Racism And Poverty: Barriers To Achieving The American Dream

1361 words - 5 pages

The phrase “The American Dream” is an incredible thing. The promise of that dream has convinced hundreds of millions of people that, as a citizen of this country, you can accomplish anything if you work hard enough. Whether you want to be a doctor, athlete, or even a president, those things should all be within your reach, regardless of your class or race! America is the nation where dreams can come true. Unfortunately, for a large number of people that believe this, this is a concept that does not apply to them. Many Americans find opportunities are denied to them because of their race. Others can be found living in poverty and far from anything that would be considered desirable. Statistics show that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 9 percent of all U.S. income in 1979. Did you know that the same 1 percent earns 24 percent of all U.S. income today? That is a staggering example of the income inequality in America. The American Dream is that if you work hard and have the ability you will succeed, but that has become an impossibility for millions of disadvantaged Americans because the income inequality has been steadily increasing since the 1970s and racism and poverty are constant barriers to their success and financial security.
Bell hooks knows about the challenges of race and class, and why some people have a harder time than others in achieving the American Dream. It is normal to feel uncomfortable and awkward arriving at a new school for the first time, but this was something completely different. For bell hooks, walking through the halls with eyes staring at her as if she was an alien, she realized that schooling for her would never be the same. She describes her feelings of inequality at school in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, “When we entered racist, desegregated, white schools we left a world where teachers believed that to educate black children rightly would require a political commitment. Now, we were mainly taught by white teachers whose lessons reinforced racist stereotypes. For black children, education was no longer about the practice of freedom” (hooks, 296). Hooks exemplifies that even from the early stages of her life, she was disadvantaged because of her skin color. Even if she was smarter than the average white student, she knew she would receive unfair treatment. Most African-Americans have struggled with racism, and it has made it difficult for many to achieve success. For most African-Americans, the American Dream was just that, only a dream.
Today, African-Americans are not the only ones having a hard time achieving that dream of success and happiness. Currently 24% of Americans are living off of low-wage income. Fast-forward about 40 years from the adolescent years of bell hooks and you will find Barbara Ehrenreich seeing for herself exactly what it’s like to live on a low-wage income. Ehrenreich worked for Merry Maids for 30 days,...

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