A brief, critical look at what it takes to be a Real American in 2017

I keep reading posts which suggest that all it would take to make the world non-racist would be for (fill in the oppressed individual by color, ethnicity, nationality, or faith) to work really hard. Get that work ethic between their teeth and go for it.

World’s Tallest Native American statue

Do you think the Jews in Germany didn’t get that? They had that ethic work sewn up — until they were locked in cattle cars and carted off to be gassed and burned.

Dark-skinned people from around the world are sure their efforts will be rewarded in America if they are patient and hard-working. It’s the American way, or always has been. Immigrants have always worked their butts off because they are America’s true believers. They know this is the way to make a place for themselves and their family here. That’s how we built our nation and while we longtime citizens may have lost our faith, they have not.

(AP Photo/Preston Stroup) President Franklin Roosevelt, speaks on the 50th anniversary of the erection of the State of Liberty in New York, on Oct. 28, 1936. He declared that, “To the message of Liberty which America sends to all the world must be added her message of peace.”

The irony of making our problems the fault of immigrants is astounding. We are immigrants, unless we are Native Americans. Hating immigrants is like hating yourself. If we didn’t come to this country on our own, then our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents came. By plane or boat. Some had a little money, many had nothing but themselves, a few skills, and a whole lot of hope.

Immigrant families are already doing their best to fit in. They know how hard it will be, but they keep trying. Oppressive or not, these are determined people. They’ve put it all on the line and they won’t give up without a fight.

When white men complain they are oppressed, I’m pretty sure they have no idea what they are talking about. There’s a big difference between “not getting everything you want” and “oppression.” These guys don’t see a difference.

If  you’re working on the assumption that Those Other People need to behave like you to get what they deserve and you find that a satisfying answer, think again. They need to be much better than you. You can make mistakes and show up at work with a hangover. They can’t. You got the “go ahead” nod at birth, not because you’re better but simply because you had the right mom and dad. You got that advantage without education or effort. You keep it for a lifetime, no matter how much you screw up.

He formed the minute men and brewed beer. What a guy!

For others to have a chance to merely be your equal, they need a better education than you, perfect manners, and a willingness to never step out of line — for any reason. Could you do it? Do you do it?

A lot of people who think they are absolutely not racist, are. Not in a “grab the Nazi sign and lets terrorize people” kind of way, but in their assumptions that the world belongs to them by some sort of natal right. They mange to deal with people who are “different” as long as they aren’t too different. As long as they wear the same clothing, abide by identical rules, speak the “right” way … and behave the way we all know we should, but usually don’t. And don’t live in the “wrong” neighborhood.

Union soldier

Meanwhile, let’s keep those statues of the South’s proud racists standing tall so that our youth will better understand history.  What do you imagine they will understand by seeing statues of people willing to die to support slavery?

Just in passing — do you know anyone who learned history from a statue? For me, it was books and museums.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

25 thoughts on “A CRITICAL LOOK: ALL IT TAKES?”

  1. That was a great piece of writing. I got it all in my growing up days. My forefathers were immigrants in London, today no-one talks about it. America is a land of immigrants. Even my two great uncles decided to take their chance in America and probably their descendents somewhere in Kansas City no longer realise that they are descended from two guys that were born in some little village outside London. I grew up in a London full of bombed ruins and we knew why. Rather bombed ruins that a 1984 regime a la Orwell. Bravo for that piece.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Pat. I’ve been writing it off and on for about a month. It never was quite the way I wanted it. It still isn’t quite there, but I decided it was as good as I was going to make it. Pieces like that are really hard for me to write. Maybe they touch so closely on my family, all of whom came from Russia or Poland around the turn of the century. Pretty much everyone I know is a very near descendant of immigrants. Hating immigrants is like hating yourself. I don’t get it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said! The absolute truth of the matter all round. I for one have never, and will never wrap my mind around discrimination and the critical attitude some have based on race colour creed ethnicity education size or material advantages. You summed the issue up in a nutshell. Absolutely brilliant!


    1. In order to wrap your head around discrimination and racism, you really DO need to believe your white skin makes you better, smarter, superior to everyone else. This is so obviously untrue, I could never believe it. But a lot of people do believe it. Why? Is God white? Is there a god? Maybe he’s purple.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Comes down to free will. He created everyone equal. Some chose not to see it that way. Just as some believe they have the right to murder hurt injure anyone that doesn’t do it their way…power, greed, all come from the same mire. Children and babies don’t see colour, until they are taught to, or trained to hate. Bad experiences may colour our outlook, but of an individual not a race! And your right, perhaps he is purple 🙂 I like purple 🙂


  3. “They need to be much better than you.” Funny, but I’ve heard that said by women looking for equality that was supposedly “given” to them over a hundred years ago. The work ethic thing is only an excuse. Anyone who looks less white and not a male will never have true equality. It’s impossible. Look at world history, not just American History. The whites have always needed someone to persecute. And as for statues, are there any in Germany commemorating Nazis?


    1. Oh, I completely agree. The bizarre thing is counting women as a minority when we are actually a majority. That hasn’t helped nearly as much as it should have. Yes, things have come a long way since I started working in the mid 1960s … but women still make significantly less than men for doing the same (or more) work … and I’m pretty sure being a black woman … well … You’d need a calculator.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All men are created equal….

    … at the moment of their birth – totally dependent upon others for our very survival in this world. We are born without any understanding, just inbred desires and needs that must be met somehow. We start out equal but in an unjust, unequal world we don’t stay that way for very long.

    Soon the world and our protector/providers totally screw us all up – Hello prejudice! Unless you are one of ‘us’ you are one of them and we have to beat you down before you beat us down. It’s that simple folks. It’s dog eat dog, and gathering in a pack – and the strongest pack wins!

    It’s ‘human’ nature, on both a personal and a Grand Scale. It’s been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds, if not thousands of generations and it will take a very long time to breed out of us – if we ever can find the will and organisation to do so.

    … or that’s how i see it.



  5. Don’t get me wrong… of course some of us are capable of being decent human beings – there is undoubtedly a spectrum of human behaviour, but as a whole or society i’m saying we are not all ‘equals’ and as a rule we’ve had competition and belonging to ‘our’ group’ bred into our psyche.



    1. I started re-reading “Good Omens” last night and the Demon commented that humans were basically good, but had a tendency to be swept away by things like jack boots and guns, hoods and ropes. But the rest of the time, we were basically okay. Just … we got swept away by whatever was the “in” thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are undoubtedly humans who will tend to follow a strong leadership – be it a benign or an evil one is of little account in their choice. Most of us are quite easily led by a smooth talker ;-). As for being basically good? My view is that we are basically beige, but secretly long to be a ‘stronger’ colour.


        Liked by 1 person

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