Everyone has heard of amazingly inspiring narratives, stories of pilgrims moving across oceans in search of religious freedom, to having a beautiful home with a white picket fence or a first generation American being the first in their family to graduate from college. These are all examples of what is considered the American dream. Now, what is the American Dream? Simply put, the American Dream is the optimistic ideal that no matter what you want to do, you’ll be able to achieve economic security through hard work and dedication. In Mark Rank’s work, “What is the American Dream?”, he dissects the American Dream into three key parts. Firstly, he identifies the American Dream “is about having the freedom to pursue one’s interests and passions in life,” then adds on that besides striving for what we are passionate about the American Dream is also about the “importance of economic security and well-being.” The third and final component of the American Dream is the “importance of having hope and optimism with respect to seeing progress in one’s life.” Yet, we must ask ourselves if the American dream is as simple and fair as it reads. With an ideal so widely spread, from generation to generation, we have been able to cultivate and assemble a recurring pattern. The American system has been broken for a long time and needs a lot of work to improve, which is why the American Dream is so effective. The American people have needed this hopeful ideal to keep pushing through life. This ideal is the wood to the fire in the hearts of many people, what keeps many with the strength to work. The American Dream is the light at the end of a very long tunnel, whether there is something for you beyond the light is dependent on you. To be able to analyze and encapsulate the American dream in its totality, we must first take a look at a part of American history not detailed in most textbooks. The Great Migration was by far one of the largest American migrations, about 6 million African Americans moved out of the rural south in hopes of a better quality of life and higher wages between 1916 and 1970. During this movement racial tensions were at an all-time high; the KKK reigned with no interruption, African Americans south of the Mason Dixon line disenfranchised and general abuse towards the black community. Gail Buckley, author of American Patriots, points out that Needham Roberts and Henry Johnson, two young African American soldiers, “Were the first American enlisted men to win” a Croix de Guerre Medal, however, upon their return home they did not receive commendation or war hero titles like many of their fellow, white, soldiers. This was something that the popular, black, newspaper The Chicago Defender did not forget. In fact, they not only fearlessly highlighted the white-on-black hate crimes but also emphasized and uplifted black troops as well. By featuring the accomplishments of African American soldiers throughout 1918, The Chicago Defender presented its own version of patriotism. Professor of African American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlene Regester, writes how in “working to prevent the moral decay and decline of the community” Robert S. Abbott, the paper’s founder and editor, “recognized that his paper had become a vehicle of empowerment.” In a time when white media didn’t cater to the black community, Abbott and those of The Chicago Defender raised and empowered black America enough to inspire others to strive for more and migrate north. However, over a hundred years later the same people continue to live injustices and marginalization even though all the hope, optimism, and hard work put into the endeavor for “freedom to pursue one’s interest.”  In most descriptions, anyone has a chance in the American Dream. Americans grow up thinking that one day they can be the president, a famous musician, a multimillionaire on the stock market. The unspoken truth about the American Dream is that it doesn’t stop to let you catch up, the American Dream is always moving. It is told from a perspective that puts every American at the same starting point, even when that is far from the truth. The painful and ugly truth is that America and all its great opportunities is not open for everyone. An inspiring true story that demonstrates these types challenges but ends with an incredible ending is that of Sonia Sotomayor, the first female Hispanic Supreme Court Judge appointed by President Barack Obama. Born and raised in the public housing of the Bronx, Sonia Sotomayor knew what she wanted from a young age. It seemed like her life was destined to go along just like everyone else from her neighborhood. It seemed as if she lost her father to alcoholism and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes all at once. In a time when type 1 diabetics lifespan was about 40 to 50 years, Sonia lived each day to its fullest and became extremely accomplished albeit her humble starting. Her story makes you truly believe in the Horatio Alger stories depicting struggling and seemingly impossible cases turn around through sweat, blood, and tears. We still must not forget that these amazing stories are the exceptions rather than the rule, not everyone’s story ends with a happy ending. Stories in the Horatio Alger style is yet another reason why the American Dream became so misleading. People read these incredible stories of a once pauper owning his own corporation, heartfelt rags to riches stories, and believe that they too can rise to the occasion. The American dream became the perfect “ad” to place. Paired with the mobility myth this could be potentially dangerous to the psyche of someone striving for more, living day to day in hopes of seeing if the grass really is greener on the other side. The broken American system has always lured people with false promises of “a better life” or “forty acres of land and a mule” to keep the working class trapped in a never ending cycle that only benefits the top one percent. In a country where “urban” is synonymous with “underprivileged” and where most of these “urban” high school students graduate straight into prison, it is tough to see the line drawn in the sand to separate the truth from propaganda force fed to us from history books written by the white man for the white man. According to what Mark Rank had said, the American Dream in its essence can be stripped down to three key parts. Yet how could a father afford “freedom to pursue his interests and passions in life” when he must work fourteen-hour shifts to feed the children he barely has time to see? How can a single Hispanic mother rely on the “importance of economic security and well-being” when she makes 54 cents to a white man’s dollar, meanwhile a white woman makes 78 cents to a white man’s dollar? How could a child in the foster care system cherish the “importance of having hope and optimism with respect to seeing progress in their life” knowing that 25% of young people leaving foster care will be imprisoned shortly after turning 18 and that 70% of the inmates in California State prison are former foster care youths? America is so bent over trying to keep reassuring everyone that the American Dream is more than just an idea, that their shouts of reassurance drown out the millions of cries proclaiming “this isn’t what I dreamed it’d be.” The American dream is one thought easily obtainable by everyone, no matter what your race, social status, or gender. This, however, has been proven to be a misconstrued message, because of one’s ability to achieve the American dream of abundant amounts of economic and political prosperity, reflects directly on the color of their skin, how much money they make each year, and whether they are a male or female. No matter how free a person may be, or how equal of rights they are granted, underlying factors generally uncontrollable will ultimately decide ones ability to achieve the “true” American dream.

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