We like to teach American history as though we have been a nation that prides itself on emancipation. We like to preceive ourselves as liberators and freedom providers. Let's pause and reflect on how the United States of America has been so reluctant in granting "others" emancipation and freedom.
From the time European explorers and settlers arrived in what would become the United States, our treatment of Native Americans [many prefer the term American Indians] has been atrocious. Mistreatment of American Indians continues to this day, but we simply destroyed these cultures, killed off huge parts of their population, subjected them to disease, and imprisoned them on inhospitalbe reservations. There has been almost no attempt to understand them or work with them to show respect for their cultures, habits, religions, way of living, etc. It is a horrible chapter in our history.
From the beginning of colonial America there has always been a predisposition to give special favors and recognition to northern Europeans. Scandinavians, Germans, English, etc. have not had to overcome some of the discrimination that has been faced by cultures from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Slavic people, etc. The Irish came after English and German culture had secured itself in our basic thoughts, and thus those from Erin had to struggle upon reaching our shores. Germans, for example, often arrived with no assets, but they were accepted openly in much of what would become the USA. Irish had a tougher climb to acceptance. Spanish-speaking people were not accepted, and we actually stole much of what we now call the United States from Mexico.
The Jews often arrived destitute from Europe. They faced not only economic hardships, they faced anti-Semitism. Jews still face overt and covert discrimination in the U.S. Bigots are disgruntled by this because they like to simply categorize "other" people as lazy, on the dole, unclean, etc. But Jews with very little were able to become successful. From Napolean's time when Jews were given some freedom in Europe, these people succeeded against great odds. They did so in Europe during the centuries of oppression as well.
African-Americans faced a special bigotry. Not only did their skin become a mark that bigots used to practice horrible discrimination, the black peoples in the U.S. had the inhuman experience of actually being owned by whites. To say there is still discrimination in the U.S. against blacks is to state the obvious. The election of Barack Obama was an anomaly brought about by a huge infusion of young voters and independent voters outside the mainstream of prejudicial America. Recent elections show what happens when the young and minorities do not turn out in such large percentages. People who hold onto prejudice and have fundamental mythologies vote in large percentages, as do the "haves" in our society who want to hold on tightly to their materials and not share them with anybody. This is in many ways the biggest example that breaks the myth of America the free, America the democracy, America for everybody.
Asian Americans have been mistreated in the U.S. throughout our history. Chinese "coolies" built our railroads and lived in squalor. Prejudice has been rampant for Asians. Japanese-American internment camps were a blatant evidence of bigotry. Today's Laotians, Hmong, and Vietnamese face daily bigotry.
Today we have become quite focused on Latin-Americans who are in our midst. Not part of the northern, white European cultures, they are expected to jump through hoops never before required of other European cultures and their descendants. Prejudice rears its ugly face when it comes to Latinos who reside here. Suddenly we set up special barriers that most Americans' descendants never faced. We have thought of building a wall along the Mexican-U.S. border, but if we build a ten foot fence, there are twelve foot ladders. This drives many people bonkers.
Do I write this because I am anti-American? I should not have to prove my American loyalty. But to deny our discrimation and bigotry is a lie that we never fully confront. Too many Americans have been given special favors because they are white, or they inherited estates from their parents, or did not have to be confronted with racial or ethnic bigotry, etc. And these fortunate people want to deny this to others. THAT to me is definitely un-American. Equality is a part of the America of freedom. Read the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and other key documents in our nation's history. If, after you read them, you still hold onto the same prejudicial mindset, then you have personal problems that transcend history.