Apple-pie America is that part of America where nearly everyone is white and well-off, happy and innocent. The bad in the world always seems to be somewhere else – in a bad part of town, in a bad part of the world, in a bad part of history. Always there, never here. And when on occasion it is here, like with 9/11, then it is because madmen from somewhere else are behind it.
Its golden age was in the 1950s. From about 1955 to 1975, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war and Watergate destroyed the faith of many. But now that most Americans are too young to remember those things, apple-pie America is making a comeback.
Judging from Obama’s speech on race in March 2008, most Americans seem to believe in it.
To see if you live in apple-pie America, take this simple true/false test (for Americans only):
- America has done some bad things in the past, but it has got past all that.
- America makes mistakes, but it is well-meaning, not evil.
- Before the war in Iraq, Bush believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
- I am not racist.
- I pretty much believe what I read in the newspapers or hear on the news.
- I trust the police.
- Most poor people are black.
- People are poor mainly because they are unwilling to work hard and better themselves.
- People overseas hate America for no good reason.
- People say bad things about America because they hate it.
Your score: Count the number of true statements: ten times that number is the probability that you live in apple-pie America.
If you do, then you are suffering from what is called moral blindness. You are like the daughter of a crimelord or a slaveowner: you want to enjoy the wealth and power but not think too much about where it comes from.
America is rich and powerful for some good and honest reasons, like market forces, as well as plain luck, but also for some bad and evil ones. That is why people from overseas hate America so much. That is why some of them felt the need to give their lives to knock down the Twin Towers in New York. Do not fool yourself.
Most black Americans do not seem to believe in apple-pie America, much less live there. Their forefathers came to the country as slaves and they see how white people are still acting. They are not fooled.
But most white Americans do seem to believe in it, whether they live there or not.
This difference between black and white America is causing trouble for Barack Obama, a black man who would be president. The things his wife and his minister said come from beyond the apple pie and unsettles many who live inside it.
Obama’s speech on race tried to smooth over this difference. But the trouble is, it is not just his wife and his minister who do not believe in the apple pie: neither does he.
- white privilege
- white patriotism
- black patriotism
- 2008 election
- Manhattan north of 110th Street
- James Baldwin on deluded white people