The American Illusion


Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, The American Dream. This is the set of ideals of Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality. A nation which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. This is a national ethos of the United States of America. However in country filled with racism, discrimination, sexism, racial profiling, stereotyping and homophobia this dream would seem to be an illusion.

We live in a very diverse nation composed of different races, religions, ethnicities, political views, sexual/gender orientations, upbringings and many other aspects. These differences make our country very unique. However, with this diversity people are not always going to agree with each other. They may have opposing or differing views, opinions, interpretations, and perceptions. We don’t always have to agree with each other but there should be some level of respect for each other’s views. Unfortunately, we live in a very judgmental and hypocritical society. People at times have this entitled “I’m right your wrong” mentality. They have this perception that if you don’t support their view then you’re against their view. This close-minded mindset has lead to division, bias, and tension.

This mentality can be attributed to Cognitive dissonance. This refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance. Often when people are confronted with a new or opposing view they can become confrontational which leads to this perception. This is often seen when discussing religion and politics. People are convinced their religion/view is the “right” one and every religion/view is “wrong”.

Perception is a large factor in shaping views. People can see the same thing, yet view and interpret in it in many different ways. The mass media has the ability to control and influence perception through manipulation of emotion. With many people receiving their information and news from the mass media this can create propaganda. For example, let’s say President Obama has a press conference and drinks a Pepsi soda during it. CNN reports “President Obama appears to appeal to Pepsi Supporters”. MSNBC reports “President Obama has publicly denounced Coca-Cola”. While Fox news reports “President Obama appears to be an undercover Sprite supporter” This metaphor shows that the various news networks can use the same exact event and run different stories and interpretations. These large news networks understand their demographics and cater to their sentiments, emotions, and values.

It’s apparent that it emphasized that everybody has different upbringings, experiences and treatment in this country, Subsequently because of our different experiences people do not share the share the same sentiments, values, pride and history. Many people in this country are raised on the values of Patriotism. This includes sentiments and support for the military, veterans, police, equality, protecting constitutional rights and combating immigration and terrorism. These values are often viewed synonymously with each other with the American flag being its visual representation of Patriotism.

However, there are also many people who do not resonate with the values of patriotism. Unfortunately, this nation has a long history of institutionalized racism, slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynching’s, civil rights, brutality, profiling, and oppression. We all have not been able to benefit or resonate with many of the values of patriotism. In fact, the creator of the Star Spangle banner, Francis Scott Key, was a proud racist slave owner. So if we do not overwhelming support for these values that does not mean were Anti those values either. Just because you may not resonate with an issue does not mean it’s not important. However, there’s a building divide in this country which does not respect others views.

A unique aspect of our country is the bill of rights, which are 1st 10 amendments of the constitution. Often when people make a controversial statement or action they refer the bill rights of rights as protection and justification for such actions. For hundred of years, people have used the freedom of expression and speech as justification for unpopular opinions. However, it seems this freedom of speech and expression is only valid when it benefits or aligns with the groupthink of a specific demographic of this nation.

Recently San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick made national attention when he peacefully protested the national anthem. Kaepernick exercised his constitutional right to freedom of expression by choosing to take a knee during the anthem. His protest was in response to the unfair and “oppressive “treatment of African Americans in this country. He highlighted the history of racism, police brutality and unaccountability for Black Death in police custody as reasons. Kaepernick explained that the flag is supposed to stand for liberty, justice, and equality and that many Americans are denied those privileges on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many people do not resonate with the unjust conditions that Kaepernick protested. Because of this disassociation, many viewed his actions as unpatriotic, anti-military and police. Kaepernick in fact never even mentioned the military but because the American flag and anthem are apparently synonymous with all values of patriotism he took on criticism. He would elaborate his stance explaining he has profound respect for the military and police and was not attacking them. He especially highlighted his respect for the military that protects his freedom to have the constitutional right to express himself. Kaepernick would receive a substantial amount of hateful, violent and racist responses to his actions. Many people responded with an entitled mindset that if you don’t like the conditions of this country then leave this country. It’s hypocritical because speaking against injustice is supposed to also represent Patriotism. The same freedom of expression allows people to fly the confederate flag and also protect the KKK, a domestic terrorist group, to have public demonstration. However, Kaepernick did receive a lot of support from veterans who respected and understood what he protesting. This was shown in the hashtag #VeteransforKap.

Again this country is set up to cater to a specific demographic in this nation. Many people do not see or resonate with the problems country. Many critics thought Kaepernick should have more respect for others. This is a very hypocritical view. For example, the hashtag #blacklivesmatter was created as solidarity for the value of black life. However, there are many who cannot resonate with police brutality or understand “oppression and discrimination of blacks in this country. Subsequently, the hashtags #alllivesmatter and #bluelivematter were created solely to disrespect and detract from the Black Lives matter movement. In fact, there were actual police officers that wore shirts that read “I can breathe” mocking the death of Eric Garner whose last words were “I can’t breathe”. So it’s hypocritical for people to condemn others for not “respecting their views by not standing during a pledge they do not resonate with. But it’s somehow it’s ok to literally mock death and treatment of other citizens.

One of the key aspects of Kaepernick’s protest is police brutality. I want to emphasize that they’re many good Police officers who sincerely want to make a positive difference by “protecting and serving” their communities and they should salute and supported. Not all cops are bad and racist and it’s naïve to assume they all are. However there is also a lot of police officers that do abuse their power and constantly profile those of colors in this country. Strained relations between blacks and police are nothing new and have occurred for hundreds of years. In fact the modern Police originated from Slave Catching Patrols.

Blacks have experienced Police Brutality for years it’s just with today’s age of social media these events are now gaining national attention. It’s also crucial that it’s understood according to a 2006 report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) White supremacist have infiltrated law enforcement. So when minorities accuse police of brutality and abuse there is an actual basis for it. I am also not eluding that every cop who profiles is a white supremacist either. However the fact the FBI has confirmed what many minorities have suspected for years is troubling.

Often to detract from police brutality people refer to black on black crime. Absolutely blacks kill each other at a much higher rate than any police officer. This is a serious problem and often times are ignored amongst the black community. We often have this “this isn’t the time” mindset when it’s brought up. However, the difference is blacks are undoubtedly held accountable when they commit a crime. The issue with police brutality and violence is that the police are not being held accountable. In several high profile cases such as Eric Garner, Freddie Grey, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and Philando Castile their deaths were medically ruled homicides. The problem is none of the police involved was convicted of murder or any charges.

I also want to emphasize there is absolutely no such thing as a War on Police. Despite modern perception and media propaganda a police officer is not even a top 10 dangerous job in America. For perspective in 2015 over 1000 citizens were shot and killed by police. Compared to the minimal 41 officers shot and killed on duty. In 2014 again over 1000 citizens shot compared to 49 police officers. In 2013 over 1000 citizens shot while only 33 officers shot. Over the past decade from 2006-2015, there have been a total of 521 police officers shot and killed. A common misleading statistic is that cops shoot white people more than blacks. Yes, cops shoot more people only because there are physically more whites in this country, But proportionally cops kill blacks more than twice the rate than whites. Black men between the ages of 15 and 34 were 15 percent of those killed by police in 2015, despite making up just 2 percent of the US population.

We do not live in a utopian society. Historically when blacks have represented our country and patriotism they have not gained the same respect and gratitude as our counterparts. In 1935 with segregation and Jim Crow activity occurring Jesse Owens chose to represent the United States in the Berlin Olympics. Owens would win 4 gold medals literally under the watch and racial pressure of Adolf Hitler. His ability to triumph through various obstacles and represent his country was true patriotism. However upon his return he did not even receive an invite to the white house by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It had been almost a formality for an Olympic hero to be honored by our country but that never happened. Historically there have been many blacks that served in the military that returned to be treated like second-class citizens. It didn’t matter that put their life on the line for this country, but because they were black they were somehow viewed as inferior.

One of the biggest problems for division amongst our nation is that we do not know enough about other. To play devils advocate you really cannot blame white people for not having knowledge of the conditions that blacks face. Most whites live in neighborhoods and communities with low amount of interaction with minorities. Meaning that they’re not in a position to witness or hear about any of these injustices. Also most rely on the mainstream media for their information. If the news does not report about police brutality or profiling how else would they know about it? The reality is most get their perception of blacks by what they see on TV. Unfortunately most “black” TV shows do not portray blacks in a positive manner only reinforcing these negative stereotypes.

Now that’s still not an excuse to be naïve of possible injustice especially with this countries documented history. Over 60 years ago segregation and public discrimination were legal in this nation. The people who believed in segregation did not disappear when it became illegal. There still alive today and have raised children who have positions power and influence in this country. People at times have this naive assumption that because we have a black president that all of racism and prejudices are gone. As a nation, we need more public discussion and realize that this American dream we live in is nothing more than an illusion.

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