Throughout my life, there have been moments where I have witnessed a person looked down upon because of their lifestyle or judged because of their perceived status. Maybe their house was smaller or their furniture was older.
This has shown me there’s a lack of empathy in America because of certain expectations that one has to overcome adversities they face.
Recently, I listened to a podcast titled “What We Gain From Pain” by Dr. Jayawickreme. This episode talks about the American mentality that adversity is an opportunity for growth. I agree that struggles can make someone stronger, but Dr. Jayawickreme highlights the negative trend in America that anyone who is unable to overcome their adversity is seen as someone who has failed.
In American culture, such examples can be seen in pop culture ravings such as superhero movies. The “superhero trope” is defined by the podcast as an American mentality shaped by stories involving someone with a weakness who is inevitably made a hero because they overcome it. Overcoming adversity can allow someone to stay afloat, but those who can’t overcome it are rarely taken into account.
In 2021, it was reported that 11.6% of Americans were impoverished. In other words, 37.9 million people in America are seen as living below the poverty line.
These statistics reflect that, in reality, overcoming one’s financial adversity is not that easy. And the expectation that they should is toxic. Most people face situations out of their control. Examples include being diagnosed with a chronic illness or being born into an already financially unstable household.
A lack of education is one aspect of America where not many people are given sufficient tools to “make the most” out of their living conditions. In 2020, it was reported that only 37.9% of Americans 25 and older have graduated from college or another higher education program. Schooling not only offers an education but also programs that takes care of kids while the parents are at work, or with the higher levels like college, offer internships or connections to jobs for when someone graduates.
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Some people simply do not have the same access to higher paying jobs or knowledge of how to find them that inhibits their ability to “rise above” where they are.
It’s as though superhero movies that infiltrate our world hold a certain standard that, in reality, not everyone can live up to. Just think, what if Bruce Wayne never overcame his fear of bats? Or if Clark Kent never overcame his weakness of kryptonite? Just because one cannot overcome an adversity does not mean they are less of a person.
I hope that people can begin to increase their empathy for those who do not have the same access to what they have. Also, people need to recognize that others are not defined by their financial income or ability to overcome it. Furthermore, I hope that America can move to being a more empathetic country and we can help one another with struggles faced throughout our lives.
Carolyn Marshall (she/her) is a sophomore studying media studies focusing in TV, film, and digital production with a minor in English.