As I finish my freshman year here at UC Berkeley, I have noticed a common theme among almost every course I have taken: they use every opportunity to point out how much America sucks. I am not here to rally their cry and bash the U.S, neither am I about to rant about how America is my beloved country. Simply I want to point out how every class I have taken has led in one way or another to discussion about the hypocrisy and deception of American culture and how we need to fight it.
I took Legal Studies last semester and found out that I was not really learning anything about the legal system, except that it screws over minorities. This happened to coincide with the riots in Ferguson so one of our prompts was to compare the abuse of the legal system against African Americans to the Ferguson riots. We discussed all the falling outs of Brown v. Board of Education and similar cases of the time. We were encouraged to protest at the Ferguson riots happening close to campus and were frequently brought flyers about Black and Chicano Rights protests in the area.
Not identifying with a minority race, I decided to try and take a Gender, Women's Studies class this semester and see what it would be like.
The first day of class we were asked to list our "Gender Preferred Pronoun," which I suspect will become more and more common in the future, especially at Berkeley. We discussed the implications of being trans* or queer folk in America and the way binary norms are pushed onto us from birth. Since this is a class about American culture, it made sense that we dove into intersectionality as fast as we did. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a main topic we discussed and the mania around it. Why was the white child this orb of innocence, whereas the black child was seen not as a child at all? The professors make sure you check your privilege at every opportunity possible. Towards the end of semester we really dug into the idea of infantile citizenship in America. This encompassed the idea that we, as American citizens, are brought up to believe in U.S. hegemony, or that there is no better alternative to American life and government. While we are raised up to believe America is the best country and that the founding fathers are some messiahs whom delivered us from evil, we in turn consciously forget the troubles of oppressed groups in our nation. The famous example that was given was this hajj many Americans make to Washington, D.C. to visit our nations monuments and capitol; however, the struggles lie right before our eyes as we gawk at the Washington Monument (built partially by slave labor) which stands behind the Lincoln Memorial (the president who "freed" the slaves). Ironic? Yes, very much so.
My sociology professor also happens to be an expert on Chinese society and acts as an advisor to many policymakers in Asia regarding relations with China. He is an older gentleman and he makes sure he reminds us every class that America has tried to install democracy in every country possible and perhaps our government just doesn't understand that not every setting is ideal for our form of government. Not that he's wrong. The American system of values is vastly different than many other countries and believing that every country wants life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a bit presumptuous. We speak a great deal about cultural globalization and the way is affects cultural appropriation. While spreading the cultures of other nations into our own country has been seen as a positive, those who "celebrate" the other cultures tend to do so while blatantly ignoring the hardships the people of that culture have faced. For example, having "fiesta" themed parties here is strictly prohibited because that would culturally appropriating Mexican culture, without acknowledging the amount of oppression Mexicans have faced in America. Similarly, if a white girl wears corn-rows in her hair, she is culturally appropriating Black culture by wearing a traditional Black hairstyle used for centuries to tame African hair. Just food for thought.
While this is nonetheless informative and eyeopening, it just seems like anti-patriotism is being shoved down our throats left and right. Not that I was a huge nationalist to begin with, but I am starting to get the point. I am an over-privileged white woman who has been built into the system and will likely be very rarely discriminated against. Maybe they just feel like they need to ignite this spark in today's students to have a cause to protest for like back in the '60s. Unfortunately, Berkeley is not the same as then. Now there's a lot of nerdy engineers and computer scientists who just want to make it out alive here. Now there's a lot of really smart, determined kids who haven't got a break from rigorous education from the day they stepped into their Kindergarten class. Now there's students fighting tooth and nail for internships and long-term jobs, presenting a soon-to-be degree from the nation's top public university, and still not making the cut. So, I guess what I am trying to say is although we have a handful of outspoken students, most of us are just trying get by and make it in America. Perhaps that's what they're trying to teach us though. Look at all these people who tried to make it and we're oppressed because of their gender or skin color or age. Look at these people who were not revered for their efforts, but instead put down and forgot about. They could be you in 4 years. Can't wait.