Sunday, February 18, 2007

I love the smell of...

Oh, I love the smell of an American-bashing in the morning.

I know Americans have a lot of "privilege." But what I cannot tolerate is Europeans and Canadians acting like they don't also have "privilege." And, frankly, I would rather have the privilege of Canadians than Americans. What's better, universal health care or the so-called "strongest" military (and it just cracked me the eff up when a CANADIAN said how "terrified," yes, terrified was the word, they were of our guns. Yeah, we're coming after you next, punks.)?

Today there was a post on the feminist community at livejournal about cultural appropriation. A white woman was asking if it were offensive for her to put her hair in dreadlocks. Frankly, that post didn't really belong on the community because it's to do with race, not gender.

Someone, we'll call her Hypocrite, wrote this comment:

    But you know something? I just read through the rest of this thread and had a bit of a think about it. And I realised that yep, you people are completely right. Why do I think so? Because of how much it grates on me when American people who have never even seen my country (Ireland, that is) claim to know more about my culture than I do, or take up little things from my country and culture and try to make them their own- when they've never set foot in the place. It's offensive, and it's ignorant.
I just had to write something back to her, because she really grated on my nerves. I'll explain why later.
    Yeah, it's so ignorant and offensive for people to celebrate their heritage. But I guess I must be wrong in thinking that there are a lot of people of Irish descent in America.
Not my best stuff, or even much of an argument, but she just annoyed me. I just think she's overblowing things.

Hypocrite wrote this comment in reply:
    Yes, people of Irish descent. Celebrating being a person of Irish descent is one thing. Assuming that, although neither you* nor your parents have ever stepped foot in the country, that you can tell me about my country, culture, heritage, political situation and politics, is very much another.

    Irish-Americans are just that- American people of Irish descent. My great-grandmother was Spanish. I am not. My upbringing, my culture, are Irish. Just as Irish-Americans' upbringing and culture are American.

    I've lived most of my life here. I've grown up in this culture. And I've gotten sick to death, in my time, of Americans whose grandparents were Irish attempting to pass themselves off as Irish people, while understanding nothing below a surface level about my country and culture.
After this comment, I decided I didn't want anything to do with someone who gets so hysterical (I'm sure SO MANY PEOPLE act like that with her). So I simply wrote back:
    Wow. There's so much I could reply to this, but since this is a feminist community, it would be way off topic.
You know what bothered me about her? Heaven forbid that anyone be allowed to touch anything to do with Ireland unless they actually live on the soil. By the by, she also doesn't think African-Americans should consider themselves "African." I just think she's very ignorant about the lives of immigrants and their descendants. She's negating people's heritage, and acting like the immigrant experience didn't shape their descendents. But mostly, mostly she annoyed me because EUROPEANS TELL ME ABOUT MY LIFE AS AN AMERICAN ALL THE TIME. They know more about me than I do, apparently!

I thought she was a hypocrite. And she proved me right.

This next post went up in the feminist community:
    American Privilege Checklist?

    I've searched the community memories and all over Google, and I cannot for the life of me find an American privilege checklist. I'm sure I once read one that was either on feminist or linked to from here, but now all I can find is this one article, which is good, but I'm looking for a more extensive list of specific examples.

    So, does anyone know where to find one? Alternately, it'd be great if members could just comment here with instances of American privilege. The one that most readily comes to mind for me is the privilege to be ignorant about America itself - the past, the government, the effects on the world, et cetera - as well as the privilege to be completely ignorant about the rest of the world. (Thanks to conuly for pointing this out.)

    Thanks in advance for any help.
Yes. The feminist community needs a post strictly about American privilege. No post for Caucasian privilege. No post for European privilege. No post for "first world" privilege. Or "developed country" privilege. Or "English-speaking" privilege. Those never get talked about, because apparently they don't exist. Just American. Because we are the only ones with privilege.

Hypocrite wrote:
    I can't be specific, but the most general thing I've noticed is the effects of American cultural hegemony on many American people.

    If you're not American, you're bombarded with American culture from day one. If you're American, you don't get that.

    What I've noticed is the fact that many Americans just don't think to acknowledge that their viewpoints are culturally biased.

    There's also an attitude towards other cultures that's less "othering" and more.. I can't figure out the word. It's like a simplified, dumbed-down version of other cultures- often including the one that the person in question is descended from. An assumption that growing up hearing stories about "Culture/Country X" means that one is entitled to see themselves as a member of that culture.

    Actually, to be honest, I can see elements of American privilege coming out even in that article. The assumption that Americans have more "freedom" than people in other countries is one which is very pervasive indeed. And, in some cases, blatantly false.

    Most definitely.

    I don't envy the US in the slightest. In particular, as a queer person, I have far more protections under Irish law than I would under US law. I am protected from discrimination in the workplace, I am protected from discrimination when attempting to access goods and services. While my country honours freedom of expression, Incitement to Hatred is illegal.

    As a member of a minority, I feel a lot more free than in the US. My country at least attempts to protect every citizen's freedom to live free from discrimination- whereas in the US, the right to discriminate and to hate speech appears to be enshrined in "freedom of speech".

    Here, we are free to have our opinions and to express them- but when that expression incites violence and hatred, we are no longer protected.

    Also, throughout my country it is illegal for employers and service providers to discriminate with regards race, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, membership of the Traveller community (an Irish ethnic and cultural minority) age once one is over 18, or religion. Again, the law is on the side of the person who could be discriminated against- not the person wishing to use "freedom of expression" to justify discrimination. Again, as a member of a minority, it sure does feel good to know that, unlike in some areas of the US, it is illegal for a prospective employer to refuse me a job or to fire me because I'm queer. Or because I'm a woman. Or because I'm an agnostic. Or if I were to get pregnant. Or... or..

    So yes.
    Probably preaching to the choir here, but: Yep.

I wanted to comment to her with this post:
    Oh, the hypocrisy.

    So, "you can tell me about my country, culture, heritage, political situation and politics"?

    I thought there was something in the U.S. called Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that all make it illegal to make employment decisions based on sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or disabilities or etc., but I guess I'm wrong. What do I know; I just live here.

I didn't leave that comment because it's the popular thing to bash Americans in this community, and I didn't feel like getting harassed.

I KNOW I am privileged as an American. I'm just so sick of everyone acting like they don't have some form of privilege, too. I know I'm kind of wrong here. Don't tell me how, because I'm not in the mood. But I'm also kind of right. Why does everyone get to tell me what my life is like? Why do they get to tell me what my PERSONALITY is like? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of American-bashing being okay in this community. We are damned if we do, damned if we don't. I'm sick of the post-Bush era. I'm sick of being hated for things I don't do or have no control over. I'm sick of being hated sight-unseen by someone who is just as ignorant as they claim I am. I'm just sick of people ASSUMING, ASSUMING, ASSUMING. I'm sick of everyone painting everyone with the same brush.

UGH. I just hate how hypocritical people are.

And these posts days after someone made a series of oh-so-hysterical jokes about the U.S. trying to annex Canada and Mexico. They may have been funny, except for the massive, unintended irony of being told by someone from jolly, ol' "sun never sets on our empire" England.


[.chickadees.on.the.pavemen7] said...

Yes I agree with you. Europeans did start America, and they shaped it into the way it is today, and now they want to totally distance themselves from what's been done. Europe created America--it's all connected. So how can they act like they're better than Americans? I would like to have a feel for my family's culture.. I would like to think I'm more than just a white American. Sure that shapes my life, but I also consider my Slavic + French roots to be a part of myself, even though I've never been to those countries.

Stefanie said...


I am also annoyed by how much Europeans complain about Americans not knowing how to speak their language when they visit. It's such a Republican argument, "You must speak our language and assimilate with our culture if you set foot on our soil! Rah!" Except the Republicans almost make more sense, because in their case, the immigrants are *living* here, not just vacationing here.

But they say it's an American thing, but it's not. You should try to speak some, but it's hard to learn a new language--esp. if you're just taking a quick vacation there! I would like them to prove what they say with facts, not just ignorant prejudice. I know a lot and know of a lot of people from Canada, England, and Australia from my fanfiction writing and reading days. Very few of them knew another language. So it is an English-speaking language thing, not simply an American habit to not speak another language. But they love to pretend that every English child knows another language. Um. No.

Anyway, Europeans are only better at geography and speaking foreign languages (supposedly) because they are NEIGHBORS with so many different countries. English-speaking countries are more isolated from other countries. It's a lot easier and more necessary to speak French if you live in Spain because it's minutes away for some people!

I took five years of Spanish, but I don't remember a lot because I have nowhere to USE it.

I am not in anyway Irish. But the comments of this Irish woman bothered me because I had just watched Gangs of New York, The Departed, and a documentary on the "real" gangs of New York this weekend. They all featured Irish immigrants and/or Irish-Americans. These people brought over their way of living in Ireland to America. No, the cultures aren't the same now, but the Irish immigrants were all shaped by their experiences in Ireland and as an Irish immigrant, and that shaped the way they lived and viewed life, so that was passed on to their descendents.

I just dislike people acting like heritage means little. I mean, we have Little Italy, Chinatown, etc., etc., because many people are deeply attached to their roots. America isn't a melting pot, because a melting pot means everything mixes together. It's like a stew, although there is a fancier word for it, where some things mix and others don't, so you still keep a large amount of your heritage's traditions and culture. I like that. Don't try to take it away from me and don't pretend that we didn't come from the same place! We just evolved differently.

Also there's an argument that we shouldn't call ourselves "American." I hate it, because for one reason, no one gets to tell me what I can or cannot call myself. If we tried to do that to someone, people would throw fits. Besides other reasons, I also hate it because I bet it was Europeans who called us "Americans" in the first place.