Traveling Asia has been one of the biggest adventures of my life and I can’t help but think that I have grown up if not misinformed than ill informed about each country that lies within it. The United States does a poor job of representing asian culture for what it is. We are taught to think of asians as quiet, nerdy, introverted, mysterious, complex, weird, isolated and even dangerous. Most Americans think of Asia as an unknown and disregard some of the oldest/unique cultures this world has to offer.
Traveling to Japan has taught me that everything I have learned about foreign history within the US needs to come under scrutiny, because a lot of information has been distorted or simplified. We are not the only country to do so, a new report by The Freedom House, based in Washington DC, concluded that less than 14% of the world live “where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures”.
According to Freedom House our scores are beginning to plummet and I can only imagine what will happen when Donald Trump is sworn into office.
If we sift through our history we will find that the United States does a very good job creating the illusion of freedom. The reason I am so critical of our country is what we are supposed to represent. As the years go on we are looking more hypocritical than we did during WWII, criticizing Hitler’s policies on the Jews but not being able to look in the mirror and see how we were treating African Americans. The United States government basically said “sure you can die for us, but you can’t sit with us” (Mean Girls reference).
There is this ongoing narrative of the US government promoting democracy and equality globally, without practicing it domestically.
I feel more at home in Japan, where I am greeted kindly, treated politely and helped without question. As an African American female it is unnerving to constantly be on the defense while driving, shopping and turning on the television. No matter how much we fight to end institutionalized racism, equal wages, and the over-sexualization of our bodies we hit a wall each and every time. It wasn’t until Trump’s successful presidential campaign that we realized, our country could care less. I am not JUST talking about the people who actively voted for Trump, but the eligible voters who didn’t bother to vote had to be the most hurtful.
The United States would rather spend billions of dollars over policing our neighborhoods, criminalizing our children, and keeping us in poverty than recognize its’ own faults.
As I sit here, at this cute cat cafe in the middle of Tokyo, the only unwarranted attention I receive are the ones of curious little children, because to them I am foreign concept. Americans, let alone Black Americans do not come here and I attribute that fact to the thesis of this essay: misinformation. We push aside Asians in our movies and tv shows as less important, supporting characters and scrutinize their foreign policy on the news, when the reality is grim; our days as the world’s “super power” are numbered.
If I have learned anything in 2016, it is that there is this common misconception that the United States is the best country in the world. We are the best militarized country in the world, everything else like education, standard of living, maintaining a robust middle class, and taking care of our environment, we fall short; all of which are of the utmost importance.
I say this not to discourage you, but to inspire you. There are so many great countries who are doing well in these areas for which we can model our own after. Sorry I went on this huge rant, but after visiting most of the countries on this list my eyes are now WIDE open.
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