One of my chief criticisms of the intersectional Left is their widespread unwillingness to acknowledge that all Americans are fundamentally privileged. Many of these people fail to show the adequate level of gratitude for the fact that they were born into the greatest civilization in history.
For any society to keep moving forward, its populace needs to remain ever vigilant to threats both inside and outside the proverbial city gates. Obviously, we have a duty as Americans to call out bigotry when it rears its head. But the problem is that these condemnations often come from very different places depending on political affiliation.
One side believes that, in general, Charlottesville was a truly unfortunate demonstration by a group of despicable people who thankfully only speak for a tiny portion of the population. The other side tends to argue that Charlottesville was proof that institutional racism was not only not fixed in the 1960s, but that it is currently just as bad as it ever was.
This ideological schism is in many ways comparable to the argument between the “Make America Great Again” crowd and the “America Was Never Great” crowd. The two sides are entering the debate with two distinct preconceptions of what America is and what it means to be American, so the conversation has no chance of ever leading to any productive conclusion.
As Jonah Goldberg points out in his excellent book Suicide of the West, this discrepancy in beliefs can largely be blamed on America’s educational system. As young students, we learn a tremendous amount about the United States’ darkest moments. We’re taught about the genocide of the Native Americans, the racism of the Jim Crow South, and the sexism that preceded the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
These are all subjects that schools should expose to students but, as Goldberg points out, schools should spend just as much time, if not more, teaching students exactly why the United States is the single greatest force for liberty and prosperity in human history. Kids must be taught that the Founding Fathers weren’t just a bunch of middle-aged white guys with a handful of good ideas and that capitalism isn’t just a mechanism the rich use to steal from the needy.
This lack of historical depth and understanding is widespread, and it makes it hard for me to take those who bang the “white privilege” drum seriously. If they want me to thank my white skin for my privilege, they’d better be willing to thank the Founding Fathers for theirs.
Life is an uneven playing field. Talent, race, sex, birthplace- these are all factors outside of our control. Since you have started reading this, a child was born in Yemen, a country with a GDP per capita of $762. This child has none of the advantages that you or I have, and it will face an uphill battle just to escape starvation. We don’t get to choose our gifts, but we do get to choose our attitude. We can be the kind of people who are grateful for what we have, or we can live a life mired in resentment.