant culture, and adopt some degree of “whiteness”. Our president is a good example. With the dominant culture still benefiting only white males, it is hard to attain a position of power such as president without trading in your cultural identity for “honorary whiteness”. To be white in America means to have some sort of privilege, as the book mentions “those that pass as white are able, usually, to transgress boundaries and cross cultural borders''. Once the cross cultural border has been crossed, like in the case of our president, it becomes dangerous to threaten or challenge the discriminatory systems and practices in play; it could result in the loss of the “honorary whiteness” as well as the position of power that came with it, making minorities in positions of power more likely to conform. Minorities who want to excel are often bombarded with benevolent racism. In my own life I have experienced this many times: “you aren’t black”, “you’re white washed”, or even “You're different from other black people”. This contributes to the adoption of whiteness, it provides an us vs. them perspective amongst your own race. When you hear it from your own race you are seen as a traitor who cannot be accepted as an equal, when it is heard from the dominant race (that you are not like those of your race) it is meant as a compliment and incentive to keep “achieving” the concessions given out to “white-washed” members of the non dominant group. It is having these concessions disguised as achievements that is the root of the problem of race in America.

America’s multicultural background is meant to celebrate America’s diversification by encouraging racialized groups to maintain their distinctive cultures, however, multicultural celebrations are just one big concession to the non dominant racial groups. Multiculturalism comes from the idea that society is made up of different cultures, dominant and non-dominant, white and nonwhite. According to the book, “the need for cultural recognition of racialized ethnic groups becomes a right instead of a necessity”. Multiculturalism is an alibi for tolerance, in other words white Americans are now being tolerant toward non-white Americans. This threatens America’s cultural homogeneity by informing rather than transforming racial and cultural differences which keeps the dominant culture dominant, and all other cultures just “tolerated” and “accepted” in this dominant culture.

In conclusion, America may seem like the perfect example of different ethnic cultures living together as equals in harmony. Although we may have a diverse population and multicultural awareness, are we really living in the land of the free and home of the brave if every system in play is meant to benefit only the dominant culture? Is being allowed to celebrate different cultures other than the dominant American culture enough? Can we really claim we live in a post racial America? Should every culture in America be satisfied with the way our “melting pot” of a country functions for them individually?