The United States of America is the land of freedom, justice, and opportunities. All your dreams will come true if you come to this country. Sadly enough, this mentality has caused thousands of individuals to seek a life of mere illusions. Many have wanted a better life for themselves, for their children, and even for their extended families, and as a result they decide to move away from their place of origin. They are lured in believing that America is a place where money falls from the sky, and gold can grow from plants. Little do they know that life in America is far from everything they might have expected. Often times we speak of the American Dream, but what does this really entail? This dream is defined as a dream of social order in which every man and woman will be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable. The American Dream emphasizes the idea that any individual can have social mobility, regardless of where they are from. You come to this country, you work, you receive a lot of money, you buy a very big and beautiful house, you have two perfect kids, and you then decide to buy an expensive car so it can match your social status. The idea of moving up the social ladder is attractive, yet it is literally nothing but a dream. Karl Marx and W.E.B Du Bois were two theorists that exposed the crude realities of this dream.
Karl Marx was interested in studying the distinction of classes in a capitalist society. He stated that class referred to a group of people who shared the same position in relation to the means of production. The ruling class, bourgeoisie, were composed of those who owned the means of production. The subordinate class, proletariat, were workers that lacked ability to sustain themselves. Interestingly, Marx believed that as long as we are living under capitalism, these classes would always remain divided. If Marx lived in this era he would certainly mock the idea of an American Dream. In a capitalist society the Bourgeoisie is responsible for exploiting the workers by obtaining more money than the worker would ever receive. The term Social mobility would go against Marx’s idea of alienation. According to his principles of theory, the worker will remain a hopeless victim in society, a cog on a machine. The worker will never be able to achieve the dream of having a better life then what he currently has. He cannot leave his job because he will remain in debt with everything he has to pay to sustain his family. This reminds me of a photograph in the “The People Bail Out the People” slide show where it states that the new American Dream is to get out of debt. Debt is greater now than it ever was. Individuals that have tried to live a comfortable lifestyle are now faced with decisions of abandoning their houses because of debt. Foreigners still believe in the American Dream, but once they migrate to this country they are faced with the stunning reality that Marx pointed out many years ago. The American Dream does not favor the poor, and never will.
It is not strange that Americans are now starting to accept they are not middle class anymore. The satirical news organization The Onion interviewed several individuals that stated how the idea of making your life better is a dream and a waste of their time. America has had very difficult years in terms of economy. Unemployment rates have increased, there is a lack of jobs, and competition has risen, can we then say that the American Dream still exists? The competition of who is in the business sector raises the question of who has access to that position.
W.E.B Dubois was a theorist that was interested on interrelated concepts of the color line, double consciousness, and the veil. The multidimensionality of color line was characterized by racialized social institutions, symbolic social hierarchy, and internalized attitude. According to Dubois, racism occurs in diverse institutions including that of employment, education, housing, health, and political. The ideology that shapes them is white supremacy. This continues to be a major threat in our current American society, as a result the American Dream is definitely out of reach for those whose complexion is categorized as dark. Du Bois goes further by stating that colonialism and exploitation became central themes to world history. Darker skinned individuals have become the target for disadvantages in society. The American Dream is clearly portrayed as being equal, but the exclusion of certain individuals to mainstream society based on their skin color is not what we would consider equal. Education and employment will be difficult to access if you are discriminated by others. Not to mention housing that will be denied to that individual through red lining. Individuals who come here in search of a bright future should not have to deal with any of these situations. Interestingly the double consciousness that W.E.B Du Bois pointed out included women, minorities of all kinds, undocumented, and those who are disabled. If all of them have received discrimination one way or another, what can we say in regards to the American Dream? Are we still so consumed with this dream that we lack reality? What can we say about the children whose parents came to America to accomplish this American Dream? Similar to Marx’s idea of class consciousness, we should all begin to acknowledge that the American Dream is unreachable.
For thousands the mere thought of obtaining the American Dream is a foolish thought. Individuals like Darcus Howe who was interviewed after the riots in London understand the true meaning of being a target of these institutions. Even though this incident happened in London, NYPD are known for doing “stop and frisks” to people of color. Empirical evidence shows that in 2011 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped and searched by a Police officer. Can one accomplish the American Dream in a society that is filled with lies and injustice? It is clear that they will not.
The analysis of Karl Marx and W.E.B Du Bois expose an in depth knowledge of the social implications that pertain to the American Dream. In a land that is portrayed as being free, equal, and filled with opportunities, one can clearly acknowledge that it is not so. The American Dream has created hope in individuals, but a hope that is unreal and hard to grasp. Americans must learn to survive in a day to day basis with an economy that continues to struggle. The desire to end racism, poverty, and debt is now the real American Dream.
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- Nicole Hala