"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'" (Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream" 1963)
Stereotype vs Reality
The American Dream is progressive. Many people think of it as a fact-checked noun instead of an idea- a house, a white picket fence, a job, a car, a family, and financial stability. What many forget is that it is an opinion. Only you know what you want out of life. You may want all of those traditional things, but there is always more. Personal dreams and goals are the foundation of our country as much as tradition, and they will keep affecting it until we are satisfied.
- Will people ever be satisfied?
- What does it mean to be satisfied?
- Is it attainable, or is it human nature to want more until there is nothing left?
- Is it healthy to be so ambitious?
Difference of Dreams
Each dream is different. Like most things in life, they vary between gender, ethnicity and race, class, skill, upbringing, and background. The American Dream intrigues immigrants and motivates minorities. It inspires people and enables them to hard decisions.
- If Americans are so different and isolated from each other, why is the American Dream considered to be the same for everyone?
- Why does tradition state that we should all have the same goals?
Everyone is driven by what they want or what they can never have. The American Dream is the belief that you can rise up and be successful from nothing. But is it true? Many people view the dream as a warped sense of reality. We are dealt the cards, but some are dealt a better hand than others.
- Do some people have it easier than others based on what they were given?
- Should your status of class effect your identity as an American?
- Can you fully participate in society/the Dream if your level of success is impacted negatively by your surroundings?
The Oppressive Reality
“America is big enough to accommodate all their dreams.” (Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream)
A major flaw of the American Dream is the selfish nature of obsessed idealists. Throughout history, people have generally shown that they are not afraid of stepping on others to achieve their fantasy. Dissatisfied and ambitious, it is easy to become blind- submersed in illusion. Many people succumb to the idea that coexisting dreams are bad for their own success, and therefore, they are willing to bring others down.
- Is it un-American to not pursue the Dream?
- Is it okay to hurt others' chances of success to further your own?
Advertising, photography, and television have played major roles in the perception of the American Dream and it's relationship with race. The modern Dream could be considered a result of the propaganda in media.
This 1884 advertisement for Pears Soap is blunt racism. Their sales pitch was that the soap lightened the skin, helping people of color to conform to the idealistic standards of society.
Advertisements in the 1950s portrayed predominantly content white families with an emphasis on gender roles and financial success.
There was a general lack of representation of diversity.
Even ads for the simplest of products portrayed them to be crucial components of the ideal American life.
War Against Racism in the American Dream
"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" (Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream")
American identity also plays an important role in the American Dream. Guaranteed by the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have our inalienable rights in citizenship- no matter if you are Latino, Asian, European, Native American, black, or white. We are equal; but a lot of our opportunities are not. Discrimination is hardwired into American government, politics, housing, education, and society.
Chicago 1967, Segregated Housing: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000004655947/where-does-the-american-dream-live.html
"Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed." (Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream" 1963)