As a first-generation Dominican-American, the American Dream means different things to me. Back in the Dominican Republic, many believe that we live luxuriously and that money, as well as the material things, are easily accessible; disregarding the fact that it took two generations of hard-working people to build what my family has today.
The American Dream in other countries is the idea that you can come to the land of the free, make a lot of money, and make just enough for yourself and your family back home.
In a way, I consider my family’s story an example of this idea. The “American Dream” is defined as the idea that every U.S. citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
My grandfather came to the U.S in the ‘70s, he established a restaurant business and then brought my mom and her siblings. One by one they settled in different cities as they got older, investing in grocery stores and other forms of businesses.
Immigrants all have had a common goal: to find opportunity and prosper. My family didn’t come from much but led my generation straight to the middle class.
However, I do not believe that every US citizen has an equal opportunity to achieve success.
Low-income communities are still systematically oppressed which contributes to the never-ending cycle of poverty, low college rates, and high school graduation rates.
People will ask “why do poor immigrants make something out of themselves but they can’t?”
Hmm Oh, I don’t know, maybe the years’ of constant institutional pushback since the abolition of slavery might be it?
Which leads to my next idea.
Do we live in one “America” or a variety of “Americas” on one piece of land?
I say this because the culture war right now is REAL. It is impossible for people to have open and honest conversations about politics and society without name calling or a little bit of crying.
We can’t understand our opinions and commentary because not only are we on opposite sides of the political spectrum, we also are on opposite sides of “experience.”
I grew up in one of the most dangerous areas in Philadelphia (at the time,) there was at least one shoot out a day down my block. No white people in sight except for cops. The white people I saw was always on TV, so naturally, I believed that was the representation of all white people.
For a really long time, I didn’t know poor white people existed.
It’s embarrassing to say now, but do understand when your experience is an upbringing in a low-income area with very little caucasian interaction, this is it what happens.
Now, Imagine growing up white and poor in Utah or white middle-class in an area with a very low population of different cultures.
The American Dream to me has always meant the search for opportunity. The idea that we can work our way up from nothing to something, but we have to add a new significance to what this dream is.
In order to do so, we have to acknowledge that this was also built on stolen land and slavery. We need to do better as a nation, the only way we can is through experience.
We have to experience different areas and conversations with people who don’t think like us – not to search who’s right or wrong but how some ideas integrate and affect one another.
This is something I’m still working on, but we really do need to do better as Americans.