This is a guest post by commenter Mira from Serbia. She does not hate the USA, especially not its people, but she does think it is unfair for any one culture to have most of the power and use it on others.
American privilege is not what many Americans often think it is. It is not about living in a great place full of opportunities and freedom instead of a horrible swamp. What is important to understand is that America, the USA, did not earn the good things it has through honest, hard work: specific historical conditions made the USA rich and powerful. It uses that power to work for its interests.
So having American privilege means being on the stronger side of the power struggle.
Here are some common ways of displaying American privilege (note that some of these apply to Western privilege in general):
- Seeing your nation as “default” – it is normal, everybody else is “different”.
- Assuming your cultural norms are universal.
- Not knowing what is like to have war in your homeland.
- Expecting people in other countries to speak your language when you travel abroad.
- Assuming everybody knows, or should know, your culture (even things like the “American Idol” contestants).
- Assuming nobody else has any of the technological advantages you have – like not knowing how to use a computer or even an oven.
- Believing everything you see on the news, even though it is told from the American point of view and is not a universal truth.
- Assuming everybody wants to live in America, since it is the best place to live (even without universal health care).
- Seeing people from other countries as inferior to you, even if they are highly educated and successful.
- Having plenty of movies and TV shows in your language, full of people from your country, showing your culture and way of life.
- Becoming famous or successful much more easily even if you suck at what you do.
- Assuming everyone on the Internet is American.
- Believing everybody else wants to adopt the American way of life. If they do not, there is something wrong with them. If they do not, America is going make them.
- You can take the liberty of shortening or changing people’s names if they are hard for you to pronounce.
- Believing America is fair and free. Everybody else lives in a mess.
- Assuming everybody wants the USA to help them.
- Seeing the USA as the best nation there is and being confused when others feel the same about their own countries.
- Being confused about people who do not like the USA or those who think it is not perfect. They must be jealous!
It is important to understand you have American privilege even if your life in America is not great; even if you belong to a discriminated group. Just as all whites have white privilege, even those who are poor, gay or non-Christian and therefore experience discrimination, so all Americans have American privilege.