As George Orwell said, “Truth is treason in an empire of lies.” While America is not an empire of dictatorships but of freedom and democracy, recent events have made people question the way the American population views equality. From beginning as a small number of colonies fighting to be rid of British rule to progressing by abolishing slavery and establishing the Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution, some would argue that the U.S. is right where it needs to be in terms of equality for all. I am writing to say those that argue are wrong. We live in an empire of lies where the public has been led to believe that all is well in America and that there is no need to discuss topics of race and privilege or sexes and equality. The land of opportunity has maintained its facade of a utopian society in which everyone who works hard can succeed equally, and that is not the truth. Yet in light of the realization that not everybody has the same advantages as others in this country, rather than assemble to make changes in our society many are quick to denounce these claims. The truth is that social issues are not all in order and when brought up these issues evoke feelings of fear, guilt, and anger causing blame to be placed on the issues. Instead of facing the difficult truth many choose to evade it, trivialize it, pretend it is not blatantly present, or simply deny its validity.
The American empire is built upon diversity. It is a melting pot of cultures and ideas and people from all over the globe, constantly being expanded not through conquests but through the inviting promise of a better life. Having lived in Southern California my entire life, I have been exposed to many different types of people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. I grew up believing that the rest of America was just as accepting of others as most people in Los Angeles are, and in 2008 when the nation’s first black president was elected, I was confident in the notion that we had progressed. In the 2016 election I was positive our country would continue to progress despite increased media coverage of hate crimes, and though I was unable to participate in the election due to my age, I was rooting for the most qualified candidate. The results were terrifying to me. I realized that I had lied to myself by insisting that voters would never support a candidate that had encouraged sexism, racism, and xenophobia throughout the nation. Whether voters truly believe in what the candidate represents or his promises of “greatness” won them over, I was disheartened to see that people were swayed by hate and fear.
Truth in a sense has become treason in the American empire where white supremacy dominates. The mention of privilege or the fight towards equality is often met with hostility. By declaring that not everything is all right we commit “treason” against the country, we betray the false assumption of prevailing justice and equality for all. The topic of privilege is commonly attacked because people with privilege mistrust the intentions of talking about it. They fear judgment or blame and harbor guilt for their privilege which may cause resentment against those that make the social distinctions noticeable. Talking about inequality in America is not something people should fear or eschew, it is something that people need to learn how to address without being ignorant or offensive. I believe that people will be able to differentiate truth from lies as painful as it may be, and when they stop condemning the truth for being what it is we will be able to fight together for an American empire of equality for all.
“We the People” posters, commissioned by the social justice and arts organization Amplifier Foundation. Created by Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena, and Jessica Sabogal.