The word “entitlement” has become a bad word in the American political system because it suggests that certain groups of people get economic benefits that they do not deserve and because it costs the government too much money. The specific programs targeted include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, and disability. (https://www.vox.com/2014/5/12/18076886/entitlement-reform)
While I struggle with trying to understand what happens to “the least of these” without these programs in a society that rewards the wealthy and penalizes the poor and lower middle class, I am quite sure that not all “entitlements” are talked about. Though these other entitlements do not require an act of Congress to pass or to repeal, they carry an economic and social component that most people, it seems, are all right with.
I am talking about the entitlements afforded people because of their race and their gender. I have come to understand that white supremacy is both racist and sexist, a reality that allows white people in general and white males in particular to have privileges that the rest of us do not have and should not expect; they are entitled to certain benefits that the rest of us will never have.
It is not just Black people who must live with the inequity of American citizenship. It has been Native Americans, Asians, Muslims – anyone identifiable as being non-white, and it has been males of all races who feel entitled to certain privileges because society has told them they are entitled to them.
It is almost as if a great swath of people – again, primarily white people in general and white males in particular – are the spoiled brats of society. They have been used to getting their way and getting away with it. Watching the debacle of the former president’s apparently imminent indictment, for example, pulls the curtain back on how entitlement in this country works. Because he is white, wealthy, and male, he has been to manipulate the country and its institutions in ways no non-white, female politician would have been able to. He is still considered a front-runner to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024 in spite of a fair amount of evidence that he stoked the January 6 insurrection, that he has committed campaign finance crimes, that he has obstructed justice and allegedly stolen classified documents and has lied about it. Yet, he still gets non-stop coverage by the media which continues to push him as the likely 2024 presidential candidate. While an innocent young woman, Breonna Taylor, was killed while sleeping in her own bed due to the legality of no-knock warrants, this man has gotten a full and fair warning that he is perhaps about to be indicted. He knows his entitlement and has lived and functioned within it for his whole life and while it is troubling to watch, it is not surprising that he is continuing to do what he has always done – disregard the system and do whatever he has wanted.
It seems to me that much of the entitled community walks around with a smirk. I am reminded of how offended I was when I saw the picture of Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd as the life seeped out of Floyd’s body. He was being videoed, but he looked defiantly into the camera with that smirk that said to me, “Video all you want. I can do what I want and will not have to pay for it.”
That has been the history of the entitled of America. They have used non-white and non-male people to protect their privileges and help build their wealth and power from the inception of this country, and have committed heinous crimes for which they have never been held accountable and received tremendous benefits that others were denied.
For example, the “entitled class” received government loans to purchase homes and continue their education once they returned from fighting in America’s wars, while Black soldiers were denied the same. (https://www.history.com/news/gi-bill-black-wwii-veterans-benefits) (https://www.npr.org/2022/10/18/1129735948/black-vets-were-excluded-from-gi-bill-benefits-a-bill-in-congress-aims-to-fix-th) Black soldiers were killed after the war as they dared wear their uniforms, a sign of their service to this country, and those who killed them were seldom held accountable. (https://eji.org/news/remembering-black-veterans-and-racial-terror-lynchings/)
Asians were denied their rights as American citizens (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/the-long-history-of-racism-against-asian-americans-in-the-u-s) though they, like African Americans, were key to the building of this country’s economy. Native Americans were and are still denied their rights, and are still fighting for their liberty and dignity, suffering the indignity of being denied the right to speak their language or even mention their customs when their children were sent to schools operated by the Jesuits. (https://www.aclu.org/issues/racial-justice/american-indian-rights) (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/traumatic-legacy-indian-boarding-schools/584293/).
The truth about our society, its racism, sexism, and unpunished violence meted against those who are not in the privileged class is not pleasant. Most people know little about it and so they live with a manufactured sense of indignation that members of the nonprivileged class dare to complain about how they have been treated.
But the hard truth exists – in spite of efforts like those being taken by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to erase the lessons off of the chalkboard of American history. And the truth is, members of the privileged class have gotten used to their entitlements due to their race and gender and are not likely to give any of it up without a hard fight.
The members of the privileged class have been spoiled as they have been taught they are unique, different, and above everyone else. They have grown used to expecting the best of what this country has to offer – their attitudes are not unlike those of a spoiled child who has been used to having his or her way. They have become cocooned in their world, believing that they are better than everyone else and are therefore more deserving of any and everything they get – and have concurrently become pouters when they don’t get what they believe they deserve. They are resentful of those outside of their class who are able to acquire some of “their” privileges in spite of not being part of “the group. In their actions, they are much like members of some fraternities who bend and break the laws and rules of their organization, their colleges, and this society, because they live in their entitlement of being white, male, and, many, wealthy.
This social entitlement is deadly. It has eroded the capacity of so many to feel, to care, and to empathize with, say, those who live in poverty or with those who simply want basic American rights. They cannot see, and do not care, about the way so many in our society are forced to live. They carry the Chauvin smirk and know that whatever they want, they can pretty much get, and that attitude does a couple of things: it makes them angry when they don’t get their way and it encourages them to react violently in order to get what they feel they deserve, and nobody else.
I think I feel sorry for them. It is a bad thing to be human but be devoid of the human capacity to see and care for and about those who are in less comfortable situations than are they. What America has done is taught the privileged class and people all over the world to say, “At least I’m not black” including Black people who live in Africa and in the African diaspora. But this country has also taught others to proclaim their superiority over those who are of different religions, different ethnicities, different genders, and sexualities, and by virtue of their saying that they exert the spirit of the privileged class, which is one of snobbery, selfishness, and superiority.
And these exude these spirits in spite of saying they are Christian.
We should talk more about the entitlements that are helping to kill the soul of this country. They are far more damaging than the financial programs put in place that help those who will never be a part of the privileged class.
A candid observation …