It’s understandable to want to “belong.” Waving your country’s flag means you’re happy to be a part of a group connected by the freedoms associated with consumer choice, political participation, and personal expression, with as little overt regulation as possible. It’s what many living in the United States would call freedom.
Being American, however, goes beyond the baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Being an American is about being fully invested in the political economy of the United States. It means being able to impact markets and influence policy makers. It means you’re sitting at the table. It’s a day-to-day operation to be an American because the alternative means not being able to enjoy the returns from your capital and using them as you see fit.
Being an American is more than just waiving the flag from the sidelines. It means you own the company that manufacturers the flags; create the narrative around the flag; and get other people to buy into the narrative surrounding the flag.
Based on this view, 99% of us are not Americans. We don’t control commerce. We don’t control infrastructure. We have little access to or own less than enough of capital to buffer ourselves against an economic downturn. And after 400 years on the North American continent, blacks aren’t even looked at as American. Other peoples of color are also looked at this way.
Nicholas Kristof argues this point on how blacks are not viewed as American in an opinion piece for The New York Times. Citing the findings from a survey on racial attitudes, Mr. Kristof writes:
“One finding is that we unconsciously associate “American” with “white.” Thus, in 2008, some California college students — many who were supporting Barack Obama for president — unconsciously treated Obama as more foreign than Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. Likewise, Americans may be factually aware that Lucy Liu is an American actress and Kate Winslet is British, but the tests indicated that Americans considered Liu as more foreign than Winslet.”
This view of blacks in particular may be due in part to the failure of the administrative state to fully incorporate blacks into the U.S. political economy. Social barriers taking the form of bigoted or racial attitudes were compounded by an administrative state that passed and executed laws that supported negative social attitudes. Instead of a public policy of inclusion, the state chose exclusion. One example stems from the almost 100 years it took for the state to incorporate the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. While the amendments were ratified in 1868 and 1870, respectively, they did not come a part of the national legal framework until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
One irony is that the vast majority of whites are also not Americans. Although on average whites have accumulated greater amounts of wealth than the United States’ ethnic minorities, most of their members do not wield any more influence on the political economy than people of color.
This may sound strange because we see the vast majority of individuals wielding political, economic, and financial power is white, specifically white male, but just because you hold a plane ticket doesn’t mean you get to sit in the cockpit and hold the stick. License to fly is held by those with capital.
For some it may be a bit of a downer to hear that waving the flag is not that significant, but they should remember that we are still United States citizens. As a citizen we can use the legal rights afforded to us by this jurisdiction to improve our communities. We need not define ourselves by social nomenclature that represents a value system that treats our lives as less significant.
In the Open Country, rather than trying to occupy another’s playpen, we can build our own sand box.