Club America: Our Exclusivity Problem and How to Fix It

The inscription one can see if you were to visit the Statue of Liberty is often abbreviated and not presented in its full form.

Emma Lazarus, the poet whose sonnet has been associated with arguably the most salient symbol of what the United States of America stands for, died of cancer before the inscription was completed.

She wrote:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries sheWith silent lips. 
“Give me your tired, your poorYour huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These beautifully written words were the beacon of hope that welcomed millions of immigrants to America.

European Immigrants Arriving to New York (1907)

Donald Trump’s grand father and the ancestors of many of America’s elite sailed past Lady Liberty as they entered the US, many fleeing tyranny, famine and war for the promise of a better life.

In many ways, even harking back to Britain’s Jamestown Settlement of 1607, the United States has been a nation founded by people from foreign lands seeking opportunity and religious freedom.

The Statue of Liberty was therefore an open invitation, welcoming the world to America as an emblem and reminder that hard work, grit and a little bit of luck were enough to achieve the American Dream.

Unfortunately, the promise of the American Dream came with huge unspoken caveats.

The practice of slavery and the subsequent overt segregation, racism and violence that African Americans faced post abolition (and still face in new forms currently) meant that the American Dream only really applied to you if you weren’t a threat to the social structure of white supremacy.

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the systematic exclusion of Jewish Americans from commercial business opportunities during the industrial revolution were further examples of American hypocrisy when it comes to justice and equality.

To America’s detriment, there are a critical mass of Americans who gauge their own well-being by how much better they are doing than those who they see as below them, mainly minorities and immigrants.

Via this measuring stick, their feeling of superiority is reassured.

Though not the only reason, a significant factor in Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House, and a huge reason why Steve Bannon was willing to help that happen, is because many Americans feel as if their superiority is waning.

Even though it makes me shudder to think about it, it is becoming increasingly clear that “Make American Great Again” is code for restore white supremacy.

As many minorities are all too aware, the United States is not a mythical land of limitless opportunity.

That’s the trick.

It’s actually more like a popular night club.

Think 1Oak in New York City or LIV in Miami.

Let me explain why.

Superficial Values

Most night club invitations are welcoming and devoid of any entry criteria aside maybe age and outfit.

The point is to get as many people to show up and go from there.

But, as anyone who has been to a nightclub has experienced, this is a bait and switch.

Even when completely empty, night clubs allow lines to extend, as long as possible.

The goal here is to maximize the outside perception that the nightclub is the place to be. There might be much better experiences elsewhere but a long line will entice the curious.

While in line, most club goers will always notice the chosen few who skip the line and gain priority access.

These people tend to be rich, famous or exceptionally good looking.

Clubs make no effort at all to hide this from the people who are actually waiting in line normally.

They want you to see this because it reinforces the entire premise of why the club exists by nakedly showing that money, fame and power are all the owners of the club care about.

You don’t need to be in America for too long before you will see that our policy makers, mass media and social constructs are also driven by these onerous tenets.

Gate Keepers

Bouncers at night clubs are the gate keepers.

They have the freedom and ability to discriminate on whom does and does not enter the club and what is required for access.

Similar to many hiring and lending practices at American institutions, these gate keepers determine who and what a good “fit” is and turn away folks at will.

In many ways; schools, businesses and corporations are the bouncers of modern American society.

A great example of this is the fact that Hispanic and African American males are four times more likely to be rejected from a job opportunity than white males with the same educational background and work qualifications.

There are numerous research studies highlighting cases where minorities who change their names on resumes so that it can sound more “white” immediately see an uptick in interview invitations.

For those who go the entrepreneurial route, banks and VCs are the bouncers, choosing who will and will not receive funding to fuel their endeavors.

When one analyzes rates of small business loans awarded on a relative basis, we see huge inequalities and hurdles for minority entrepreneurs:

A 2016 study by Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small-business funding, showed that female-owned businesses receive loan approvals 33% less often than male-owned businesses.
There’s an even greater bias against minority-owned companies.
Minority-owned firms are less likely to receive loans than nonminority firms and, in fact, are more likely not to apply for loans due to rejection fears, according to findings from the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency.
If they do get loans, minority-owned firms are more likely to receive lower loan amounts than nonminority firms and pay higher interest rates on business loans.

The VC world also faces similar challenges dealing with systemic bias in funding women and minority founders.

Yes, Club America’s bouncers aren’t huge former football players like in real night clubs, they are HR Managers, Small Business Bankers, Deans of Admission and Venture Capitalists, to name a few.

Hierarchy & Supremacy

Now, if you are lucky enough to gain entrance to Club America, the internal club hierarchy is instantly noticeable and felt.

In an actual club, the good looking, famous and wealthy partiers usually have better real estate (a table or a roped off area) and get to spend more time enjoying themselves because waitresses refill their drinks and cater to their needs. The VIP area is usually physically above the rest of the club in order to visually reinforce that those who have access to it are superior to those who don’t.

The American version of this can be found in wealthy suburbs, the purchase of expensive vehicles, entrance into elite colleges, access to well-paying jobs or capital to fund entrepreneurship. This VIP section of America is roped off from the masses.

For those in the VIP section overlooking the less fortunate, it’s easy to feel superior.

You are being treated better, everyone is looking at you and envious of the lifestyle, and, some are even clamoring for a chance to connect. All this reinforces that you are better.

Basically, whites in a America were in a VIP section for a long time and minorities were either turned away from Club America or stuck on the ground floor.

But, as policy makers have made strides in bringing more equality to America’s institutions, more minorities have risen to fame, fortune and acclaim, and are increasingly gaining access to the VIP section.

Though policy makers have a long way to go, the progress has been noticeable.

I.e. This guy:

If the central perk of being in VIP is to feel superior, the folks that you formerly felt better than now being in VIP doesn’t sit well.

VIP loses its allure.

This anger about loss of status is a major reason why Club America is under new management via the election of Donald Trump.

Where do we go from here?

Well, immigrants and minorities are here to stay and giving them equal access to opportunities and social mobility is the best course for America’s future.

43 percent of companies in the 2017 Fortune 500 were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, and among the Top 35, that share is 57 percent.

As the facts show, the future is inclusion, not exclusion.

No one race or ethnic group is better or superior to another inherently. This basic premise, as outlined in our constitution, is the bedrock of what America’s institutions should represent.

We are better when we work together.

We must remove all bias from the gate keeping process and make sure that no one feels empowered and incentivized to control access to the American Dream based on superficial determinants.

Night clubs are outdated and losing relevancy.

According to the Nightlife Association, approximately 6,500 nightclubs have either cut back their hours or closed up shop within the first year of operation.
European nightlife isn’t booming, either: Over the last decade, the number of nightclubs in Britain fell 45% from 3,144 to 1,733. In the Netherlands, the number of nightclubs fell 38% between 2001 and 2011.

America is losing relevancy too.

A “nation brand” index — released Thursday from Germany-based market research firm Gfk and political consultant Simon Anholt — ranked the U.S. №6, a clear decline from its first place ranking last year. In fact, the nation was the only country in the top 10 to see a decline from 2016. Germany advanced one spot from 2016 to top the list.
The index, which ranked 50 countries on the power and quality of their brand image, was the latest in a series of global findings spelling bad news for America’s standing among the world’s top nations.

If America is to stay relevant, we must shut down Club America and reopen as the inclusive, welcoming, tolerant, and benevolent nation we are capable of being.