The Myth of the American Dream

The illusion of the American Dream has misleadingly lead minorities into a mindless society. In America, we are known as the land of opportunity and success. By us remaining ignorant to the inequalities that still exist, we have allowed thousands of innocent lives to be ruined.

By Keelin W. from Staples High School in Connecticut

All over the globe, America is seen as the land of opportunity for hard-working people. While we do boast the American dream of economic and educational success for those willing to work for it; our discriminatory past doesn't allow all of our citizens to achieve this dream. Diverse Americans are excluded from achieving the dream, from economical to societal unfairities, we falsely accuse minorities of not working hard enough or being un-American. Our constant pressure of an unfair and biased value is nothing but ignorant. Diverse Americans come to face the harsh reality of lack of education and an empty wallet which, forces them to have a differing creed than a typical American born into privilege and wealth.

The typical American is white, middle class and born with a multitude of opportunities to have a successful career. As I fit into most of the categories of a typical American and live in a completely whitewashed community, I can testify that most of my peers lack empathy for those in lesser situations. Just in the past week, I've heard a group of my peers complain about how “final season is worse than being a jew in world war 2”(yes, they actually said this). Although this comment is quite false and striking, this is just one of many examples I could give. While not all Americans are like this, most do not realize the huge advantage they have over diverse Americans. According to NCCP, in America, 58% of low-income families are minorities. Yet, they only make up 40% of America's population. This is no coincidence, years of oppression and maltreatment caused this concerning gap. Because of this the typical American quickly glance over the statistics, not realizing the effects of being impoverished. Being in a low-income class can devastate families because in America being impoverished “has a significant impact on..physical health” and the “ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition”(Lumen, The Impacts Of Social Class). Without proper healthcare for these families, many innocent lives are being cut short. This is one of the advantages that the typical American tends to forget about or not even realize. Having access to healthcare is supposed to be a right given to all Americans, but somehow skips over those with economic issues. Growing up in a low-income home can also very negatively affect children in other ways too. Children who grow up in lower income homes have problems with “achievement and engagement in school” and have higher “anxiety levels”(K. Cooper and K. Stewart), and statistically, there is only a “30% chance that[children of lower income families] ascend to the middle class (and this number drops significantly depending on your ethnicity)”(Hanna Brooks Olsen, EF). As a result of this, the children follow the same paths as their parents. This causes a continuous cycle that makes minorities remain at the same income class for generations.

The lack of wealth isn't the only thing that is detrimental to the children's future; because of where the families are living, they may only have access to poor education schools. In 1934, the act of redlining was put into place due to the National Housing Act. Redlining was a practice that segregated neighborhoods by race. Although this act was banned in 1968, the areas marked as “colored” are still affected. Because they were marked as colored/dangerous, the government gave less funding to the schools that took the students living in the marked areas. Even though it is more than 50 years later, “African Americans and Latinos continue to be denied mortgages at far higher rates than whites in [white areas]”(K. Capps and K. Rabinowitz). This causes the families to be stuck in the areas with the least school funding. This is in the worst interest of the children. If they are unable to afford private schooling, the students are left “reading and doing math at a seventh or eighth-grade level”(Carol J. Carter, Huffington Post). This is another cause of why the children continue to be low income for the rest of their lives. Without proper education, finding a job with fair pay is even harder. Even if they finish their education and are able to find an employer, odds are against the minorities. Recent statistics show that minorities only earn “72 percent of the average earnings of comparable Caucasian men”(APA). A person who is classified as a minority will always be trying to catch up to the white competitor, and this cycle will continue unless our society changes.

As a 15-year-old white girl, who lives in one of the wealthiest towns in America; if I am able to recognize the faults and failures of our country, why can the government not? Segregation has been an illegal practice for decades, yet the racist ideals of previous Americans have been able to affect our country today. In America, we idolize and value hard work, and render that if we work hard, we too can achieve the bliss of the “American dream”. Because America's creed of hard work and success, most look down upon citizens in poverty, seeing them as lazy or a burden. Diverse Americans were born to fail, and without aid from us, this will continue. Although there is no quick fix, the first step to take is recognizing the issue and spreading the word. Anything helps, from a simple discussion at the dinner table to talking to friends, spreading the facts will only popularize the issue. In my community, we put up a front of the perfect life and an accepting community. Although not all of my peers participate, many make crude and discriminatory jokes; not realizing the effects they may have on others. If we ignore and continue to allow for these discriminatory “jokes” to continue, racism will soon become normalized again. Until this issue is fixed, the American dream will remain nothing but a foolish fantasy made by ignorant Americans and a biased myth.

Addy, Sophia, and Vanessa R. Wight. "Basic Facts About Low-income Children." National Center for Children in Poverty, Feb. 2012, www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1049.html. Accessed 7 June 2019.

“Boundless Sociology.” Lumen. Lumen, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-sociology/

chapter/the-impacts-of-social-class/. Accessed 7 June 2019.

“Does Money Affect Children's Outcomes?” Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 22 Oct. 2013, www.jrf.org.uk/report/does-money-affect-children's-outcomes. Accessed 7 June 2019.

“Ethnic and Racial Minorities & Socioeconomic Status.” American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/minorities.

“How the Fair Housing Act Failed Black Homeowners.” City Lab, 11 Apr. 2018, www.citylab.com/equity/2018/04/how-the-fair-housing-act-failed-black-homeowners/557576/. Accessed 7 June 2019.

Koball, Heather, and Yang Jiang. "Basic Information about Low Income Children." National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, Jan. 2018, www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1194.html. Accessed 7 June 2019.

Simms, Margret C., et al. "Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among Low-Income Families ." The Urban Institute, Aug. 2009, www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32976/411936-racial-and-ethnic-disparities-among-low-income-families.pdf. Accessed 7 June 2019.

“Why Aren't Low-Income Students Succeeding in School?” Huffington Post, 19 Mar. 2013, www.huffpost.com/entry/why-arent-low-income-stud_b_2909180. Accessed 7 June 2019.

“Why Escaping Poverty Isn't Nearly as Easy as People Think.” Everyday Feminism, 29 Jan. 2017, everydayfeminism.com/2017/01/escaping-poverty-is-not-easy/. Accessed 7 June 2019.

Staples High School

Herzog 2A 18-19

This group is dedicated to Mrs. Herzog's English 2A 18-19 class to share their responses to the five invitations.

More letters from Staples High School

Surprise Me

More letters from Connecticut

Surprise Me

More letters about "discrimination", "education", "ignorance", "poverty", and "racism"

Surprise Me

Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

Writing Our Future projects are designed by educators for educators and the young people they work with. Intended for use in schools, libraries, and other educational settings. All projects are COPPA compliant and educator-managed. NWP is committed to supporting young people’s writing and civic participation by providing a safe and supportive environment for youth writing, media creation, sharing, and publishing.