What Really Is The American Dream?

As stated by author George Monbiot, “if wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” Americans have the belief that no matter what the circumstance, if someone works hard they will get their desired response, and that hard work is directly correlated to success. Even though America is known as the land of opportunity for all, the American dream is biased against minorities, making it more difficult for them to attain their dreams today.

Throughout the history of the United States, the American Dream has been an ideal that unifies all citizens in the belief that hard work will pay off in financial and social success. Americans are not only trying to ensure their own success but also want “to make sure every child has that same opportunity” in the future. As the first settlers of the nation arrived, America was seen as a melting pot of opportunity and it was believed that social status had no bearing on whether one’s dream was achieved. People traveled from all over the world to be able to create a better life than the one that they left behind. America desired to be a place that was able to “shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.” This fresh start was not only for the people themselves but their family and friends as well due to its easy access and stability. Once America was free from British rule, the American Dream was to conquer the land and be able to prosper independently of outside governmental control through “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This saying acted as symbol for those who believed in the spirit of the American dream; “the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that…we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people” in a now independent state. America is built on the basis of hard work and equal opportunities and its eventual lead to success in life.

However, this view of the American dream is extremely one sided. Minority groups especially have faced immense economic and social hardships despite the false illusion of social change within the nation. Despite the nonviolent protests sparking throughout the country and the passing of government legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, African Americans and many minorities still faced discrimination and were viewed as outsiders, even during the late 1960’s aka the supposed era of change. The amplification of racist, anti-minority groups like the KKK during the time period depict the persecution and pressure minorities faced. Many minorities may still reach the American dream, however, their success is severely impacted by factors like their race and social class. As stated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “persons in poor households at or below the Federal Poverty Level… had more than double the rate of violent victimization as persons in high-income households,” meaning that because a higher percentage of minorities are victims of poverty, they are more likely to become involved with crime instead of getting an education of having a successful career.

Even if society’s minority members do have some success, they are still greeted by the same narrow-mindedness and inequality as those who don’t. Currently, a major dilemma that strikes those with even minor levels of success is gentrification, which entails of  “a new class of more affluent residents … moving into once under-invested and predominantly poor communities. Development has followed, typically accompanied by sharp increases in housing prices that can displace a neighborhood’s longtime residents.” White Americans moving into lower class neighborhoods causes minorities and other working class members to be forced out and have to relocate, which shows that no matter what amount of success is achieved, minority groups will always have to use more effort in order to achieve their dreams.

The American Dream is one that only benefits the wealthy upper class while having major setbacks for minority groups. The current reality of the dream is that while all Americans can make progress towards the dream, the lower class faces major disadvantages, as seen throughout history. The equality that is so openly advertised as a staple of American culture continues to be untrue.

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