Dr. Henry Allen, IJF Advisory Board Chair
In popular culture, among voluntary immigrants and those less informed sociologically, it is often assumed or internalized by many citizens that the United States is exceptional. To wit, the notion is that the United States is inherently more noble or superior to other societies. Almost never are the exact conditions underlying that conjecture explained. Neither are the constituents related to that conjecture carefully delineated. Proponents obfuscate, maximizing strengths and minimizing atrocities. I wonder whether another sophisticated, intelligent alien civilization [observers] who visited this planet would agree with that assumption regarding exceptionalism? Is the proof or evidence sufficient for all beings? More poignantly, could objective citizens who have not been brainwashed by titular injections of consumerism, materialism, white supremacy, and ethnocentric forms of indoctrination conclude the same? I wonder.
In what ways is America exceptional in its tangible sociology, in its humanity? For whom is exceptionalism relevant? Under what conditions has such exceptionalism transpired? Thus, we now have a popular ideological tenet that has not been specified or tested scientifically: based on rigorous evidence and codification. Far more interesting is the question: for whom is American exceptionalism relevant? Popular jingoism is not sufficient to establish truth.
Slaves, and generations of their descendants, would vigorously contest the operative notion of American exceptionalism, given the inhumanity and barbarity of their treatment across centuries. Kidnapping, torture, rape, racism, segregation, voter suppression, terrorism as well as rationalizations and unparalleled hypocrisy may inexorably be the secret ingredients that produce American exceptionalism in that regard! Perhaps this exceptionalism is related to the nation’s legacy of hypocrisy, inconsistency, arrogance, and lack of restitution. The constitution and laws inculcated from this legacy remain suspect regarding their efficacy and effectiveness for involuntary immigrants even to this day.
I imagine that indigenous, Native Americans would see American exceptionalism in the relentless genocide directed against them. The radiation or consequences from that history echo in the oppression and poverty that continues unabated. Latinx descendants could point to a cornucopia of other indignities and indiscretions, as could Asian Americans document a plethora of indecencies. In short, apart from the incipient aristocracy or autocracy of white supremacy, there is no such thing as American exceptionalism. If not ‘white,’ we must continue to fight against bogus notions of exceptionalism and their oppressive antecedents!