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suse's avatar

Why do so many americans think they are superior to other nationalities?

Asked by suse (276 points ) October 29th, 2008

Seems that so many americans think they are better or more important than other nationalities. Why is this and why does racism still exist so strongly in many areas of North America, when it has pretty much disappeared in Europe?

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34 Answers

Les's avatar

I don’t know a single American who thinks she is better than anyone else. This question can only be answered by an American who actually believes this. And to say that racism has “pretty much disappeared in Europe” is a pretty naive thing to say. Racism exists everywhere, and “Americans” as a group are no more prone to racist thoughts than “Europeans”, as a group.

qualitycontrol's avatar

a theory I have is that it stems from the fact the European countries developed a lot faster than others. If you get a chance read the book Guns, Germs, and Steel. It basically lays out the fact that geographical resources are what caused different countries to develop the way they did. Because when Europeans had things like technology and civilization earlier than other countries they felt superior. I think we still hold true today to our roots that we’re better, faster and smarter even if it’s not always the case. Environment has so much to do with it. White Americans today who are of European descent think they are superior because this was engrained in people’s way of thinking very early on. But, I could be wrong I don’t know lol.

suse's avatar

i moved from San Francisco to Virginia, and definately some people here are racist. Many say they do not agree with inter-racial marriages and one bar I went in said they did not want black people in that bar. I was shocked.

hoosier_banana's avatar

A person who is born into a particular culture and grows up absorbing the values and behaviors of the culture will develop patterns of thought reflecting the culture as normal. If the person then experiences other cultures that have different values and normal behaviors, the person finds that the thought patterns appropriate to their birth culture and the meanings their birth culture attaches to behaviors are not appropriate for the new cultures. However, since a person is accustomed to their birth culture it can be difficult for the person to see the behaviors of people from a different culture from the viewpoint of that culture rather than from their own.

The ethnocentric person will see those cultures other than their birth culture as being not only different but also wrong to some degree. The ethnocentric person will resist or refuse the new meanings and new thought patterns since they are seen as being less desirable than those of the birth culture.- Wiki

Mtl_zack's avatar

manifest destiny.

manifest destiny started when the puritans tried to convert all the natives to christianity. one of the reasons for this was because of the fear of catholocism. meanwhile, the french catholics were to the north and the spanish catholics were to the south, and the americans challenged them and won (not necasarily involving violence). because of these wins, the americans felt superior to the rest of north america and people thought that all of the americas should be part of the US. manifest destiny is still seen today, but in different forms, such as the need to spread democracy to cuba, russia, the phillipines, iraq, iran, and other “less fortunate” countries. —i studied this in my us history course, even though i live in canada.

Bluefreedom's avatar

It’s a little presumptuous to think that ‘so many Americans’ imagine that they are better than other nationalities. Without a definable consensus on this from the populace, I have a hard time subscribing to this and it would be hard to prove the veracity of this claim.

I have never seen myself as better or more important than someone from another country and I would guess that many people share this same opinion.

Again, I think it would be hard to make an accurate determination that racism has mostly disappeared in Europe without any corroborating statistics to show that. As far as racism still being prevalent in some areas of America, I think it is certainly possible because there is no question that we have had an ugly history of racism in America and I believe we still need to be working more diligently on eradicating it forever.

buster's avatar

Olympic swimmers!

hoosier_banana's avatar

Does anyone here think other cultures are better than their own? You would be in the minority.

augustlan's avatar

A) I think it’s probably natural to view your culture as the “best” one, but many of us can get over that nature, and look at things rationally enough to determine that it’s not necessarily true.
B) As a city girl transplanted to West Virginia, I can certainly confirm that racism is alive and well, at least in pockets of the country. I am personally aquainted with a number of people who still use the “N” word with impunity. It makes me sick to my stomach.

hoosier_banana's avatar

I think we get over it by bringing in new values to our cultural ideals. We don’t learn it as individuals, but form our beliefs through interaction and practice.

judochop's avatar

I am going out on a limb here suse and guessing that you live somewhere in middle Amerikkka? I can see where a lot of people would feel this way but the majority of people I know feel the opposite. Most people including myself are a little embarrassed of America and the way our current president has basically ignored our requests and lied to the world. He has thrown this country down and wiped his feet on us.
I at one time was one of these Americans you are asking about. I was proud, really proud. Mt father was a cop and a bodyguard for President Reagen, my brother is a fireman, both of my grandfathers fought in the war, all of my uncles fought in the war, my father fought in the war..It seemed like the natural thing to go and do. My brother and I went together at the tail end of the first Gulf War. I was willing to give my life for this country and I almost did. I almost lost my eyesight and use of my limbs. I almost died and nobody I was working with even cared what it was for. Nobody over here even cared. Sure you can say you care, you can even shed a tear for people who make the same bad decision I did. I came out of the military as a socialist and with a new outlook on life. I had one of the brass stand next to me at the hospital and tell me I was a hero and that I needed to get better and come back. When I told him I wanted to go home he called me a pussy. This is a man who never once set foot in front of live fire, who never once had to stop bleeding, who never once had to wait for orders while being shot at. There are lists of things I can rant about that do not make America a better country. Our over seas relations, our ignorance to NATO, our lack of funding for the Peace Core, our non-existing national health care plan, etc.
As for racism in America I think we are one of the most tolerant countries in the world when it comes to race. Ignorant people tend to point fingers at folks who have different color skin, they do not even know what they hate about them. Sure you can generalize and say all (insert whatever color skin here) are lazy and live off of welfare. Now depending on where you grew up I bet you read that as white or black right? I grew up in an area where most of the unemployed people I knew were white and most of the people I saw steal were white and most of the people I heard talk racial bullshit were white. Now where I live, I see it the other way around. It has nothing to do with skin color. Lazy people are everywhere, people who steal are everywhere, people who hate people for no reason are everywhere.
America is not a superior country by any means. It is a great country with an amazing amount of potential with a vast difference in character and creed. The people who live here are unlike people any where else in the world with a comradery that is second to none until faced with fear. I honestly feel that Americans are scared and I just don’t see what makes fear superior in anyones eyes.

jholler's avatar

I have to disagree, judochop, I think fear motivates and inspires camraderie like nothing else. Look at the swelling of national pride and unity after Pearl Harbor and Sep 11. Now, fear of what lies within our borders may be what you’re talking about, but I argue that we as a nation fear nothing outside our borders. I too have been shot at, blown up, called too many medevacs, and seen too much death, but I’m not giving up just yet. I’m a stubborn asshole who believes our collective heart and will is on the right track. I’m insanely proud to fly our flag in my front yard, and have laid my own life on the block to defend it and all it stands for. Am I who we’re talking about?

deaddolly's avatar

I don’t think any American thinks they’re better than anyone else; I think it’s a perception that other countries have about us. All they see re: America is what the media/politicians portray. They think of us as spoiled and we are to some extent.
But better; naw. As for the racist thing…I don’t beleive that, not for one minute. They have their own racists thoughts,
just ask a person who lives in London what they think about all the “Pakies” owning small businesses there. I think you’ll find it the same everywhere.

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

WHAT! USA! USA! you, the dude that asked that question, ARE YOU AN AMERICAN?!

cheebdragon's avatar

Define “Americans”....
Just the people living in the U.S. In general? Or a certain race of people?

critter1982's avatar

What? We’re not better than other nationalities?

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

well, osama(joke), I say the people living in the U.S

suse's avatar

I lived in Israel and Spain for many years and then New Jersey and now in Virginia. I guess the people I have seen with this attitude are in Virginia…... Of course not most americans, just seems a high percentage here are definately racist – openly so, some of them, they do use the N word, a woman i know doesnt want to see her grandchildren as they are of mixed race, – my husband is from Virginia and says it embarrasses him. I have been asked how people in Europe ‘treat muslims’ and when I said like anyone else, (which really is the case) I was told that ‘Well they deserve a terrorist attack then’. The list is actually endless.
I moved here many years ago after getting married and yes I do like America, and think there are some wonderful aspects to this country, and some great people but also (usually the man in the bar) some very aggressive attitudes towards the rest of the world. That Europe (in general) has america to thank for winning the second world war, that america ‘has to go in and sort out other countries’. One man told me that ‘an american life is worth more than an Iraqi life’ Just wondering where all this stems from, thats all.

deaddolly's avatar

@suse don’t you think a lot of that has to do with our government’s handling of certain issues? It’s really sad that ppl feel that way about us.

In certain areas of Europe, I didn’t feel welcome; simply because we were Americans. We take so much for granted here.
We know little of what’s going on over there unless it’s headline news. We are seen as brash and rude and in some cases, we are. But, that’s because we expect a lot. I’m not saying that’s right; it just seems to be the way it is.

cheebdragon's avatar

@critter- ∗ High-Five ∗ .....lol

augustlan's avatar

@Suse: So you must live in the “Real Virginia”, not too close to DC, yes?

aumakua's avatar

Coming from a Californian ( I had heard in college ” don’t let people from the midwest know that you’re from California… they hate you. ”), I have been able to determine to an extent that our culture (general popular culture, as a nation) is very much in a bubble. Our educational system may seem well regarded in some areas, at the college level, but our public schools in many cases are a joke.
The racial inequity (at the least) and lack of global consciousness has been systemic, and I experienced signs of this even in a somewhat liberal public school in California.
CNN and many American news networks that the rest of the world may see, apart from their political bias, are entertainment-based and have a strong influence in our popular culture – this has a dramatic effect on our opinions nationwide on a range of subjects that a great number of people here have little direct experience with (but strong voting power against). I think I would be able to say strongly that a large number of people here have, in the past, been influenced by these institutions of our media and government that have been less than truthful. I would like to hope that these attitudes will eventually dissipate…

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aumakua's avatar

And coming from an American with a slightly different view from the majority, I don’t think “Americans” are superior in any way to other nationalities, but have run into the individuals who do think so. Please ignore them…
I would love to travel without having to pretend that I’m Canadian or Swedish… :), and I can validly state for quite a few others that it has been quite an embarrassment until recently.
Sorry about the double post everyone

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Duplicate removed.

morancos's avatar

I think it’s a matter of ignorance. People talk but, do they know what they are talking about? How many Americans do people know in order to make such a statement? Did we check our facts, before making the decision to stereotype? I’m an American and I don’t feel I’m superior to anyone or anything, I just like myself and I’m proud of who I am, does that mean that I consider myself superior? Absolutely not. Am I the exception to the rule? I don’t think so. I guess people must be bored these days and don’t have anything better to do….God bless you all.

duerko2's avatar

I am from Denmark which is in Europe to all the people who didnt know.. I have lived in Washington state, Spain and now i live in Pennsylvania. I have a diverse background and I honestly think I have lived through all the socio-economical classes.
I believe that many Americans think that they are superior to other countries because of many things. In the beggining of American history they won against Britain in a war that gained their independence. Many people’s belief is that Britain with everything they had tried to fight us, meanwhile America, with a few poor patriots, fought back and won. When really Britain had just gotten out of a war, and the British were strongly against another one.
Later America bought a huuuge piece of land from the Gulf all the way up to Canada from the poor French. Then America foght of the Mexicans in the War of 1812(i think). That assured them the land between Texas and California.
Americans have through history won almost all of their wars with other countries and thats why they think that they are better than everyone else. And that they won in Vietnam, when really they didnt. HA

bschneider's avatar

There is a concept known as ethnocentrism. This says that you believe that your culture is the best and everything else is inferior. It is a cultural universal that we have a sense of ethnocentrism in all of us

Nikkiys's avatar

I am an American and I will agree MOST American’s think this country is the BEST. Even if you were to show facts that another country has something better than the U.S. the response would be either: A) No it’s not B) Yeah well, America is better at this than you or C) Well, your country is bad at this. It’s like some Americans can’t even see or acknowledge something is better… even when it’s smacking them in the face.

I will have to disagree about one thing… Racism has NOT disappeared in Europe. I don’t know how many times I heard people called Paki, Nigger, and other racist names while living in England.

I honestly don’t believe any country is better than the next… Each country is unique and has its own pleasing qualities. I would be living in England now if I could afford it and if I wasn’t engaged. I loved the people; I found them very welcoming and humble… I’ve heard many Americans say that the English are rude, but I’ve also heard many English say that Americans are rude. (I was asked if I was from Canada a few times. That was weird)

Bottom line, no country is perfect or we’d all live there.

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