White Privilege & American Exceptionalism: Under Construction

Phil, a coworker at the tax firm where I worked enlightened me on what white privilege meant. He explained that as a white man, he had few worries about the society pangs that concerned non-white men. He explained that while most every black man gets tense from spotting a patrolman on the side of the road – even if driving slower than the speed limit – the squad car gives Phil a sense of security.


I told him that a year prior, I was held at gun point by six policemen (5 black, 1 Hispanic). They forced me and my twelve- year- old son out of the taxi that we ordered, made my son lay face down in the street, and cuffed him. They went through my brief case looking for God knows what. The cause, according to them, was that someone thought my son slouched in the back of the taxi in attempt to hide. After verifying our legitimacy from the taxi driver, the Maywood, Illinois finest gave us leave. When I told Phil that story, he asked if that experience made me feel safe in knowing the officers were doing their job to protect the neighborhood.


He later explained to me that as a white man, he needed only to obey the laws and most things would work in his favor. He thought that American way of life was inherently good. His belief that American soldiers in other countries were doing God’s work to make the world safe gave him comfort that danger would not find its way to his front step.


I told Phil that his point of view was indicative of Jon O’Sullivan’s manifest destiny. O’Sullivan believed that the U.S. destiny was to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of men the immutable truth and beneficence of God … to the nations of the world.


I didn’t realize just how deeply engrained into the American subconscious is O’Sullivan’s rhetoric, until that day. Americans are hypnotized by it. Triggers are subconsciously embedded into the American psyche sparking the buy-in to American exceptionalism.


At the risk of patronizing the reader, American exceptionalism is a three-part belief. First, America has a history that is inherently different from other nations which makes America unique in her own right. Second, due to her uniqueness, she has a mission and an obligation separate from the other nations in the world. She must transform the world. Third, sense point one and two are indisputable facts, the U.S. should be superior to the other nations.


As foolish as this may seem to the more liberal minded citizens and those who do not fit into the “Red Blooded American” category. The hypnotic trans is often triggered by our politicians. What is interesting to note is that while the politicians trigger the trance, for their benefit, the viewpoint of American exceptionalism is under construction.


In a speech by Ronald Regan, he used a house on a hill image to symbolize American exceptionalism. “She’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home.”


By the time Obama uses the image, the point of view had not much changed. Whereas Regan suggested that American exceptionalism was a draw that pulled the world to it for rescue and safety, Obama triggers the hypnosis with the reference to the unique history and then suggests that the world is watching and waiting for her leadership.


Somewhere in all of this, the perception of the leadership roll changed and those proud “Red Blooded Americans,” like my coworker, believed that America gave up her leadership role to join the pack of globalist. Somewhere in the higher taxes on corporations, “the one percent,” our retirement funds, and the bailouts, along with the dozens of free trade agreements and international treaties, the leader fell into the pack. It was as if America decided to lead from behind, to make a round table of world leaders, or just lay down.


In comes Donald Trump, a hero to people like my co-worker. He presents a different view of American exceptionalism. The viewpoint he brings suggests that a leader must have a degree of separation from the pack. Insert the America First concept. Under Trump’s reconstruction of American exceptionalism, the idea that a world leader should be uncontested and indisputable shows in his economic policy more than his foreign policy. He wants to bring companies back to the U.S. and hire U.S. workers. He wants to control the immigration so that U.S. citizens can have jobs and use fewer government resources.


I’ve noticed the cooperate push backs. They are saturated in political and cooperate selfishness, almost national betrayal, or even worst, betrayal of humanism. When I hear how Apple allows the Chinese government access to privacy functions and the Chinese government uses that access to hunt people and place them in internment camps, I can’t help but to think that Apple has betrayed humanity as well as the U.S. This brings to question cooperate America’s view of American exceptionalism. As more companies try to compete in a global economy, it appears that American exceptionalism is taking a back seat to globalism. We’ve become a nation of team players instead of team captains. As a result, I believe that one day, maybe not to long from now, Phil will wake and realize that white privilege has slipped away into the sea of globalization.

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