The privilege of American democracy
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
By Shayler R. Barnes Jr.
The privileges of American democracy have never been equitably or equally distributed, instead, non-white Americans are required to walk the line between global privilege and national oppression.
By law, every citizen is a member of America’s democracy, however, America’s most diverse people have never been afforded equal freedoms. In 2020, the privileges of American democracy have only begun to trickle down from cis gendered-heteronormative white men to Black people, Brown people, women, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized Americans. This fraction of freedom allows non-white Americans to experience privileges other global citizens have not been afforded; this juxtaposition of freedom is a reflection of white supremacy and privileged identities choosing to prioritize money and power over people.
"The U.S. economy was built on the exploitation and occupational segregation of people of color. While many government policies and institutional practices helped create this system, the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and the New Deal—as well as the limited funding and scope of anti-discrimination agencies—are some of the biggest contributors to inequality in America." - Center for American Progress
When the commonwealth and the wellbeing of people is prioritized, justice wins. The power of democracy comes from the voices of all constituents being amplified, without equity and equality there is no democracy, therefore for democracy to exist — the people must command it.
Americans have the right to protest, rally, petition, and demonstrate to make their voices heard, but American privilege created space for disenfranchised and oppressed Americans to believe refusing to vote has no negative impact on collective progression. All of the equity achieved in the country has been achieved through people organizing.
From the moment Native Americans began to be murdered and robbed of the land they cherish, to the moment Black people were enslaved on the same land in the late 1700s, through the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865 — the first and most turbulent obstacle has always been for non-white people to legally gain their basic right to the same degree of humanity.
When the Constitution was initially written it wrote off everyone but white people, and legally bound a system of governance and its society to racism, and empowered the prejudicial persecution of people of color. It is the work of the Constitution, and every racist law and policy that has proceeded it, that has entrenched people of color in this perpetual fight to exist.
According to The Guardian, many white voters had the luxury of utilizing their privilege to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, while Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, many non-white voters abandoned their democratic responsibility by abstaining from voting. The decision to not vote is American privilege personified. It is an American privilege to view any presidential race as a joke or to believe that your disdain for the country in which you are a citizen forgoes the need for your input.
Americans have the luxury of being citizens, but civil war has not ended in America. Everyday citizens are fighting for their right to live freely on American soil. Black people are still being shot by authorities in the streets with no repercussions, and the police killing of Breonna Taylor is a clear example. In 2020, a Black woman can be killed in her home and the killers not be charged in her death at all, reported BBC News.
This country has been at war to keep people of color marginalized and disenfranchised since its conception.
“The United States is a contradiction. Its founding principles embrace the ideals of freedom and equality, but it is a nation built on the systematic exclusion and suppression of communities of color.” - Center for American Progress
People of color are not “minorities,” in America, there are fewer people of color, but globally people of color are the majority, yet through the lens of whiteness people of color are viewed as less than. Racism is a fallacy, yet it is a reality, and therefore must continue to be combatted and counteracted in order for democracy to prevail.
Since this countries conception, people of color continue to overcome a debilitating list of injustices, including environmental injustice, which creates a lack of equitable access to healthy communities; economic injustice, which creates a lack of fair access to economic mobility; housing insecurity, which creates lack of fair access to adequate housing; and the list goes on.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated every inequity people of color face. Black people have died and are dying at a disproportionate rate, and as America enters the 2020 presidential election Donald Trump still has no plan. Trump has never had a plan that included servicing the most vulnerable people, which are low-income Americans and people of color.
Joe Biden said the character of America is on the 2020 ballot, but selecting a leader goes beyond character. Humanity has always been on the ballot. Voting advertisements say, “vote like your life depends on it,” but the lives of the most vulnerable people do depend on it because without people in power who are fighting for the underdog more and more people of color will be at risk of facing life-wrenching inequities.
According to the ACLU, states across the country have passed measures to inhibit black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities from voting.
Democracy has never been freely given and never will be. Democracy is taken by the people, for the people. It is only through the people that our liberties can be extended to free ourselves and liberate our global society.