Land of the Free

An Essay By Erin // 1/30/2015

*a/n* Let me preface this by saying that I am a proud citizen of the United States of America. However, this has been bothering me for a while. I know that some people on here will disagree with certain aspects of this essay, and that's fine! I mean no disrespect. I'm simply trying to put a few things that I have gathered from some fairly recent experiences into perspective. Just to caution you, this has a lot of older themes such as racism and general discrimination.

We live in a land of bigots.
Whether you want to readily admit it or not, it’s a brutal truth. The United States is supposed to be the most progressive of the countries. We are the superpower of the international community.

Yet here we are, judging people for a religion we know nothing about. We see a brown man and his wife walking down the street. She wears a head covering (a hijab, but of course, we don’t know the name of that). We pity her for a minute. She must be so repressed. The man has a backpack slung over his shoulder. Automatically, our stomachs tighten. Those Muslims, we think. They are animals. Their religion is immoral.
But I’m not being racist, we think. After what they did to us, they should just go back to their country.

Hispanic men are working on our roads. We drive carefully around them, navigating the orange cones. This will be so nice when it’s done, we say to our passenger. It will be so much more convenient to get around.
Later, we will talk with our relatives about how the Mexicans are invading our country. Wetbacks, we call them, as if we are not the very people facilitating them coming here. They work for cheap and without insurance, and then we complain about them “This is America. We are Americans. Learn English.” (but yet, these Hispanics are also Americans. We are so conceited and presumptuous that we forget that America is a continent that we share with Mexico, Central and South America, and Canada). We let them break their backs for us and then expect them to disappear like ghosts.
But I’m not being racist, we think. They’re the ones taking all of our money. They should just go back to their country.

Someone is just walking around outside with a backpack on, a coworker says. The manager makes a face of worry. “It’s going to sound awful, but is he black?” he asks. “No, he’s white,” the other one replies. The manager breathes a sigh of relief. “We should be fine then. “
But I’m not being racist, we think. There’s a history there.

Walking through the park, we see two boys in skinny jeans. They hold hands, smiling up at the sun and looking back at each other. “Gay couple,” we whisper. “That’s just unnatural.” We silently agree to avoid them (because being different is wrong, and we don’t want the gay to rub off on us).
But I’m not being discriminatory, we think. I just don’t support that sort of thing.

I find it inherently disappointing that it’s 2015 but yet I still here the N word on a daily basis. White people try to joke, “I’ll bet you like them dark.”
I say, “Sure, why not?” they make faces of disgust.
“I’ll tell your dad!”
“Go right ahead.”
These are the same people who say, “I have tons of black friends, they’re great, I just wouldn’t want to marry one.”

I’m disappointed that people enthusiastically support a business owner’s decision to close off her business to an entire religion, a religion that is the most widely practiced around the world.
1.6 billion Muslims and an estimated 20,000 extremists—but southern conservatives claim, “There are no good Muslims. They all want to kill us.”

“One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.” But of course, you are not ALL if you are not white, if you are not heterosexual, if you are an immigrant (legal or not), or if you worship the wrong God.
We can’t pretend this is fair. We can’t use our religions as an excuse to judge others. We can’t use history to predict the behavior of those who are different from us.
Maybe I’m just an idealistic white girl who hasn’t had to face the perils of discrimination, but I am fed up with people who claim they are good patriots saying things that defy the laws of their bible and go against our own Bill of Rights.

Let’s be a better United States.

Comments

I agree with most of what you

I agree with most of what you stated, and I confess that at times I have had those same "But I'm not a racist" moments, but I have family members that are Hispanic and best friends that are black and I wouldn't have a problem with marrying a "brown" or "black" man. I am almost as brown as my Hispanic relative. :) I am one 8th German and I've got some American Indian, Irish, Scottish, and old English in my blood, so I of all people have no right to be "racist", I am basically a little bit of everything!
I actually believe that the majority of Americans are perfectly "okay" with (actually embracing!) "gay" marriage, or sodomy as I put it. I am one of the minority the believes that sodomy is unbiblical.
But as Americans we have freedom of choice and I'm perfectly fine with everything you said as you believe it. Bold honesty is appreciated. :) I am very glad that you all are so friendly on here and don't judge others for their different beliefs, although I know that it probably does make you think a little bit differently about me, as it does me you.
Oh and it was very well-written, very easy to understand and the way you write is very relatable, if you know what I mean. :)

Damaris Ann | Fri, 01/30/2015

I am an overcomer through Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

Thanks for your comment! I

Thanks for your comment! I think that many of us tend to have those moments, and it's a reality that I am certainly uncomfortable with--especially those related to Muslims. My uncle and cousins as well as my good friend are Muslim. Most people are so blatantly misinformed. As for the gay issue--I knew that would be the one people on here took issue with. I have a close relative who is homosexual, and I just don't think it's anybody's business who other people love, let alone what they do in the bedroom. It doesn't directly affect how I go about my daily life. But that's just my perspective. :)

Erin | Fri, 01/30/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

I really like this. It

I really like this. It painted very vivid images of the different races, cultures, and backgrounds, and then the way you paralleled those with examples of our hypocrisy against them was great. At times it did seem it was jumping around a bit jarringly. As an example, when you go from:

wouldn’t want to marry one.”

to

I’m disappointed that people enthusiastically support(...)

I understand if this is just a spur-of-the-moment opinion piece you wanted to share, and I don't blame you if you don't want to edit, but some reconstruction of the piece might help it to flow a bit better. For instance, this:

Someone is just walking around outside with a backpack on, a coworker says. The manager makes a face of worry. “It’s going to sound awful, but is he black?” he asks. “No, he’s white,” the other one replies. The manager breathes a sigh of relief. “We should be fine then. “
But I’m not being racist, we think. There’s a history there.

and this

I find it inherently disappointing that it’s 2015 but yet I still here the N word on a daily basis. White people try to joke, “I’ll bet you like them dark.”
I say, “Sure, why not?” they make faces of disgust.
“I’ll tell your dad!”
“Go right ahead.”
These are the same people who say, “I have tons of black friends, they’re great, I just wouldn’t want to marry one.”

Might do better rearranged so that they immediately follow one another. That way there's a touch more cohesiveness.

I think this may have been missing just a layer of depth. For instance, your own personal testimonials in relation to these issues. Like what you mentioned in your comment--your uncle and your relative--if you feel comfortable writing about that, just generally, they'd do well worked into this piece. I think it might make a difference to a reader to hear your points and have them reiterated through your own stories, how these things may have affected you.

Really good job! And I agree with you. :)

Madeline | Fri, 01/30/2015

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

Yeah, I didn't want to

Yeah, I didn't want to include the bit about my relative just because that's a bit close to home. Actually, most of these are bits of conversation I have heard (unfortunately). Thanks for your comment! I would like to revise this further at some point. :)

Erin | Sat, 01/31/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Hi Erin! I really found your

Hi Erin! I really found your essay here of interest.

First of all, I was wondering if you actually know people like this or if you are using hyperbole for effect, particularly when it comes to the following statements/beliefs:

1. Muslims are animals.
2. A white person loitering outside is not threatening at all (or at least not as threatening as a black loiterer would be)
3. Being different is wrong.
4. “Gay-ness” can rub off on you.
5. No Muslims are nice people.
6. All Muslims want to kill us.

Personally, I know no one who believes any of these things.

I have heard about the annoyance from some immigrants not learning English, though, and on one hand I understand. I know several people who have toured in foreign countries and were often not taken seriously if they don't know much of the language. Still, it doesn't bother me that much.

When it comes to determining whether someone is dangerous, I am more likely to avoid people who dress, talk and walk like gangsters than avoid anyone who is of a different ethnicity. If that is discrimination, I’m sorry! I’m not rude to them; I just use more caution around them.

It’s interesting that you mentioned a white person who said he (or she?) likes black people but wouldn’t want to marry one. One of my mom's black friends actually told her once that he likes white people, would even date white women, but would never marry a white woman. I’m not sure if it’s more of a cultural difference thing or what, but I know people in various races who just prefer people of their own race. That said, it is very wrong to insist that interracial marriage is a bad thing.

It is also very wrong to discriminate against others. But people are going to apply their religions to the real world - i.e. we can form opinions on controversial topics without being hateful. Christianity, for example, teaches that all people deserve our respect, even though it identifies certain beliefs and lifestyles as against God's will.

You mentioned that a lot of people don’t know enough about other religions. I totally agree with you! I once picked up Religious Literacy (Prothero) and he discussed this problem in detail. According to studies he cited, although something like 80% of Americans claim to be Christian, around 50% can’t name one of the four Gospels. Knowledge of other peoples’ religions just went downhill from there. It was really sad!

Anyway, thanks for writing! I enjoyed reading. : )

Hannah D. | Sat, 01/31/2015

"Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." - G. K. Chesterton

Thank you for reading and

Thank you for reading and commenting!
Unfortunately, most of those statements that you listed have come from real people, although not ones that I directly associate with. Most of the thoughts about discrimination against Muslims come from some very recent experiences which I will go ahead and explain.
I read an article a couple of days ago about an Arkansas woman who owns a gun range. She decided to ban all Muslims from her gun range because two Muslim men had come in and she claimed that they were "acting suspicious" (one of the suspicious behaviors she cited was that a ringtone went off. It literally translated to "God is Greatest" in Arabic). So, she decided that it was reasonable to ban an entire religion from her gun range. After she made this decision, business started booming. She had started kicking people out if they had "Muslim-sounding names", which led to her booting a father and son who were Hindu. So, at this point, it had even become racial discrimination. A lot of the comments on this article were very racist and discouraging. They said things such as "all Muslims are extremists", "they all want to kill us" "they want to destroy America", "they're animals who kill their children", etc. I couldn't believe the amount of idiocy in many of the statements.
Then, a lot of people were saying that "it's her business, she has the right to refuse service". While she absolutely has the right to refuse service to individuals, it completely goes against our bill of rights to ban an entire religion. Yet, people are celebrating it because "the Muslims are all terrorists!" However, had she banned all Christians from her gun range, for instance, there would have been an endless supply of (rightfully) angry and indignant people. I was very frustrated by the lack of knowledge from people who claim to be dedicated Americans.

I don't know of anybody who literally thinks that "gay-ness" can rub off on you, of course, but it's meant in a sort of a psychological sense. There are a lot of people who, once they realize someone is gay, avoid them like the plague because it makes them uncomfortable. It seems as if they think another person can influence someone else's sexuality (when of course, they can't).

As for the issue of loitering and race, that was a real conversation that happened in front of me. Not at my job, but somewhere else. I was only slightly surprised. That's actually where the whole idea of "but I'm not racist" stemmed from. I hear a lot of people make comments like that, but start it off with "I'm not racist or anything, but..." I think it's ridiculous.

The statement that "being different is wrong" is sort of for effect, but I do think that it is an issue. Inevitably, everyone gets sucked into some sort of group or clique, and within that group you are not always allowed to have a different opinion without being ridiculed. Luckily, in my group of friends, we are all individuals who are comfortable with voicing our own opinions, but that is not always the case.

I'm with you on the "gangster" thing! I don't think that watching out for yourself is discriminatory at all, especially as a woman. There are all sorts of crazy people out in the world.

To address the interracial marriage thing--I actually took an Anthropology class this past Fall in which we discussed this issue in depth. I completely agree with you that culture plays a big role in who we marry! Whether it's black culture, white culture, middle eastern culture, asian culture, or hispanic culture, the differences are huge. There was a black woman in my class who spoke a lot about the challenges she had faced. She said that she grew up in a large black family in Louisiana. She said that if someone in her family married a white person (or someone "outside of the group"), the news would not be well received. This was really interesting to me! I've been fortunate to grow up in such an openminded family in which race has never been an issue. To be honest, I didn't even know that racism was still a thing until I was about 12.

You seem like a very knowledgeable Christian who understands your faith! I have no problem with disagreeing with another person's lifestyle so long as everyone treats each other with respect. However, I have had to deal with so many people who claim to be Christians, but yet are so brutally hateful towards a lot of groups of people simply because they disagree. For example, most of the comments on the article I mentioned earlier came from people who claimed that they were God-honoring people. I don't think that you are honoring anyone if you are mercilessly judging 1.6 billion people by the actions of a few.

I am fascinated by religion! So many people have an overwhelming lack of knowledge. I'll have to check out Religious Literacy. I have read several of your essays on religion and they are all very interesting! Thanks again for reading and commenting, I hope that this answered some of your questions!

Erin | Sat, 01/31/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Yeah, wow, people can be

Yeah, wow, people can be crazy. Ignorance breeds fear and if the only thing I knew about Muslims was what I saw on the news I'd probably get paranoid too. And reading the comments on most news websites will definitely give one a depressing portrait of the human race. : ) I do think Christianity has also received a bit of discrimination in the culture, though.

My family stayed in Arkansas for a year when I was nine, and I do recall stronger racial tension over there. It just mystifies me when I hear about racism in this day and age.

Christian hypocrisy is something I have definitely seen a lot of. The New Testament warns repeatedly about false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing, and people who claim to be Christian yet act so obviously out of accord with what the Bible teaches always frustrate me. Note to the world: not everyone who dons a cross necklace has a personal relationship with Jesus.

Anthropology and religion are awesome subjects! And they're not jut fascinating, they're so important to be familiar with. We really do owe that kind of respect to our neighbors. And thanks so much for your kind comments!

Thanks for your prompt response and clarifications! You answered all my questions. : )

Hannah D. | Sat, 01/31/2015

"Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." - G. K. Chesterton

:)

Having grown up in the Middle East it makes me angry when people lump all Muslims (or worse, Arabs) into the extremist category. Are all Americans supporters of President Obama who live like the Kardashians? That's basically what saying all Muslims are extremist implies. Is it implied in their religion's teaching and origins? Yes. Do I agree with the peaceful Muslims and think they're right in what they believe? No. But they're still the most hospitable, generous people I know, and Arab culture is very much a part of me.

That said, what most people know about Muslims and Arabs is from the news and current events, so that's why they assume that. They also know statistics about crime and African American males.
Caution because of these is not wrong, or even discriminatory, in the case of African American males. Hate is wrong.
Same with gays. Yes, I take issue with their lifestyle and yes it's unfamiliar territory so can be a bit awkward. But avoid or hate them? No. My cousin is gay and a recently made friend is lesbian and they're both great people. I see it the same way I do other sexual choices I disagree with for biblical reasons, only a homosexual person is more open about it (usually) and I disagree on the definition of marriage.

But the root of all of the "bigotry" is stereotyping without personal experience (or at least personal, positive experience). We make presuppositions about people generally before we know them personally and know their personality, culture, etc. - because then they're often a lot of really neat people.

As a side note, not to disregard or ok racism in the US, but it's way worse in other parts of the world.

Kyleigh | Sun, 02/01/2015

:)

Having grown up in the Middle East it makes me angry when people lump all Muslims (or worse, Arabs) into the extremist category. Are all Americans supporters of President Obama who live like the Kardashians? That's basically what saying all Muslims are extremist implies. Is it implied in their religion's teaching and origins? Yes. Do I agree with the peaceful Muslims and think they're right in what they believe? No. But they're still the most hospitable, generous people I know, and Arab culture is very much a part of me.

That said, what most people know about Muslims and Arabs is from the news and current events, so that's why they assume that. They also know statistics about crime and African American males.
Caution because of these is not wrong, or even discriminatory, in the case of African American males. Hate is wrong.
Same with gays. Yes, I take issue with their lifestyle and yes it's unfamiliar territory so can be a bit awkward. But avoid or hate them? No. My cousin is gay and a recently made friend is lesbian and they're both great people. I see it the same way I do other sexual choices I disagree with for biblical reasons, only a homosexual person is more open about it (usually) and I disagree on the definition of marriage.

But the root of all of the "bigotry" is stereotyping without personal experience (or at least personal, positive experience). We make presuppositions about people generally before we know them personally and know their personality, culture, etc. - because then they're often a lot of really neat people.

As a side note, not to disregard or ok racism in the US, but it's way worse in other parts of the world.

Kyleigh | Sun, 02/01/2015

Thank you for your comment!

Thank you for your comment! I'm glad that there ARE so many open minded people like yourself in the U.S. to counterbalance the close minded ones. I know that is often not the case worldwide. As someone who tends to research things before I make any judgements about them, I find it exhausting that people make so many negative assumptions without looking to find out more. Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate so many people participating in this discussion!

Erin | Sun, 02/01/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Very well-said, Kyleigh!

Very well-said, Kyleigh!

Damaris Ann | Sun, 02/01/2015

I am an overcomer through Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

I found this very

I found this very interesting, and needed! There need to be more essays out there about racism and confronting this unnescessary judgment of things people are ignorant of.
I have a group of Arabic friends who are all super sweet, giving, loving people! They love learning new things, and seeing new sights. Out of the five I know, one of them has converted to Christianity, but the others as far as I know are Muslim. Among the group I'm pretty close to one (we'll call him Y), Y, we talk often and he's expressed that it's difficult sometimes to keep friends or gain new friends because of the racism and judgment against his religion. It's sad that someone could discriminate against someone before even trying to get to know them... I'm not saying I'm not guilty of the same thing a few times, but really I'm angry at myself also for wrongly judging people before I know them. Even though their religion has been translated into so many different ways for different people in their culture (like Christianity, the bible seems to be translated in different ways), while some are more extreme, and others know to accept people from all religions and ethnicities, it's really no reason to group all Muslims in the extremist category, like you can't group all Christians into the Baptist category.
Personally I feel white gangster types are more dangerous then "black" gangsters, and that is another discriminating comment.... I'm not saying all white gangsters, but the ones I've seen.
Homosexuality is something I complete agree with, cheer for, encourage! Sometimes it's a bit weird seeing same sex PDA, but if you think about it so is heterosexual PDA sometimes, and it's just something to get accomstumed to!

This is very interesting and got me thinking!! It was definitely a good reminder. Thank you for writing and sharing! Complete agree.

Kassady | Tue, 02/03/2015

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

It's good to read this

It's good to read this because you weren't afraid to write this even though it does criticize Americans. I really liked the style, and thought the sarcastic tone made this essay memorable. I liked how you brought out a lot of the sensitive issues in our day. :)

Lucy Anne | Tue, 02/17/2015

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you! I appreciate the

Thank you! I appreciate the comments. :)

Erin | Tue, 02/17/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

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