“American Privilege” Is Open to All
By Chad E Cooper
“If you start thinking about or become absorbed in the thinking, the mentality that the whole system is against you then you can not succeed!”
What is American Privilege? It is a concept that originally came from the immigrant descendants of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. It has nothing to do with race, religion, or ethnic background. A concept tested and fortified throughout the history of America, it is a mind set where there are opportunities here that don’t exist in most other places in the world. It’s the ability for anyone living in this country to have freedoms and opportunities they may not have had before. It’s the knowing that no matter where you’re from, you can reach your fullest abilities despite any diversity. It is also known as having the “American Dream.” I know there are those of you that will jump in and say… “But, but, but…” followed by all the excuses used by many to describe why the system keeps them down. I say this is just not the truth but simply a rationalization to not stand up and do the work that it takes to fully take advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
Now, as I write this, I can sense that you’re being triggered. I know this article will charge and upset people who may not listen to my words, but instead, simply respond emotionally to this subject. And I admit being uncomfortable can be the antitheses of change. I can only offer my truth through love, and please understand that I’m doing my best at doing no harm in the process. Just like you, I am human and err from time to time, just ask my wife. But my goal here is to help affect change in the mindsets that are preventing many American’s from achieving their personal dreams.
Many in the USA suffer from the concept that American privilege is not available to them. This is because we create way too many rules about what it means to be happy. The rules today say, ‘I need to live in the right house, have the right job, have the right amount of money in the bank, and drive a great car. My kids need to go to ivy league schools and can’t get in, we need to live in a different neighborhood, we are poor but you have to be rich and on and on. Creating way too many rules is what holds people down. But are any of these accurate?
I recently returned from a trip to Cuba, a communist country. I have a foundation in Guatemala where I have been many times leading mission trips. I’ve been to the Arctic circle, where there’s frankly nothing but ice, mud and gravel, and traveled to many other parts of the world where they seem to have nothing available to them equal to what we have in the United States. Yet in many cases they’re happier than many of the wealthy of the United States. Why? Because when you have nothing of significant material value, such as cars, houses, boats, etc. you make the rules easier to achieve.
When we talk about American privilege we should be proud to live in a country that has such diversity, equality and most of all, opportunities. A country where having a lifestyle of discretionary income and living above survival is offered as the norm, or at least it should be the goal. In order to achieve and generate these privileges, is the concept that you must create, not consume in order to make it possible. Even in survival, you must have a mindset to create and get resourceful, but too many today confuse American privilege with being comfortable and consuming. Immigrants who have come to this country either seem not to know these crazy rules of consuming vs creating that second and third generation Americans subscribe too or maybe they just ignore them and thrive anyway.
One great example of an immigrant culture that understood American privilege, were the Japanese soldiers during WWII. Several served in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and its predecessor, the 100th Infantry Battalion. Making up over one-third of the population of Hawaii, Japanese Americans were among the first to enlist. They were also the first res-ponders to aid the injured after the attack on Pearl Harbor. These Americans were proud and became some of the most decorated solders in history. They could have used the excuse that their people suddenly had been imprisoned in camps, and their families had lost everything, money, homes and businesses due to the crazy response of the US government after Pearl Harbor. But they didn’t let any system tell them not to do their best because they were of Japanese ethnicity. They succeeded under huge oppression, but succeed they did.
Many different immigrants have come to America fleeing countries that wanted to hold them down, control them and what they could own, some wanted to exterminate them altogether. They didn’t show up here saying… Oh we are so tired and weak we can’t do anything. No, they signed up for schools offered for free in America for both males and females. In many countries even today they do not allow women to be educated. The Irish, Mexican, Russian, Jewish, South American and more started businesses, went to college, and many became experts in their fields. Many Mexican Americans have risen at a record rate and become a very strong voice in this country.
This is American privilege; the mindset that has made this country grow and thrive in the past, and desperately needs to be renewed. With American privilege we have the knowingness that nothing can hold us down if we have conviction of the purpose and do the steps, no matter how many it may require. Many of these same American immigrants went on to become some of the richest people in the world regardless of their cultural background. Rockefeller was German. Carnegie was Scottish. Oprah is African-American decent. Einstein was Jewish. General Colin Powell is African-American and we could go on and on and on. But what matters is not about the percentages of how many from what ethnicity that have been successful. As I said, American privilege has nothing to do race, religion, or social economic background.
From author, Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Wall Street Journal Opinion column on Oct. 20, 2017, she states that someone’s race in college does not seem to keep anyone down. And it seems to be the case across all immigrant students to the US. Why doesn’t race seem to keep black immigrants down? Mostly in part because Black immigrant culture seems to value academic achievement and believes it is possible no matter what happened to your ancestors. As one business school graduate born to Nigerian parents stated, if you start thinking about or becoming absorbed in the thinking in the mentality that the whole system is against us then you can not succeed.
Capitalism is based on rewarding others to build a better mousetrap, not about equality or differences. It is based on the individual to create their own place and set of circumstances. We can take a look at the history of the USSR collapsing, and other failures of communism and socialism.You can see the question is not about equality, it never was. It did not work for them. It’s about the actions you are willing to take as an individual. America is the only country that I know of that provides the opportunity for so many of different ethnicity’s to move from survival to success and significance if you earn it. The American dream isn’t dead. We just have to revive it in a new and different way, and start teaching the concept to our youth again. What has to change about the American dream is remembering what Thomas Edison and Henry Ford said, “Opportunity is missed by masses because it’s dressed in overalls and it looks like work.” Freedom requires work, just ask any member of the military.
I feel it’s important to express that I recognize that many Americans are in pain and suffering. I am not immune to this. Although I believe that may be all they can see or feel when they are suffering, so they become lost in their rules. They may be feeling they are held in a bad environment. Yet, instead of changing their situation, they sit and stew in the overwhelming emotion of it all. Let me give you some examples of those who did not let anything hold them back. Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team in high school. He used his pain as leverage because he knew his purpose and didn’t let anything hold him back. Nelson Mandela clearly knew his purpose and he prepared the entire time of his imprisonment. He wasn’t a victim as he said in his own words. And then we had Gandhi another example of human beings using their purpose to drive them toward success for themselves and others. They affected change by their actions and in love.
The Waitaha are the oldest tribal people of New Zealand and some of the most amazing people. I had the honor to meet them this year. They are a tribal people that were nearly decimated by other Maoris ruin nations in New Zealand. And yet their strength and their preservation came not from necessarily being born into their tribal nation or DNA features. Instead, anyone may become Waitaha if you demonstrate their special values and character through action, not just words. Their methods, taught me how to be normal again and to remember when I got home that I am a human being, that happens to live with American privilege.
There is the reality that we have a huge problem of unfairness and bias of people treated improperly in our country, and everyone has some form of tragedy in their lives. But if you want to know how to be a human being, the question is this: Do you use your tragedy as an excuse for making poor decisions that prevent you from moving forward? Or do you use that tragedy as an explanation of what gave you leverage to overcome your challenges? Comparing your misfortune to that of others is the thief of joy and creates suffering. Instead, get clear, empty your cup to what you think you know, find strength in your purpose, and be willing to take consistent intelligent action. That is the first step to positive change.
Lastly, ending with the Waitaha here is the greatest lesson that they taught me: “Anything you want as long as you do no harm.” I hear and feel the pain of people saying “Enough with your idea of being privileged” I get it. It’s got to be frustrating to know that there’s an epidemic problem against so many in communities within our inter-cities today. How you express that frustration determines whether it creates harm or enlists others in your cause.
We still have American privilege available to all in this country, no matter what economic level, race, religion or gender. It’s yours! You have only to step up and grab the opportunities as a human being, take intelligent action and do the work, give back, and the cycle can and will continue to grow. So let’s simplify the rules and have an all inclusive America that embraces its amazing diversity!
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