James Truslow, an American historian and writer described the American Dream in the following terms:
"…life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
Modern day poet, Bigge Smalls, aka “The Notorious B.I.G”, rapped about his version of the ‘American Dream’ in the 1994 debut of his song, “Juicy”. In it, the slain rapper says the following:
"Born sinner, the opposite of a winner
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner
Peace to Ron G, Brucey B, Kid Capri
Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starsky
I'm blowin' up like you thought I would
Call the crib, same number same hood
It's all good."
Oh, how I wish it was all good Biggie…
Long considered to be the tenet aspiration of everyone in this country, the American Dream is believed to assert life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all who want it. This notion, as beautiful as it appears, is seemingly biased in the people that are allowed to attain and enjoy it.
This notion, to be able to come to America with a ‘dollar and a dream’, is ever-present in the media and images that I see. And since I read about it and am an American, I guess that means that I have to believe that it’s true. Yet, when I look around at those around me, people who I know and some that I don’t - people who made all the right decisions and did the right things, I wonder, where is the manifestation of the American dream?
All men are created equal…
Consider the story of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year-old African American boy who was shot in the chest by self-appointed “neighborhood watch leader’, George Zimmerman, in Sanford, Florida because he looked “suspicious”. Trayvon, who ran to the store to get candy for his little brother, was shot to death in the chest while holding a pack of Skittles. Zimmerman, has yet to be charged for a crime.
This story, while sad, brings to light the troubling devaluation that we have allowed to occur for certain members of our society. What deemed this young boy to be “suspicious” other than the fact that he was African - American? What made his killing justifiable other than the fact that in the crevices of the minds of those in authority, they too, view innocent young Black men who are killed as collateral damage for those who are guilty?
Marginalized as perpetual menaces to society, the urban young black male is deemed as a threat when he wears the same clothes and listens to the same music as his white suburban counterpart. This socially accepted condemnation is creating a generation of young people who are being unjustifiably murdered, ostracized and handicapped from realizing their potential based on the fear of mainstream society.
More times than not, the frustration of this prejudice stays confined within the invisible walls of those who share the black phenotype. Yet, the travesty of stories such as that of Trayvon should and must supersede the confines of race. Only until people, regardless of race, begin to see their own children in the face of young men like Trayvon can we save more young boys from senselessly losing their lives. Only until people, regardless of race, acknowledge the cultural prejudices that still pervade our country will all men, including young Black boys wearing hoodies and baggie pants, have a feasible chance to realize the ideals of ‘The American Dream’.
Until then, young Black men can only hope that they don’t do something that makes those around them afraid because apparently their lives depend on it.
"Livin' life without fear
Puttin' 5 karats in my baby girl's ears
Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool
Considered a fool 'cause I dropped out of high school
Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood
And it's still all good"
[Picture courtesy of abcnews.com]