The American Dream Unattainable

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

-Frederick Douglas

The American Dream began in the Gilded Age when people started to think that it was achievable to everyone. Self-made entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie became one of the most wealthiest men in the history of the United States. At that time both built their Dream from scratch and because they made their success from the bottom, people thought that everything was possible on the American land. The story of Carnegie and Rockefeller supported these claims that brought more people to the country like a magnet. But during the Gilded Age only a few could achieve the Dream. Each decade has its own people, who achieved something big, but they are never more than a tiny fragment of the whole society. Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, just to mention a few names from our days, bring back the American Dream to people. It is these examples why many people still like to believe that America is incomparable and unique and the Dream does exist. Yes, they are right, the American Dream exists but it is hard to achieve for the most. But if we look under the surface, there are a lot of people who live the American Dream without being mentioned or being famous. People can’t really look under the surface without long and hard research which I did to give a better view on the American system and to find out the truth about the American Dream. First thing first, the American Dream does exist. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc in Random Family and Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me showed that the American Dream was unachievable to people, because they can’t escape from the social reproduction they are in. These sources show a different kind of American Dream in which the characters believed, but none of them was able to achieve it. The Dream gives life, hope, and self-expectations to people, but most of the dreams remain a dream.

Whenever someone mentions the American Dream everybody knows or feels what it is, but if we dig deeper we can find all kinds of dreams. The American Dream has a common meaning, but everybody has a personal understanding, a unique dream. For example Coates has a dream about equality and about a normal life, because he feels that he is not part of the community and it makes him feel lonely. People in Random Family were dreaming about having a secure, and balanced life with a job that helps them afford a better life. Both authors blame the American system in some ways, Coates wrote:

“America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation to ever exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization”. (Coates, page 8)

Coates means that the people in the US always believed that they are different from everybody and it is not by accident that the US is the only nation that is called “dream”, the “American Dream”. The US believes that they can provide more to people than any other country in the world. But Coates also argues that the US committed the biggest crime in the world by having slavery for a very long time. In his book he emphasizes its effect in our present and claims that racism, discrimination, and police brutality still exists. He provided evidence, such as Mike Brown’s case.

A country will always have a bad, dark side, and its people will always try to show the good side and hide the bad one. People will stop those who try to befoul the nation, most of the time in a violent way. Many black people wanted to achieve equality, but they got killed because white men felt that it was befitting them. Every country has its mistakes and problems, but still many people dream about the US, because the poverty level in the US is equal to the middle class living standard in Africa. For African people it is a dream to be American, same for South Americans. Poor people’s dream is to work in the US, because even the poor have a better life in the US than theirs. They would do anything to be here, just like Jason Hill said; “Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence–an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.” (Hill, Jason D.,vol. 144, no. 3) The Dream is different for everybody. The defenders of the American Dream are saying that Coates blames the system for his sufferings, while others with the same or worse conditions live happily, work hard, and achieve more. One thing matters, the amount of work you put into achieving more and you can’t blame the system if you can’t make it, because probably you didn’t work hard enough. For him, being in America is a dream, for him it is a much bigger hope, chance to have a better life than anywhere else.

Coates believes that the black people have a huge disadvantage in life, he also believes that it is not possible to create a fair system for everybody including asians, black people, white people, and other ethnic groups. When he wrote

“It began to strike me that the point of my education was a kind of discomfort, was the process that would not award me my own especial Dream but would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths of Africa, of America, and everywhere, and would leave me only with humanity in all its terribleness”(Between the World and Me, page 52)

The quote also makes it clear that the path is hard, it is easy to get confused and feel bad. He refers to the disadvantage that black people have in the US and drew a conflict between the perfect America and the racist America. During his education Coates felt uncomfortable in school because of discrimination. He didn’t find his place in the world and he felt that the better life is flying away and the American Dream becomes unachievable. He started to feel that society decides who can have the chance to achieve the dream and who can’t. People can break others, pulling them back, not letting them create and live. He felt that the Dream was fading away from him, because of his skin. He began to think that the process of education wouldn’t lead him to the Dream. He feels that the American myths in Africa and all around the world are false and the American Dream is not achievable to anyone. From the quote we can conclude that Coates wanted to achieve the American Dream, he believed that the American Dream would stop him feeling discriminated and would find his place in the world. We could also feel that Coates was miserably looking for the Dream, but he didn’t achieve it at the end. However, he was able to find his place and stable his emotions about himself that caused him a lot of troubles in his life and the reasons why he felt uncomfortable. The reason why he revealed his feelings, problems and life so openly is that he wrote this book to his son to help him to have a better and easier childhood. He was afraid, he needed the Dream, it meant hope to him. Without the Dream he would feel lost and alone in the hard and terrible world, where he would be discriminated against and can’t hope for a better tomorrow. Coates does not offer solace to his son, but instead advises him on “how to live free in this black body”. He wanted to help his son accept his body and its limits nowadays, but he also wanted to teach him the knowledge about life, society and expectations that he learned during his life. Accepting yourself is the first step to achieve the dream, without it we will always be lost.

According to Coates the American Dream is challenged by race and ethnicity. He believed that a black person couldn’t achieve the American Dream because of discrimination. Black people are being discriminated against and someone – white people a person who is in power/or has more power – will always prevent them from true equality.The same applies to other ethnic groups, like asians, mexicans and many more. Coates wrote;

“But part of what I know is that there is the burden of living among Dreamers, and there is the extra burden of your country telling you the Dream is just, noble, and real, and you are crazy for seeing the corruption and smelling the sulfur. For their innocence, they nullify your anger, your fear” (Between the World and Me, page 106).

This quote demonstrates that the American Dream t is an illusion. A person has to be born with a silver-spoon to have the minimum chance to achieve it. The quote is more powerful than the other quotes from Coates, because it has a very straight opinion and it is judging the system. The American Dream is also racist because to achieve it one has to be white. Black people are not noble in today’s America, so white people in power will stop them. He blames the American system, and in order to change the social views and laws, to stop the unjust social reproduction the system’s major flaws must be repaired. .

Martin Luther King fought for equality, he wanted to achieve a dream and for him and for many others the dream was total equality and freedom in the US. Coates think that this dream was not acheived and the discrimination still happens a lot of these days.

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The American Dream Unattainable. (2021, Jun 13). Retrieved June 7, 2023 , from

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