Some well-intentioned, big-hearted, conscientious people have been circulating this horrifically offensive picture on the internet:
Do you know why this is offensive?
Take a moment to look at it.
If you are American, and are having trouble seeing what is offensive about it, imagine for a moment that you are from, say, Sweden, and now look at it again.
This image is supposed to convey to Americans that even if they are poor, there are people in the world who are worse off than they are. That message is a good message. It is true, and it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
However, what this picture actually does is put an image of famine-stricken children in front of you and labels it: “the rest of the world.”
Suppose you showed someone from Denmark the bottom photograph in the image above and said: “Hey! You’re part of ‘the rest of the world’! America thinks this picture represents you.”
What do you think that person would say?
He would say: “Bitch, please. Our middle class is doing better than yours is.”
The middle classes in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany are all doing better than the middle class in the United States is doing. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all have a more vibrant middle class than we do in the United States. “The rest of the world”? Really?
Not only is that label ignorant, it actually seems offensive to me. I can’t help but feel like it’s rooted (unintentionally, of course!) in a deep and unsavory kind of condescending nationalism. It is as if to say, “Oh, isn’t it just a shame that people who are not American had the misfortune of not being born here! How horrible their lives must be! What a pity.” It lumps everyone together into one of two groups: Americans, and “everyone else.” And of course, you’re automatically better off if you’re American.
On a weird way, it almost borders on imperialism. After all, the insulting and condescending nationalism that says “anyone who didn’t have the fortune of being born in the U.S.A must really be bummed out at how terrible life is” is only a short hop, skip and jump away from “those poor dears, they obviously can’t take care of themselves, we should go and fix their countries for them.”
Now I will say it one more time, just so you don’t get the wrong idea: I know this image means well. And if it had simply said, “There are people out there who have it harder than you do,” then I would be rallying behind the cause.
But “THE REST OF THE WORLD“?