Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same?

Anyone who’s traveled inside the U.S.A. knows the answer to this already. For now though, I want to tackle this from a cultural perspective. I’m thinking of opening a new category later on that focuses on geographical differences. This here is about the American people. I’ll break this post up quickly into the following categories:

  • religion
  • gun control
  • ethnic background
  • political stance
  • language & immigration
  • the weather factor
  • identity

I also won’t talk about every state and city, but I’ll try to break it down enough to give you a good idea. Starting off!

Religion

I want to begin with one of the most easily distinguishable differences between different states in general. As you might remember from my post about religion (if not, please check it here), the U.S. is mostly a Protestant nation. However, you’ll remember that some places are less Protestant than others. While about 70% of Americans are Christians, there is a higher concentration of them in this general region called the South. That’s why this region is generally known as the “Bible Belt,” and it’s where you normally find the most religious and traditional communities. Otherwise, the Mormon communities are identified as the “most religious” group in America, which I guess means they’re super devout. Other hardline religious and cultural groups are the Amish and Mennonites around Pennsylvania and Ohio mostly.

Peek at map showing the dominant religion in each U.S. county
Credit Robby Berman from here

This map explains pretty much all I want to say about religion. Among Christians, the Evangelists and Black Protestants are super prevalent in the Bible Belt. Mainline Protestants are more common in the North, while Hispanic Catholics are really prevalent close to the Mexican border and around Miami. Otherwise, Catholics fill up the Northeast, and there are even a few enclaves in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas around where the Spanish and French used to have more influence. Mormons are really popular in the West, especially around Utah, and Native American Catholics have little enclaves throughout the West. Cool.

On the other hand, New England (Northeast) altogether tends to be the least-religious part of the country. But you can see, even within most of the states, religious affiliations change based on the region. Southern Florida, Texas and Louisiana are mostly Catholic while the northern parts are Protestant. The opposite is true in Illinois. And that should be a good enough intro for you.

Gun Control

Credit Kathy Morris from here

That’s right! American states differ greatly on whether they support gun control or not. Unlike religion, this concept has less of a pattern. There really doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to which states support more gun control over others when we talk about permits. States that require permits vs those that don’t are pretty scattered all over the place. However, when we look at states that are gun-friendly, or are more accepting of having guns in general, the trends become more clear. These places usually coincide with states that are more rural or where people most like to go hunting.

The South and some parts of the West are pretty evenly supportive of guns. There are some lone anomalies, like Nevada in the West, Iowa in the Midwest, or New Hampshire in New England. Overall, it’s easy to see the trend. Southern states support guns. A couple of random states in the Midwest support guns. Some random western states and most of the Northeast don’t support guns. Apparently, Delaware, New Jersey, and Hawaii really hate guns. I feel like the big game hunting isn’t so good in those states, though.

Ethnic Background

The U.S. is definitely a diverse nation where nearly all ethnicities and nationalities (not to mention cuisines) can be found. What is Laotian food, anyway?

However, this too depends on the state or city in question. For example, most big cities have more diverse populations than the rural areas. There are several cities with more “minorities” than there are white people (check my other article here for more on this). Looking across the board, cities are usually where you’ll find a large chunk of diversity at.

Read it on Reddit

Still, there are some other factors to look at. As you can see, people of English ancestry are found especially in the South and the West. German ancestry is all over that central-north area of the country, while Scandinavian ancestry sits way in the North. The Irish filled up around New England, while Italians were mostly around the Tri-State area (Metro New York). Native Americans are dotted about the West, while you even see many Inuit at the top of Alaska. French ancestry is strong in the Northeast and around southern Louisiana. Something to remember about the German area is that, even though it takes up the most space, most of that region has a small and scattered population.

Political Stance

Now, I don’t like to get political, trust me. I will say that every state pretty much has either strong support for Democrats or Republicans. Some things to look for are that the West Coast, some western states, and the Northeast tend to swing more left, while most the other states swing right. Still, you’ll find that across the country, most large urban areas will be more liberal-minded than not, and most rural or small urban areas will lean conservative. There are a few small exceptions to this, but it is almost the rule when looking at political stance.

Something else that’s interesting is the so-called “Swing States.” These are states that are caught in the middle and may stand on one side or the other depending on who’s running for office. Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are classic examples of Swing States. In the most recent election (2020) some states like Georgia or Arizona proved to be new examples of Swing States. Even Texas showed to be a little more liberal than usual, despite its long history of being overwhelmingly conservative. No matter what you thought of the election, there’s no denying that some places in America feel a little more blue than red. All we need is a white party to complete the American flag. Maybe it could balance the other two?

Language & Immigration

We already looked at ancestral ties between Americans in different states, but what about the newcomers? You might know that Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the U.S., but who speaks it depends on where you are. The Southwest has the most Spanish speakers, but most of them are from Mexico, with a big group of Central Americans and small groups of others. Meanwhile, Florida and the East Coast have tons more Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and South Americans. Oh, and a lot of Mexicans too. Geography plays a role in this, since the East is closer to the Caribbean, while the West literally touches on Mexico.

You also get lots of Asians with their respective languages in major cities, but especially on the West Coast and New York. Some of the biggest and most authentic Asian communities are in places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and so on. Of course, the West and East coasts are closest to Asia, so that’s where a bunch of the Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, and even Middle Eastern immigrants have gone along with their various languages. For more on languages, check this post.

Something else to look at is historic minorities in the U.S. African Americans are especially prevalent in both the South, since that’s where most the African slaves were taken, and big cities since that’s where they moved to find work and security after being freed. Native Americans are most prevalent in parts of the West because that’s where the most open and inhospitable parts of the country are. Many nations and tribes were driven from their homelands further east and forced to relocate out West, trading lush forests and rivers for, you know, deserts, tornadoes, and rattlesnakes. They were also forced to live with the people that already occupied these regions which was a problem because they spoke completely different languages, had different cultures, and were already there. Well, that’s another post.

Weather Factor

Speaking of tornadoes, a big part of the identity of someone from any given state or city is their weather. It might sound trivial at first, but I’ll show you. Think of Southern California and what comes to mind? Sunshine, beaches, and palm trees — I hope. Please, try not to think of anything bad! But this is the association someone from SoCal has, and so it goes for any other state or region. Seattle is famous for being rainy and cloudy, Arizona is known for extreme desert climates, Colorado is known for its mountains and skiing, and Florida is known for being sunny and tropical, with the occasional tropical storm. Chicago is famous for being windy and cold in the winter, while Hawaii is a paradise where it’s always a nice beach day. The weather ends up determining a lot of how we perceive each state and city.

Identity

So, you put all these factors together and you get a good idea of what the identity of someone from a certain state or region might be like. There are many other factors, by the way, and no two people are the same, but this can give you an idea. For example, someone from New York City is more likely to be a Catholic with Italian ancestry who doesn’t really approve of guns, probably a Democrat who speaks English but if they speak Spanish they’re family is likely from the Caribbean or maybe they immigrated from China, they definitely like Chinese and Caribbean food but they’re used to hot summers and freezing cold winters. Anyway, they might be none of those things, but you get the point. Every state and major city is a little (or a lot) different.

Alright! Tell me what you think of this post. Does your country have lots of diversity like the U.S.? Can you name some other differences between the states? Do you want to guess my profile based on this list? (hint, hint) I’m from Los Angeles.

Also, contact me or send me a question if you want to know more, talk, or give some suggestions for future posts. Right here: tietewaller@gmail.com

Thanks and be safe!

Here are some more resources:

Religion in the U.S.: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

Map of religions by county: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/dominant-religions-in-the-us-county-by-county

Least religious places in U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_religiosity#:~:text=According to a 2011 Gallup,%)%20were%20near%20the%20median.

Gun-friendly states: https://www.zippia.com/advice/least-gun-friendly-states/

Ethnic Ancestry in the U.S.: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/bfpbzu/largest_ancestry_groups_in_the_united_states_by/

Isn’t America all cold and snowy?

Oh, my friends from down south. Friends from around the equator, the tropics, the desert, and elsewhere … Chances are the U.S. is bigger than your country. And if it’s not, then you should know the answer. Here we go:

So this one’s less about Americans and more about geography. Still, this is a doubt (as stated in my brilliant intro) that I get from people who live in or around the tropics. The U.S. is up north, right? Just like Europe, Canada and Russia. These are places generally perceived to be cold and covered in snow. One thing that some people forget is that the U.S. is a gigantic country with 50 states. Not only that, but the States also cover just about every biome or ecological zone you can think of. I’d like to mention that even Americans fall into this, many from more southern states seeing the North as always being cold. Anyway, to show you what I’m talking about, here’s a nice map that shows the biomes in color.

28. Being Grounded – Beyond the Pail
from here

Now, that map includes Canada and Mexico, but you can get an idea for how big and ecologically diverse this country really is. The contiguous U.S. are the 48 states all connected to one another on the mainland. They alone have:

Temperate Forests (hot in the summer, cold in the winter):

  • think the whole eastern part of the country, from Maine down into Florida and over to Midwest

Plains & Prairies:

  • pretty much the whole middle part of the country, from Minnesota down to Texas

Alpine Forests:

  • all the Western mountain parts, including the Rockies

Desert:

  • that’s right, think of the Southwest, from Arizona up to Idaho

Mediterranean (dry but not a desert):

  • basically the California coast

And the southern tip of Florida is the only part of the Lower 48 states considered tropical.

The U.S. also has two other states. Alaska is huge, almost as tall and as long as the 48 states when you count all its little islands! Alaska is famous for being cold and icy, and it is home to the only tundra and taiga (tundra with some trees) climates of all the States. But even Alaska has lush forests and mountains.

And let’s not forget Hawaii, a place that almost never gets cold (except for at the tops of its many volcanoes) and is the only state truly in the tropics. Hawaii and Alaska, by the way, are full U.S. states just like California, Kentucky, Illinois, or any other. It’s a lot like how French Guiana (Guiane) is fully part of France even though it’s not in Europe. Physically, anyway.

513 fotos de stock e banco de imagens de Temecula Valley - Getty Images
Mediterranean climate in California (that’s right, Getty Image)

There is one interesting fact to follow all of this; even though there are several states with warmer climates, such as Hawaii, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, etc., pretty much all the states still get snow or really cold temperatures anyway.

As I said before, Hawaii has those tall volcanoes, and all the desert states also have tall mountains that get snow. Even the South gets snow in some areas due to mountains like the Ozarks and Appalachians. So if you measure it by states and now individual regions, then every state does technically get snow, even though it depends on the altitude in those lower states.

It turns out that the places as a whole that don’t get so much as a single snowflake are Guam and the Virgin Islands of the U.S. variety, which are both territories, not states, and are both groups of tropical islands. They are also low-altitude, which explains why Hawaii gets a bit of snow but they don’t.

For the most part, the answer to if the U.S. is cold and snowy is Yes, all of the states do get snow. But in many of the Southern states, snow is a lot more rare than in the North or Mountains. Even within many of the lower states, there are large regions that do not see snow like, say, Houston, San Diego, New Orleans, and so on. Also, don’t forget that large parts of the U.S. are either Semi-Arid (kinda dry) or Humid, so during the summer much of the country is blasted in heat. Much of that cold weather doesn’t come until those winter months.

Unless you’re in Alaska, of course.

For more information, please check the resources here below, as well as linked to the images.

Do you think the U.S. is cold? Have you ever been somewhere tropical or hot in the U.S.? Would you want to visit Alaska?! Please comment below or send me your thoughts directly! tietewaller@gmail.com 😉

U.S. biomes: http://www.glencoe.com/sec/science/glencoescience/unitprojects/climatemap.html

Where in the U.S. has it never snowed?: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/places-where-it-has-never-snowed-30142

Aren’t Americans socially cold and emotionally guarded?

So, this one is going to be more about my own opinions and experiences, though I did do a little bit of research just in case.

As far as the above question goes, the doubt about whether Americans are emotionally cold with others and guarded with their feelings usually comes from countries that have really (really!) open and social societies — places like South America or the Caribbean — or places that are super family oriented — the same places including most of Asia and Africa — at least to generalize. In my experience, I’ve found that many Europeans and Asians tend to see Americans as emotional, expressive of their feelings, and sometimes — in the best of cases — very giving and sweet. This doubt then, I would assume, comes from people in these very “open” societies that see the U.S. on the same pedestal as Europe or East Asia. I’m flattered, really! But yes, there is a difference.

America, much like Canada and other parts of the American continent in general, was constructed by very different types of people from diverse countries and even continents, that had to find ways to trust each other and work together. Given this culture of mixing and melding, many areas of America had to learn to be open and trusting of one another.

But, there’s always a contradiction;

Now, there are lots of Americans that are emotionally guarded, even seem kind of mean, but that’s also a cultural thing. Like I said, we’re mixed, and so we have a heritage of people that are very suspicious of strangers or that don’t share emotions as much. For men in general, it has been traditionally looked down upon to share your feelings, express emotions, and so on. This norm has been steadily changing though, and many of the younger people, especially, are becoming more comfortable with self-expression (just listen to Emo music or Emo rap). You all know who colonized us, and the English are famous for being sort of evasive emotionally. Again, to generalize.

Some factors that historically contributed to this were:

  • wars against foreign powers
  • wars within our borders
  • racial discrimination
  • racial violence
  • riots
  • creepy child abductors
  • mass shootings
  • sometimes our media/government/next-door neighbor has intentionally scared us more than need be

But we get by like any other people.

Another factor in this difference in emotional expression is a matter of East vs West. Eastern cultures tend to connect emotion more to family and community, while Western cultures link emotion to the inner state, meaning it’s more of an individual thing. Even though Americans in general value independence, individualism, and self responsibility, we humans are made to live in communities. We rely on each other for emotional well-being, and a society that’s famous for individualism is vulnerable to certain emotional setbacks. There are scarily high rates of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as hospitalized, suicidal, or self-harming individuals, not to mention the high amount of suicides. I’ll leave the stats out this time since this post isn’t about mental illness, but you can bet there’s a lot of it to go around.

Not to fear! In the end, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments.

You could easily visit the U.S. and meet the rudest, most guarded person ever on the same day that you meet the most expressive and kind person ever. I’ve met people who wouldn’t let their own momma stay a night in their home, and people that would shelter a whole block-full of strangers if they could.

We’ve got it all. Some might say it’s regional, since the South and Midwest are known for being more open, relaxed, laid-back; after all, they call it “Southern hospitality” for a reason. In my experience, kind and expressive people can be found all over the country, though whether you’re in a big, stressful city or a calm, small town also makes a difference in the quantity.

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What were your experiences with Americans like? Were they nice and expressive? Were they really guarded and mean? Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to check out some other articles to learn more!

Here are some resources for further reading!

Emotional Tendencies in America: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/01/08/an-emotional-america/

Emotional Complexity in Different Countries: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/emotional-complexity-study/426672/

Weren’t the British the colonizers of the U.S.A.?

This is a great question! After all, Americans mostly speak English. We’ve all heard about the original 13 colonies and how the British came to set up shop in the new continent. But the story goes a little deeper than that. Let’s look at some of the powers that had their hands in the American pie.

To start, there were a bunch of failed colonies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts by the English, Spanish, and French early on (include Scandinavian Vikings if we really want to go back). The Portuguese and the Basques were also frequent visitors along the Atlantic in the 1500s and before, though they didn’t stop to settle.

The English/British

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Flag of England.svg
  • the first to establish permanent colonies in the U.S. (not the continent, though)
  • had two main original settlements that grew and expanded out of New England and Chesapeake Bay
  • at first, were mostly groups like the Puritans seeking more religious freedom, or poor servants and farmers mostly from England
  • some colonies got lots of Irish-Scots settlers and expanded west into Native American territory, others got many more diverse settlers
  • we all know about the Atlantic slave trade

The main thing to think about with the British is that their culture, language, and society were the most influential early on in American history which is why the states maintained the English language and other cultural influences from the British after so long.

The Spanish

Flag of Spain (1785–1873, 1875–1931).svg
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
  • established some of the first settlements still inhabited in the U.S., including the oldest at St. Augustine, FL
  • owned huge expanses of land in North America, including a portion of the Deep South and the whole western half of the current United States (mostly Luisiana or Alta California), even some areas of Canada, not to mention some territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
  • they either lost or gave up a lot of this land to England or the U.S. over the centuries
  • states Oregon, Montana, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida names all come from Spanish words, literature, or colonies

Spain had a pretty big cultural impact on the Gulf Coast and the American Southwest. Many place names (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Santa Fe, etc.), lots of architecture, and cultural events come from Spanish and Mexican traditions.

The French

Flag of France (1794–1815, 1830–1958).svg
Pavillon royal de la France.svg
  • had lots of colonies spread out through the central U.S. and east Canada
  • had lots of fights against England and confusing conflicts and alliances with Native Americans, they later gave up most their land to the English or Americans

France also had a big impact on place names (New Orleans, Des Moines, St. Louis, Eau Claire, Vermont) and cultural events, such as Mardi Gras and Cajun culture in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The Dutch

Statenvlag.svg
Flag of Netherlands
  • set up colonies mostly in present-day New York and New Jersey
  • the British took over their main city, New Amsterdam, and changed it to New York, but Dutch culture stuck around in those rural areas for centuries after

The Dutch paved the initial way for America’s biggest and most iconic city. Some of its boroughs and surrounding towns are even named in honor of the Dutch (Brooklyn or Breuckelen, Staten Island or Staaten Eylandt, Harlem or Haarlem).

The Swedes

Flag of Sweden
  • made a small colony that only lasted 17 years before being sucked into New Netherland
  • the Bronx (after Bronck’s River) is named after a Swedish captain

Sweden’s colony was short-lived, but they introduced the first log cabins and some of the oldest churches to the future nation.

Also, let’s not forget Russia who colonized Alaska. The U.S. later purchased it, though, and most of the Russians left.

As you can see, there were a lot more European powers that settled the U.S. other than the English. Despite the obvious impact of the British here in the States, we also had a few other countries reaching in for a chance to colonize the future U.S.A.

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P.S. I know that the Native Americans were already on the continent, and the colonial powers took these lands away from them. This includes First Nations in Alaska and Polynesians in Hawaii, among others. This answer is just to focus on the aspect of European colonial and cultural influence in the U.S., not to focus on the destructive aspect of their settlement in the region.

Kenai Peninsula's Historic Russian Churches - Northwest Travel Magazine
Russian Church in Alaska: from here
Old Swedes Church - First State National Historical Park (U.S. National  Park Service)
Old Swedes Church, Delaware: from here
A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York —
Dutch architecture, New York: from here
Home Architecture 101: French Colonial
French colonial architecture, Louisiana: from here
Historic Architecture in California
Spanish architecture in California: from here
New England Architecture | Guide to House Styles in New England
English colonial architecture, New England: from here

Check out these resources and other articles here on CultSurf!

Colonial History of the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_history_of_the_United_States#Russian_colonies

First Arrivals of Europeans to Settle the U.S.: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/settlement/text1/text1read.htm

Origins of New York City Borough Names: https://www.amny.com/news/nyc-boroughs-names-1-32096222/

Aren’t Americans really tall and fat?

There are many stereotypes about the American people. As one of them, I’ve learned to identify a few less favorable ones in my time. However, the biggest stereotype of all we could arguably identify as:

Fat.

And I didn’t even have to research that one. Just ask anyone — anyone — not from the U.S. and they’ll tell you how chunky we all are. Heck, scratch them out the picture; we’ll tell you how fat we are, and then go and tell ourselves how fat each other is.

As the cliché goes, there’s good reason for everyone to believe this. Americans aren’t the fattest population in the world by percentage. A bunch of nations in the Pacific (and Kuwait for some reason) have proportionally more obese people, with little Nauru topping out at 61%. But, to be fair, Nauru is the smallest state in the world besides Monaco and Vatican City, and it only has about 12,000 people. Match that with the U.S. that has over 300 million, and you get over a third of the people being obese (118M) and another 105M that are generally overweight. That’s almost two-thirds of the nation being overweight. What’s more, sadly 1 in 6 American children is obese.

So this one is pretty true.

Some trends about this, though, are:

  • childhood obesity is on the decline
  • almost half of the African-American community is overweight
  • there’s more obesity as a whole in the South than elsewhere in the country
  • fun-fact, Colorado is the least overweight state
  • not-so-fun-fact, obesity is on the rise across the globe

Pretty much the entire Western World (the Americas, Europe) plus Australia and Oceania see more deaths from being overweight than being underweight. The U.S. is a big part of this problem too since fast-food and processed food items have been made easy, famous, and accessible to much of the rest of the world. Now, we’re not the only players in this, but America definitely plays a huge role in the enduring presence of overweight-ness.

All that said, of course all Americans aren’t fat. I’m pretty underweight, and there are about a whole third of Americans that aren’t overweight. That has to count for something.

But, on to a quality a little less shameful than obesity: height! This is an interesting one because, apparently, Americans used to be the tallest people in the world for a while. Studies seem to show a correlation between the wealth of a country and the height of its citizens.

Despite the U.S. having the highest income on average now, Americans even out at around 175 cm tall.

Let’s face it, if your reading this, you probably don’t use inches and feet.

They still fall short behind the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the tallest of all: the Dutch. It looks like Paul Bunyan turned ex-pat in the Netherlands (or to Canada, where he belongs). As it goes, Americans still rank as some of the tallest people in the world, so we’re not far off the mark.

*A quick note about this is that Asians and “Hispanics” tend to be shorter than non-Hispanic white or black people.*

In summary, and without digging too deep, Americans are pretty fat and tall. They’re one of the tallest nations overall in the world, home to the most overweight people under one starry flag. But don’t get me wrong, there are many a short and/or thin American person to be found. A bunch of them are related to me.

Make sure to check these resources folks. There are some really helpful articles for understanding America’s weight and height situation with lots of interesting facts. Comment and let me know what you think!

The height situation in the U.S.: https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-the-tallest-of-them-all-its-no-longer-the-americans-11553254201#:~:text=Based on white and black,U.S. compares to Western Europeans.

Comparing countries’ average heights: https://www.healthline.com/health/average-height-for-men#world–record-heights

Interesting facts about weight/obesity in America: https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity-facts#13.-Colorado-has-the-lowest-obesity-rates.

Other quick facts about obesity in America: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

Defining overweight and obesity: https://www.who.int/health-topics/obesity#tab=tab_1

Who’s Paul Bunyan?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bunyan

Aren’t Americans racist, segregated, or otherwise xenophobic?

Well, which ones? At the home level or the political level? It depends on who you’re asking, but here are some things to keep in mind:

Black Lives Matter. This recent movement has ignited a whole swath of emotions from both supporters and opponents of its ideals.

“Don’t all lives matter?”

–one might ask. And on a philosophical, principle-based ideology, yes, they do all matter. But looking at several parameters comparing black Americans to other “races” it’s easy to spot a disparity, especially between whites and blacks.

Here are just a few charts I found particularly alarming:

Fatal police shootings per million by race
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
marijuana usage vs possession arrests by race
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
household wealth of black and white americans
Madison Hoff/Business Insider

In these three charts, you can start to get a taste for how disproportionately society treats one group of people over another. Now, there are some important things to note here:

  1. About half of the deaths caused by police violence are suffered by whites. However, more blacks are killed in proportion to any other racial group, alarming since they make up a much smaller part of the population
  2. Even though marijuana usage is becoming more legalized across the country in recent decades, and about the same amount of whites and blacks admit to using it, a much higher percentage of blacks are arrested for marijuana possession
  3. White households overall are more likely to be high income, while black households overall are more likely to be poor

These are just what numbers show us; do with them what you wish.

There are plenty of white people killed by police or put in jail, and plenty of black people are wealthy. But at the heart, the U.S.’s system slows down the progress of certain groups.

And it’s not just a current phenomenon. Many opportunities exist for all races today, which is great, although, historically these minorities didn’t have a chance. Institutional slavery was one part of this. Theories of some races being better than others was another yet related one. Why else would a bunch of people come to one continent thinking they were “destined” to teach and conquer another?

I also want to point out that this problem isn’t uniquely European. Slavery, colonization, and segregation have existed on all populated continents throughout most of human history. People are just cool like that.

America has a dirty history of xenophobia, which is fearing or looking down upon people of foreign nations, cultures, religions, etc. Back in the early days, we were worried about Germans and Scandinavians taking our jobs and land. Later it was the Irish, then Eastern Europeans, Italians, and Asians. More recently it’s been Latin Americans and Muslims, but the history is long-standing. All these groups suffered violence and retaliation when migrating to America, the only difference being that those groups seen as having a “lesser” skin color, “lesser” religion, or from “needier” countries have suffered a lot more. This discrimination persists especially strongly in communities that have been divided for generations.

The U.S. is an incredibly complex country. The perception of it being a nation of immigrants has influenced many to arrive and continue with their old customs, estranging them from the general American culture. Fear of immigrants and frequent hostility towards them has left many feeling unwelcome to the point of willfully leaving to other countries or going back home. Who wants someone yelling,

Go back to where you came from!

or receiving despising looks all the time just because of their appearance or religious beliefs? I’m sure that I’d feel terrible about myself if I were put down for stuff I couldn’t even control. The government definitely creates policies that encourage this fear of foreigners. Think of:

  • Japanese-Americans put in Internment Camps
  • Irish migrants advertised as being subhuman invaders
  • Mexicans and Central Americans being mass deported
  • travel bans imposed on Muslim-majority countries

That last one’s pretty recent, eh?

To bring some sunshine to this story, Americans, in general, seem to be really well-meaning folks. We don’t like to see others suffering, and we want to be a peaceful and happy society that works together. Many are truly interested in other cultures, languages, and religions. We get a bad rep, but many of us are trying to break those closed-minded, bigoted stereotypes that we’ve put on ourselves.

Anyway, check out these pages below to see more charts about the perception of racial issues in America, and let me know what you think! There’s everything from income comparisons to opinions on how a person’s race affects social class mobility. There’s even an interesting little graph showing how Americans view the “N” word. There are a whole 7% of whites that think it’s okay “Sometimes” or “Always” for white people to say the “N” word, which is just silly. It’s a very small percent, but I’m trying to imagine who these people are. Are they really racist or are they just dotty white dudes that hang out around black people a lot and get away with it? Probably both, but that word deserves a whole article to itself.

So, the answer to the original question is: Yes, we’re a little racist, segregationist, and xenophobic, but it’s a long-time bad habit. We’ve been trained this way. We’ve been taught this way. Our nation started this way. But don’t forget, it’s not just an American problem. And, we’re trying! Many are fighting to fix this. Thinking about those positive-minded citizens helps me sleep better at night.

Resources:

Charts showing how racial differences appear in society: https://www.businessinsider.com/us-systemic-racism-in-charts-graphs-data-2020-6

For the history of xenophobia in the U.S.: https://now.tufts.edu/articles/long-history-xenophobia-america

For Americans’ perception of racial issues: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/

Why are they called “Americans?”: An alternate history

Let me tell you about the history of a great nation called Estados Unidos de América.

A long time ago there was a German cartographist called Martin who liked to make big world maps. He noticed there was a huge stretch of land to the west that everyone was calling the “New World,” but it didn’t have a true name yet.

“I can’t leave this continent alone when there are great names like Africa and Asia.”

In deciding what to call this New World, he landed on the name “America” because of a Florentine explorer he’d heard of, Amerigo, who had correctly identified the land as a new continent, unlike the previous explorers. Amerigo himself was likely not aware of this honor while he was alive.

Fast forward some 200 years; Martin’s maps become famous and the name America has stuck. Several European powers have scouted out new lands in the “unclaimed” continent and set up colonies all around. Spain is no exception.

The colonies do well for some time, when suddenly, a few things change. After several conflicts earlier in the century against the English, Dutch, and Austrians, Spain decides to impose a bunch of ridiculous taxes one after another on their American colonies. This upsets many of the settlements all over the continent, as expected. After a little public taunting, Spanish soldiers open gunfire on a group of locals in the city of Veracruz. Again, not a good decision.

As a result of high taxes and tariffs, not to mention the attacks on their Mexican brothers, Cuban rebels go and dump sugar and silver exports that were on their way to Spain into the port of Havana. This event triggers similar actions in Santo Domingo. As a response to the Caribbean rebellion, the ports of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and others along the coast of New Spain are completely shut down. To add flame to the fire, Spain requires the criollos (the white American colonists) in all of its territories to provide housing for royal troops inside of their homes.

Radical colonists, now tired of Spain’s patronizing, shoot and kill several Spanish troops while they attempt to stop liberation rebellions in Mexico and Peru. Knowing of this, Spain goes and burns the ports at San Juan, Lima, and Veracruz to intimidate the criollos even more. Now there is a sense of urgency and togetherness for all the Capitancies General and Viceroys that, until then, didn’t feel a strong sense of unity. Those in Mexico and Peru worry about high tariffs on exports. Those in the Caribbean region and New Granada worry about their slave trade. Chile and Río de la Plata stay out of it for fear that Spain will invoke grave consequences. Plus, they weren’t the ones attacked in the first place.

New Spain, New Granada, Peru, Venezuela and the Caribbean join forces and defeat Spain. They gain full independence at about the same time. They function on the continent as independent states but have a hard time governing people, managing their economies, and organizing an effective military. After some years of trouble, colonial leaders create a convention to decide on the future of their former Spanish lands. They gather together the states’ brightest thinkers, most successful warriors, and best strategists and politicians; the Delegates.

Weeks go by of heated debates, unsatisfactory compromises, and time away from their homes and families. In the end, the delegates agree to unite their states as a single nation, but can’t agree on a name for their country. Just weeks ago, they were all independent states with their own names and special histories.

“We should be called Mexico since we were the first ones settled.”

“No. New Granada is the most centrally located, so we should take the name.”

“Peru is best since we are the richest.”

“Look at us, Venezuela! We have the strongest ports and access to the Amazon.”

The Caribbean delegates decided to just stay quiet at this part of the debate. One thing they all could agree on was not naming their new nation after Spain. In haste, they sign their constitution with “la Declaración unánime de los siete Estados Unidos de América” in Castillian — the seven United States of America — with the intention of changing it later on. After all, there are no other independent states on the entire continent to care about it, and the name came from an Italian guy 200 years earlier who had no ancestral ties to the land anyway.

More years go by, and the Estados Unidos expand their territory from the tundras of North America’s arctic to the Andes in the south. As more Spanish lands are liberated, they choose to join (or are bought by) the growing Estados Unidos. The British, French, Portuguese, and Dutch colonies all gain independence over the course of centuries. Even the Río de la Plata and Chile eventually become independent from their Spanish rulers, although peacefully, unlike their bigger neighbor.

After centuries of conflicts, from civil wars and civil rights movements, slave revolts and resistance from slave owners, Napoleonic wars, two world wars, and industrialization, the old Estados Unidos de América never does end up changing their name. By chance or luck, they didn’t divide and have become the most powerful nation in the western world, one of the most powerful on Earth. Their culture has won the world over from countless innovations in music, science, film, literature, sports, and many other fields. Though, they have a nasty habit of getting involved in other countries’ affairs.

The non-Spanish countries of the Americas assume that Estados Unidos de América must be arrogant; they do call their country América for short, and themselves Americanos. Why not Unitedstatesians, since that would be more appropriate? But, come on, estadounidense doesn’t sound right in Spanish. To make things worse, the other American countries learn that North and South America are one continent since they’re connected. But Estados Unidos learns they are distinct continents since, like Africa and Eurasia, the two are only connected at a very small point.

Not knowing this, the Americanos see no harm in their name and unknowingly offend tons of people outside their borders. Besides, it’s practical for them. They’ve been calling themselves Americanos since they were born and for almost 500 years. The poor other countries of America wish they would just change their name already. Why did that land of ignorant fools, who can’t even tell the difference between Jamaica and Guyana, ever get to “own” the name of the continent that belongs to all of them? Not like the names of their precious countries. The names that were given by people who were not natives of the land and that gave names of people and saints who they themselves never knew.

The other countries continue to question this for eternity. The Americanos, especially those that don’t travel or study, remain oblivious to the fact that their name causes any controversy at all.

The End.

Aren’t Americans rich or have an easy way to make money?

Rich? Of course not! Let’s look at why…

A common misconception from the average foreigner that sees an American on vacation is, “Well, he or she must have money. Let’s charge them a teeny bit more.” And there’s good reason to think this way. Just look at the value of the dollar compared to any kind of peso, real, yen, rupee, or ruble. The values are outstandingly disproportionate. So, Americans on vacation can be charged a little more. Don’t feel sorry!

The thing is, you have to look at how many Americans travel abroad. The fact is only about 11% of us traveled abroad last year when you don’t count Mexico or Canada, which was even less than the year before it. I don’t even want to imagine how few traveled this year (2020, Covid-19, etc.).

The poverty threshold in the U.S. is set at $25,700 a year for a family of four, which accounts for some 38 million Americans.

Those that are more likely to be poor are:

  • single-parent families rather than couples
  • women, in general, rather than men
  • children rather than elder people

And there are nearly 4 million disabled persons living in poverty

Native Americans and blacks are also most likely to be poor, while whites and Asians are equally the least likely. But that’s a common trend pretty much everywhere.

So, that’s just talking about “regular poor.” What about those living in real, intense poverty? Well, counting Americans that make less than half of what’s considered the poverty threshold, there are still over 17 million that live in this zone called “extreme poverty.” That means they go hungry, that they don’t have a place to live, or live in dreadful conditions, if not on the street. That’s not to mention the over 93 million that are almost in poverty; that means if one tiny string gets cut, they’re qualified. To add to all that, there are even higher rates of Americans that face unstable access to sufficient food than those facing poverty. Surprising, isn’t it?

Now, don’t feel too bad; the vast majority of Americans work and are able to make a solid living, even live well. Due to the relatively developed infrastructure and welfare system, most poor people in the U.S. don’t have to live on the streets or in shantytowns like in so many other countries. The poverty rates calculated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) show that the U.S. has higher poverty rates than countries like Chile, Mexico, Turkey, and Russia, and falls at almost the bottom of all income metrics when compared to other “developed” nations.

To explain better, this doesn’t mean that the poor people in the U.S. are in worse states than the poor in Mexico, for example; it just means that there are more people in poverty in proportion to the overall population. After all, America has over 2.5 times more people than Mexico. Mind you, the way each country defines poverty is slightly different, so there very well may be more Chileans living in extreme poverty than Americans, even though there are more Americans living in poverty overall.

With all that said, Americans, in general, are better off than those in many countries, and our nation does have lots of programs that make life a little easier than it would be in a “developing” nation. Still, despite high rates of employment, poverty and hunger are still common issues across the country in both the biggest of cities (look at the homeless in Los Angeles) and rural areas (look at some of the unincorporated towns of California). California is a whole other special case, but you get the point. 

Poverty is a global problem that of course affects some places more than others. The U.S. in all its capitalist glory is, yes, still one of those places. Check the resources to learn more!

Resources:

Americans that travel abroad: https://www.statista.com/statistics/214774/number-of-outbound-tourists-from-the-us/#:~:text=In 2019%2C there were approximately,of 41.77 million overseas travelers.&text=Excluding visitors to Canada and,in 2018 at 41.77 million.

Poverty and hunger demographics in the U.S.: https://www.povertyusa.org/facts

Poverty rates in OECD nations: https://www.statista.com/statistics/233910/poverty-rates-in-oecd-countries/

A more in-depth look at poverty statistics in the U.S.: https://www.epi.org/publication/ib339-us-poverty-higher-safety-net-weaker/

Low-income places in the U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lowest-income_places_in_the_United_States

Don’t Americans only speak English?

The short answer is …

Well, English is the main language of business, government operations, and daily life for most Americans. There are a few interesting, and perhaps confusing, points to be made about this, though. For example, the U.S. is one of the few countries without an official language. English just happens to be the main language in use because of the long history of British immigration in the beginning, and later, the consistent assimilation of other immigrants into the British turned American culture.

Despite this, thirty of the fifty states do have an official language (English), while the rest, just like at the federal level, don’t have any.

Washington, Rhode Island and Oregon:

  • “English Plus” policy, meaning there is a wider inclusion of languages available for public and governmental use, even though English is still the predominant language in those states.

French has a special status in Louisiana, as with Spanish in New Mexico, but they aren’t official state languages. Cherokee also has official status within the Cherokee lands inside Oklahoma. Other states with native (pre-colonial) languages in an official status are:

  • South Dakota (Sioux)
  • Hawaii (Hawaiian)
  • Alaska, which has over twenty official languages besides English that I don’t dare try to pronounce.

Many states, such as California, Arizona, and Texas, have policies that facilitate public procedures and information in other languages like Spanish, Tagalog, Korean, and so on. And don’t forget that the most linguistically diverse city in the world is located in the United States. New York may have about 800 languages spoken within the city with Queens as the most diverse borough.

With that said, it is common to think of other languages as being very popular among immigrant communities. Few know that the nation home to the second-most Spanish speakers in the world is the U.S. of A., only behind Mexico. That’s 53 million Spanish speakers, or over 16% of all Americans.

Nearly half the population of America’s five biggest cities don’t speak English at home.

In some areas, like Hialeah, Florida, East Los Angeles, California, and Laredo, Texas, it’s over 90% of the population. In a big city like Los Angeles alone, it’s almost 60% of people who speak a language other than English. This trend isn’t just confined to places near the border. Other locations all around the country such as Connecticut and New Jersey (northeast), Illinois and Michigan (Midwest), and Colorado and Nevada (west) have cities or counties where over a third of the people speak a language other than English.

Languages that have over a million speakers:

  • Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Arabic, French and Korean

That doesn’t include second-language speakers. Haitian Creole and several languages from the Indian subcontinent are also on the rise. Even though English is the main language in the U.S. by far, there are tons of languages spoken all throughout the country. So, don’t be surprised if you meet some Americans that respond to your “How are you?” in Gujarati.

References:

U.S. has no official language: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/20/us/english-us-official-language-trnd/index.html

Chart showing official languages of the states: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Official_languages_of_U.S._states_and_territories

Languages of the U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States

Languages spoken in Alaska: https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol/alaska/state-language-or-poetry/english#:~:text=Official%20State%20Languages%20of%20Alaska&text=These%20languages%20are%3A,Tlingit%2C%20Haida%2C%20and%20Tsimshian.

Languages spoken in New York City: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-many-languages-are-spoken-in-nyc.html

Spanish speakers in the U.S.: https://telelanguage.com/spanish-speakers-united-states-infographic/

Linguistic diversity in U.S. cities: https://www.lingualinkdc.net/blog/language-diversity-in-the-top-20-cities-in-the-us

U.S. communities where English is not the majority: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._communities_where_English_is_not_the_majority_language_spoken_at_home

Aren’t Americans white? I mean, the vast majority?

So, this is a question whose answer isn’t as simple as it might seem. On the one hand, take major cities:

Los Angeles

  • almost 1.9 million Latinos/Hispanics, outnumbering the non-Hispanic white people there

Chicago

  • has over 840 thousand blacks, just a pinch less compared to the white population

New York

  • has over 2 million Hispanics and black people each, although the Asians aren’t far behind

Atlanta

  • with almost 70 thousand more blacks than whites

New Orleans

  • with over 100 thousand more blacks than whites

Houston

  • over 400 thousand more Hispanics than whites.

*Sorry about the colors. Just wanted you to see how colorful our cities are. ;)*

Other major cities with a majority of minorities: Washington, D.C., Saint Louis (MO), San Jose (CA), San Antonio (TX), Philadelphia (PA), Milwaukee (WI), Miami (FL), Memphis (TN), Long Beach (CA), Honolulu (HI), Fresno (CA), El Paso (TX), Detroit (MI), Dallas (TX), Cleveland (OH), Baltimore (MD), Albuquerque (NM)

Just looking at statistics for individual cities, you can clearly see how diverse America’s urban areas are.

Despite this, I can tell you from experience that when leaving these cities you’ll encounter a lot more white than anything else, which attributes to 60% of Americans claiming to be white but not Hispanic, almost 200 million of the 330 million Americans. Now the next largest demographic would be Hispanics, but that’s a confusing class as well. “Hispanics” can be white or black, though generally mixed or mestizo (mixed white and indigenous American), and the only thing that qualifies them is their being from some country in the huge expanse of Latin America. Latin America doesn’t even have a solid definition, so that tells you how reliable that qualifier is.

Another thing that complicates this answer is the growing population of non-white or mixed-race people. Because there are so many non-white people in big cities, their cultures often are the ones that have the biggest hits on radio, TV, and in the mainstream. That, mixed with a general resentment among the minorities about the country’s racist past, generate a culture that is heavily influenced by non-white American ideals and priorities, though we’ve got a long way to go before those take complete hold.

It would be nice if Americans could live as a true melting pot where everyone mixed and melded together. As for your question, just don’t be surprised on your next trip to Mardi Gras.

Resources:

U.S. cities by racial majorities: https://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/blog/morning_roundup/2015/09/minority-groups-account-for-55-of-buffalo-s.html

Demographics of Albuquerque and other U.S. cities: https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/albuquerque-nm-population

Demographics of the Unites States: https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/united-states-population

Who’s Hispanic in the U.S.: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/15/who-is-hispanic/

Growing diversity in the U.S.: https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-census-data-shows-the-nation-is-diversifying-even-faster-than-predicted/