American Privilege


As I watch the news, read various blogs, and listen to the radio, I am reminded of one of my favorite songs by Bob Marley, “So Much Trouble in the World.”  Now Bob died in 1981, a few months before I was even born, yet his words are still so accurate today.  From stories about ISIS to the very streets of Ferguson, MO, there seems to be so much trouble in the world, and, sadly, I think I’ve developed what some have termed as the “classic American attitude.”  I am tired of hearing about all of the trouble and seeing no change.  I am tired of hearing of so much despair; I just want to be happy and focus on the things that make me happy instead of focusing on the world’s drama, so I’ve tuned out.

This is a luxury that many Americans (and well as citizens in the West) have enjoyed for decades.  While Western Africans cannot turn a blind eye to the Ebola crisis, and Nigerians cannot ignore the fact that many of their sisters, cousins, daughters, nieces, and friends are still held captive by Boko Haram, many Americans can simply turn the channel on the television or read another blog.  We have enjoyed the luxury of tuning out; it is a luxury of the privileged, and I have fallen victim to it.

I have found myself becoming annoyed when people around me want to watch the world news; instead, I’ve wanted to watch sports or reality TV–anything that would take my mind off of the troubles in the world.  It’s a selfishness that is only afforded to those of us who were born into the privilege of living in Western nations, and it is why so many other countries in the world despise America and the West.  Our fears of ISIS, the Ebola virus, Boko Haram, and many other worldwide crises are issues that plague their daily lives.  They don’t have the option of tuning out; it is a part their world, intrinsically woven into the fabric of their nations, communities, and tribes.  Though they are tired and fearful, they cannot ignore it, even though we do.

As I thought of what to write for this week, I thought about how tired I was of writing and reading about injustice and how this very feeling marked my own privilege and selfishness.  I, a person who claims to champion the fight against injustices both domestic and abroad, have fallen into the trap of privilege, the trap that says, “Let them worry about it today; I’m tired.”  In thinking this very thought, I was reminded that my geographical privilege is no different from the privilege of another.

The world, however, is changing.  Gone are the days when America and the West can afford to approach the world with an isolationist view.  The very danger that we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to has reached the shores of our own nation. Americans have contracted the Ebola virus; ISIS has captured and beheaded Americans and threatened further attacks.  Our very own streets are burning with rage concerning police brutality, and it seems as if it is only a matter of time before we have turned into a police state.  The luxury that we once had seems to be slipping through our fingers, and it seems as if we have no other response different from that of the ostrich–ignoring the problems and hiding in plain sight, hoping that the issues will go away on their own.

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