On July 4th, #AmericaWasNeverGreat was trending on Twitter.
Their tweets were classic examples of what I would call, American privilege. They have it so good in this country that they don’t even realize how good they have it compared to most countries.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who believes in blind nationalism.
Clearly, there are stains in American history. To name a few, the treatment of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, and Japanese internment camps. I fully believe that we need to learn about these past mistakes to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
And today, we still have our problems. Exploding national debt, poverty, violence, reckless foreign policy, declining civil liberties, and more.
The main focus of the #AmericaWasNeverGreat crowd was calling America racist, homophobic, and sexist. Well, compared to who?
Let’s put our problems into perspective a little.
If America isn’t great, what country is great?
Some people in my Twitter mentions said Sweden and Denmark.
However, there is certainly racial tension in these Scandinavian countries. A Stockholm University study found that it is much more difficult to get a job in Sweden if you have a foreign sounding name.
In fact, there’s a case to be made that America is one of the least racist countries on Earth.
A World Value survey asked people to identify the kinds of people they would not want to have as neighbors:
Just 5 percent of Americans selected people of a different race. To compare, 44 percent of Indians, 23 percent of French, and 15 percent of Germans said that they wouldn’t want to live next to people of a different race.
And look at Asia! It’s not a huge secret that Asians are stereotypically racist, even towards people of different Asian nationalities. If you don’t believe me, try mistaking a Japanese person for a Chinese person. It won’t be pretty!
Now, of course, people can always lie in surveys and just because other countries are more racist doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist.
It’s worth noting, though, that the United States appears to be more accepting of different races and nationalities compared to most.
Now, what about homophobia in the United States?
We’ve made a lot of progress lately so let’s compare to other countries:
In 76 countries, being gay is illegal. Punishments range from fines to life in prison, hard labor, beatings, and death by public stoning. The elephant in the room is that most of this countries have a significant Muslim population:
You’d be hard pressed to find an American who wants to make homosexuality illegal, even among Christian Americans who do not approve of homosexuality.
But how accepting are Americans of homosexuality? A Pew Research Center survey asked people in 39 countries, “should society accept homosexuality?”
The researchers did admit that the word “accept” might mean different things to different people in different countries.
That being said, 60 percent of people in the U.S. said yes– up from 49 percent in 2007. That number is even higher among young people, with 70 percent of 18-29 years old saying that society should accept homosexuality. Compare that to young people in Nigeria (0%), Pakistan (2%), Indonesia (4%), Egypt (3%), and Turkey (9%).
Once again, Americans are more accepting of gays compared to the rest of the world.
And, what about women?
Newsweek and the Daily Beast analyzed dozens of data points for 165 countries to determine which countries offer the best quality of life from women.
The United States ranked in the top ten:
The United States was also one of the first countries in the world to allow women to vote in 1920:
Compare that to Saudi Arabia where women voted for the first time in…2015.
There’s a lot that women in Saudi Arabia can’t do: go anywhere without a chaperone, drive a car, interact with men that they are not related to, go for a swim, or wear clothes that show off their “beauty.”
Sure, America is not perfect. We still have our problems which should be addressed. But not in the context of, “shame on you, America!” This reeks of “American privilege” and an ignorance of oppression that happens outside our borders.
It’s important to put everything into perspective. The United States is one of the most accepting countries on Earth. Period.
That makes us pretty dang exceptional, whether the #AmericaWasNeverGreat crowd realizes it or not.
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