Growing up in America as a South Korean, I have always wondered why Americans were so different. My definition of “American” changed over time as hegemony began to unveil itself as I grew older. Close your eyes for a sec, and tell me what racial group you think of when you hear the word America. If you said anything other than “white,” I applaud your positive attitude. Most people would have said white and they’re not wrong. What do I mean by this?(photo by Art Around)
Well my friend, here are two words you probably have not heard of, unless you are somewhat aware of the prevalent social problems that exist in America: white hegemony. You might be saying, “Oh dear lawwwwd not this again. I’ve read enough about this crap so many times, it’s getting quite trite.” Well so have I and frankly, I’m tired of hearing and reading the passive voices who offer no real understandings, so let’s try to understand it by taking a different approach.
To put things into context let’s address a couple of things. What is hegemony? Hegemony is the dominance that one group of people have over another group of people. Cultural hegemony is the same concept. The unrelenting presence of a dominant culture, standards of beauty to maintain a specific group’s norms, and media culture to help influence and internalize these norms are just a few examples of cultural hegemony.
In diverse Western countries such as America, cultural hegemony is exercised to maintain and disparately perpetuate white Western norms. When we look back at the establishment of the USA, most people have a common understanding that the white colonials are largely responsible for the decimation of the Native Americans and “guiding” America to what it is today. Unfortunately little is taught in educational institutions of the exploitation of non-white minorities who have shed blood, sweat, and tears to create today’s white America. The atrocious racial history of America has had a cumulative effect in creating today’s institutional racism which is credited for creating the conditions for white privilege.
So why doesn’t America give a crap about their own? Well, the answer is simple isn’t it? If you’re not part of the dominant white group, you’re less likely to receive the same benefits as they do. We live in a heterogeneous country where the dominant group is made up of people who are of white European descent, and for those who are non-white, sorry but you’re shit out of luck, pal. Just kidding, America isn’t that harsh. As long as you have culturally assimilated you‘ll be allowed to dream the purported “American dream” and live out “the sky’s the limit” motto. Just known you’ll be encased in an invisible glass box and hit the glass ceiling every time you try to reach higher goals. Oh and by the way, if you’re Asian and no matter how much you’ve culturally assimilated to the non-indigenous white American Western culture, you’ll still forever be the perpetual foreigner. How exciting to be an “American!”
There’s a reason why America falls behind in social programs among developed nations. Have you figured it out? Because it’s fairly simple. It’s because America is not a homogenous nation. In order to understand this better, let’s explore the concept of segmentarism. Segmentarism is a fundamental human practice that basically equates to “me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, my cousin and I against a stranger.” So the closer you are genetically with another individual the more you are inclined to collaborate and reciprocate survival strategies with them, albeit in some situations it may potentially threaten your own survival.
This same concept can be applied in how various nations approach social programs to benefit their own people. Many countries (especially developed nations) throughout the world offer a free college education to its people. This may be explained by how countries see their own people as a worthy investment and deserving of a free education, to advance as a collective and homogenous nation. The same can be said for effective healthcare programs with the exception of some countries such as Canada who is still under the heavy influence of the U.K., which is nevertheless inherently a homogenous nation.
America is a 238 year old heterogeneous nation that has a lot to learn from its own circle of friends in the developed nations community. Maybe the fundamental culture rooted in individualism and capitalism is to blame for the lack of compassion for its diverse people, or maybe its the lack of homogeneity in its people, or possibly both.
White hegemony in America is a pervasive problem that ultimately divides the people of America and disadvantages its minorities. It’s time to replace white hegemony with a true multicultural system that corrects the wrongs of the racial history and erects a system that benefits the diverse race and ethnic groups of America. Say no to white hegemony!
(About the author: Sung Kim is a recent graduate of DePaul University pursuing his doctorate in sociology)