Why Black People Should Stop Chasing the American Dream

We’ve been chasing a fantasy that was never meant for us. A story about why Black folks should have dreams and aspirations, just not those predicated on American values.

Why Black People Should Stop Chasing the American Dream
Photo by Milly Eaton from Pexels

As the picture of the true America becomes clearer, it’s time for Black people to have a conversation about the fantasy of the “American Dream” and why we need to stop chasing it.

The Dream Was Never Ours

James Truslow Adams, in his book “The Epic of America” written in 1931, stated that the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with an opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Adams was a wealthy White man. One of the first to come up with the pull yourself up by your bootstraps mantra the GOP proudly regurgitate to this day.

The first seeds planted in American culture that we could be all that we can be (like the old Army slogan) if we wanted to came from someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Isn’t that funny?

But let’s talk about the declaration or belief that everyone could pursue the lie called the American Dream. That couldn’t possibly be true because America never believed in equality or equity. This nation was stolen, founded on lies, and created through the means of inequality and inequity (also known as the institution of American slavery and theft of Native Tribal lands).

It has never been possible for “everyone” in America to live richer, fuller lives as Truslow noted in his book, because everyone didn’t have the same rights, opportunities, freedoms, and abilities thanks to slavery, White Supremacy, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and finally, more White Privilege intertwined with advanced levels of White Supremacy. White men wrote the American Dream for White people. We Black folks have been coveting another man’s dream. It was never meant for us, we just never realized it.

The fact of the matter is that Black people could never fully pursue the American Dream because we’ve had insurmountable roadblocks, obstacles, barriers, visible and invisible lines, laws, and rules which has prevented us from being all that we could be.

White Supremacy has always needed a measure to determine its value, worth, and achievement, and Black people have always been their favorite baseline or comparative measure. If Blacks are doing badly, then Whites must be doing good, better, or great. If White Supremacy could keep Blacks back, behind, slowed down, poorer, dumber, unsafer, and bound, then surely they could achieve great things. And they did, achieve great things. Even if it was on our backs and at our expense, the American Dream was theirs for the taking.

But Blacks achieved a little, not as much as we could have though. The pathway to the dream was readily available and easily accessible for us. We had to fight. Blacks had to fight for everything we’ve had in America, including the right to dream.

Black People Should Never Stop Dreaming

First, please let me say I am not discouraging us from dreaming. Never let it be said that I’m persuading us to not aspire to be great. I am not a dream killer. I’m just a realist, and I want us to be great people, do big things, see the world, contribute meaningfully to society and the world, have all of what we need, and can get some of the things we want in life.

I just don’t want us to continue to devalue, degrade, and kill ourselves trying to chase a dream that was never meant for us. The American Dream is the flawed ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. Because America has never been a nation that believes in equality, it’s impossible for Black people to ever attain this dream. America hates equality.

It’s okay to have dreams and aspirations to do things, go places, consume so stuff, and be something, but let’s be real about it. Some dreams are really nightmares.

America’s Foundation

America was founded on taking from others to preserve White men and their White families. That’s really the foundation of the American Dream. Their White dreams were someone else’s nightmare. Ask slaves stolen from Africa and Native Americans who were killed and had their lands stolen. Every inch of America was once tribal lands. If you’re living in a neighborhood, a project, a ghetto, or in an oceanfront mansion, on a farm, you’re living on stolen land.

Map of Native American Tribal territories prior to European settlers stealing it. Source: transformdh.org

Whether you acknowledge it or not, your dream home was some Native American man, woman, or family’s nightmare. How do you pay for that? How do we reconcile that? We live day to day and never give a second thought to the trauma and disruption caused by the pursuit of the American dream. Banks are financing loans for homes built on stolen lands.

While Whites/Europeans/Anglo-Saxons who pursued their dreams may have had longevity (they are still here alive and kicking), amassed untold wealth, and gained unearned privileges, they never seem to be happy or satisfied. The thing about the dream is that it’s tainted. They base the dream on inequality and inequity. To have more, you must take more from others. We must create games and schemes to finance dreams and make others rich. The rest of us are just working for the invisible man. It’s modern day slavery called capitalism. Being involved in the American Dream’s schemes and games hasn’t worked out so well for Black folks either.

Saying you believe in the American dream and trying to pursue it as a Black person is not logic or time well spent. It’s suicidal. It’s self-defeating. It’s the reason Black folks fail at trying to attain the dream. The dream banks on us being at the bottom to support the upward mobility of Whiteness staying at the top.

Think about it. We’re still complaining about European standards of beauty, unfair and unbiased media coverage, unfair policing practices, over-policing, unfair educational practices that give Whites the upper-hand, employment discrimination, poor information on America’s labor and industry projections/forecasts, lily White television programming and representation despite having been here for 400 years, and I can go on. Everything America represents is Whiteness and White Privilege. It is what it is and there is no need to discuss whether it’s wrong or right. You must be the judge of that for yourself.

What I would like for us to us to realize is that we can’t chase someone else’s dream. It wasn’t meant for us. What’s for you is for you. Chasing someone else’s dream is like coveting another man’s wife or husband, or wanting to be like someone because you believe their life is bountiful, full, robust — all the things we associate today with happiness. Superficial crap!

The American Dream is a facade, a mere fantasy — and it seems no one seems thrilled going through the motions pursuing the American Dream. I don’t believe life shouldn’t be so hard, so shallow, so void of humanity and compassion for helping others.

The other devastating thing about the dream is that the people pursing it always need more. There is never enough. They need more money, more happiness, more time, more house, a bigger, more tech savvy car, a better neighborhood for their kids can go to better (Whiter) schools, to go to better colleges than their parents, to have bigger and better opportunities than their parents did, to grow up and marry someone they’ll eventually become unhappy with because they never have enough, to have kids they never have enough time for because they’re too busy with their misplaced values chasing meaningless shit. If we think about the rat race, there is no real happiness in that dream.

The chasing of more always comes at the expense of something or someone else. Whether it’s discrimination, classism, bias (explicit or implicit), segregation, political tricks, propaganda, or outright lies sold as truths like the American Dream. To chase and attain your dream, someone else has to have a nightmare.

Nightmares like redlining, gerrymandering, redistricting, segregation, for-profit education which targets Blacks, minorities, and ignorant whites with inferior education so shareholders can get rich while those chasing the dream gets screwed. Or how about higher interests rates than Whites on things like car loans and home loans or different car prices? You know about the White new car price and the Black new car pricing, right? Black communities paying higher prices for gas, food, and other things we need to survive. It’s not fair, but it happens every day.

Black people can’t attain the American Dream because we don’t have equal opportunities to pursue it. We’ve never been made whole from the soul and wealth snatching industry of slavery in America. Black folks have never been treated as an equal. America has never been impartial, just, or fair, so it’s impossible to use or abilities to chase opportunities that weren’t available to us. And in case you have been asleep for the past 10–12 years, the way America is operating in Trumpistan is the way the real America has always worked — unequal, unfair, biased, racist, fascist, and with no regard for anything other than Whiteness.

Let’s just face it, we will never be equal, and we’ll never have equity. Too many White folks have said they don’t believe they, or no one else, should pay for the sins of White America. Therefore, we will never be enough or have enough to pursue and achieve the White American Dream.

So why are so many Black people still chasing the American Dream? It’s damn near impossible to attain. Even if you do attain it by getting your piece of what you’ve been fooled to believe is the “American Pie” mountain top, it’s almost impossible to stay there.

It’s Time To Stop Chasing Other People’s Dreams

It’s pastime for Black people to stop chasing the American Dream. That dream doesn’t represent what we need for our lives to become a healthy, vibrant group able to live and work alongside other citizens.

What’s for them is for them. Let them have their dreams and let those who don’t fully understand the root of America’s dream lie make themselves utterly miserable chasing it. Blacks in America need to learn pursue their own dreams and know that it’s okay. Take the pressure off. We need to create our own promises to ourselves that protect us, look out for us, and build us up. We need to commit to a new way of thinking, remembering history repeats itself when we refuse to learn from past mistakes. We must remember what America is and never be fooled by her. She never changes.

She simply evolves. It’s the same old monster with a new face, but a monster no less.

Blacks need to understand and feel comfortable with the knowledge what works for Whites won’t always work out for us, because the system is rigged. It always has been, and it always will be. American needs a villain in order for her to be the victim. We’ve always been her villain. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is insanity. It’s time to teach our children the truth of America, and it’s time to deal with the hand that has been dealt to us all.

We Black folks know how to turn a lemon into lemonade. We’ve done it so many times before.

Remember Who We Are

Remember, we are descendants of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. Dubois, Denmark Vesey, Madam C. J. Walker, George Washington Carver, Nat Turner, Martin Luther King, and all those before us who revolted because they were tired of living in bondage to slavery. Chasing the American dream is asking to be in bondage.

Wake up from the nightmare called the American Dream and lets being to make our own dreams. America has told us countless times they have no plan of righting their wrongs. They don’t believe reparations is fair to them (screw us — again). Even the most liberal White allies don’t want a quick and complete overhaul of our institutions and systems because it means they have to lose something in order for us Blacks to gain something.

Both major political parties, Democratic and Republican, are still pandering to the White Working-Class voter, all while telling us they need the Black vote to win. White lives will always be the more valuable currency. Siding with their dreams keeps us in bondage, in debt, in over our heads, always working twice as hard and still coming up short.

Let. Their. American. Dream. Go.

It’s not for us. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, chasing, and pursing happiness. We Black folks just need to understand the American Dream isn’t ours to pursue. We need to create our own individual, family, cultural, and collective dreams based on our skills, abilities, opportunities, wealth, few assets and freedoms, and work within those confines.

And yes loves, I used the word confines. I did so because we have visible and invisible restrictions upon us which are beyond our control.

Whiteness may control where we go, if we’re free, what we drive, how much we earn, where we end up in life, where we live, what we eat, how we and where we are educated, our opportunities, and sometimes even control our abilities, they can never control our dreams. Our dreams can only be controlled if we relinquish our power and our minds. Personally speaking, I’m tired of being let down, disappointed, and working hard only to be told (or shown) I’m not welcomed or good enough. I’m tired of being the only one still in a room in 2019. I’m tired of being on a flight and I’m tired of being the only Black person on an airplane.

There is more to life than working for stuff, acquiring titles and stuff, and trying to accrue the wealth, opportunities, and resources White folks have had in their families for generations. It’s time we redirect our priorities and create new dreams. We need to live out our own dreams and find alternative ways to make our own dreams come true.

At the end of the day, Whiteness controls the American Dream sold to the world, and Whiteness gets to decide who achieves it. It’s time to stop chasing the American dream. It’s killing us, literally. Dreaming solo won’t be easy. It will even be lonely. Most people hate change, and people prefer paths already made over paths unknown. You don’t have to desolate, homeless, hungry, and ignorant to pursue your own dream, you just need to refocus your priorities.

Center your dreams on Black realities, not fantasies created by rich White men and women and White Supremacists aspiring to be like them. These dream schemers acquired their wealth based on inequality and inequity. Following them means you subscribe to those principles and beliefs. I don’t believe in that.

I believe in fairness, equality, equity, and justice for all, not just those things for White people and those who live and pass as White. Just because you can’t beat the evil giant doesn’t mean you have to join it or be joined at the hip to it.

Stop chasing someone else’s problems and nightmares and stop seeking validation from Whiteness. You’ll never get that. After 400-years people, the writing is on the wall. The Black community can’t reap anything because we keep sowing our seeds in someone else’s garden. Plant your own gardens.

Reap your own harvests.

It’s time Blacks people America create dreams we can rejoice about and be glad in them. Be inspired, be creative, and be the love, help, and support we want and need today. I’m daring you to dream a new dream.

©2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.

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