Not Meant For Us: Why The American Dream Should Die
Killing the "American Dream" is overdue. Black Americans deserve true freedom.
For weeks, people of color have basked in the success of 'Black Panther,' a blockbuster film showcasing black people as the dynamic and marvelous folks we are. In the midst of the film’s well-deserved fawning, HBO released 'King in the Wilderness,' a documentary covering the many chapters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Both films represent our struggle to reclaim autonomy in a system not designed for the melaninated. The documentary spoke eloquently to the burden of choosing a life of service. Nonetheless, our approach to addressing the oppression of the American system, whether you side with Malcolm or Martin, can be neither simple nor singular. There is a place and position for both the Kings and Carmichaels, and the T’challas and Killmongers, respectively. All sought freedom for our people, but as I began to consider if this reality is the realization of that goal, something feels off.
As part of this system’s deception, freedom has been contextualized to represent someone’s access to shopping opportunities and employment equality. Clutching tightly onto this plastic version of freedom, the American populace has been coerced into understanding freedom as a right. However, history has taught us that freedom has so much more to do with your ability to secure and defend raw resources than your ability to purchase a latte from Starbucks. Yes, you can earn the little green guys they call dollars, purchase your land and personal comforts, but you cannot defend it; you would have to call them for that.
Comforts enjoyed in the United States are a consequence of military strength and preemptive aggression, the same kind imposed against the Native Americans via the protestant invasion. The freedom defined by the American aristocracy is not considered a right, but a privilege maintained with consistent demonstrations of force. Those in power, who consider themselves the gatekeepers of that freedom, are concerned with the autonomy of those considered part of the American design; the rest of us must scrape for any notion of true freedom or be content with the crumbs.
American freedom is built on suppression. The United States maintains that forward trajectory through intimidation and propaganda. The most recognizable and seemingly benign example of the latter is known as the American Dream.
The term, “American Dream,” was meant to reference a prototypical hardened outdoorsman (former european) traveling westward, discovering lands already discovered and cultivating fields already cultivated. The nationalist demographic claims the dream as their birthright. Black equivalency in regards to this American opportunity is their nightmare. This dream was not meant for us. America’s melting pot is an unintentional byproduct, black bodies were meant to be useful for a stint, free and disposable labor. Embedded in this dream is a pride. That pride had to do with these simple facts: this land was taken, the labor that built this land was stolen and the growth of this country rests on its ability to impose destruction on others. Money and wealth is the myth. Without the physicality of violence, the currency that the dream affords means nothing. The continued killing of black bodies and the present day restrictions on bodies of color are standards of that violence. The American dream is a trophy in recognition of invasion. The American dream is an imposition of religion, language and categorization; a dream of a nightmare.
After the election of America’s first black president, we were hopeful racism had met its match. That hope was short-lived. The cold reality is summarized gracefully by Audre Lorde:
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
President Obama, of course, represents progress for people of color in the present day western context. He also is a threat to their American Dream as intended. As we note the amazingness of Black Panther and rumors of a sequel, we should concurrently consider its place in our strategic growth.
Our walk towards understanding our place in history has been a slow one. Every previous effort to lead young black minds to a place of pride has been met with resistance, and this is no different. From the covert push to allow black hair a peaceful existence in corporate spaces, to the first black Attorney General, each step has been part of a strategy to realign our greatness for coming generations. The vitriolic response from the nostalgically xenophobic, to Shawn Carter’s business acumen or Serena Williams’ sport transcendence should come as no surprise to the Kings amongst us. The current American presidential administration is part of a response and desperate effort to reinvigorate oppressive racial constructs. They have removed the arts from our educational institutions to take away our Ava DuVernay(s), Ta-Nehisi Coates(s), Kendrick Lamar(s) and Kehinde Wiley(s). Funding for after school programming is now on their chopping block. What better way to discourage our Martin(s), Kwame Ture(s) and Malcolm(s)?
The American Dream can be characterized as a taste for the red meat of minority oppression. Killing the “American Dream” is overdue, as the birth of an “American Awakening” looms. The metamorphosis of our greatness awaits, but it will require some effort to rip our collective heads from the soft pillows of convenience and pseudo social dissident for the toil and effort of true freedom, and a reality that is BLACK AF.