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A Critical Essay on The American Dream and Equal Opportunity

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A topic of this essay, the American dream, is the notion, that anyone coming to American can make it big. Making it big in America means having a loving family, owning a house, and getting paid – achieving a “better, richer, and happier life” is the essence of the dream. This dream is made possible due to the fact that stated so clearly in the declaration of independence; “all men are created equal”. This is what allows anyone coming to America to make it big, as we are all equal and equal opportunity is guaranteed in America. However, this essay will show that not everyone believes that this holds true.

In the 1980 interview featuring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, when being asked “what does the American Dream mean to you?”, Arnold outlines the way the American dream shaped his life. From an early age he dreamt of making it big in America, and now that he has achieved it, he still hungers for more. America is the land of the free and land of opportunity, it’s the place you go to, in order to fulfill your dreams. He believes that anyone can realize the American dream if they truly set their mind to it, anyone can become a “winner” among the sea of losers. However not everyone shares this view of America.

Rapper/singer Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover outlines the problems he believes America is suffering from in his widely popular hit single, provocatively named “This is America”. Both the music video, as well as the lyrics depicts an ugly image of America, one in which gun violence, racism, and poverty is rampart. The song especially deals with the struggle African Americans have dealt with for the past centuries and to some extent still deal with in America. Examples including the depiction of a mass shooting of an African American gospel, most likely referencing the 2015 Charleston church shooting, wherein a 21-year-old white supremacist, murdered nine African Americans. The constant mention of “Get your money, black man” also adds to this idea of the black struggle in America. The music video and the lyrics work together in the sense that all the fancy dancing in the video serves to distract from what’s really going in the background, the mass amount of shootings, which reflects itself to modern day America, where this pursuit of money is distracting people from what is going on, namely the black suffering and systematic inequality that still exists in America. At the same time the song functions as a sort of meta commentary on this issue, in regard to realizing that part of this black suffering is also a tool used to make money, as Childish Gambino is essentially making money off this topic, in this very video. The pint being made in regard to the American dream today is that how can one believe that America is the place to go for equal opportunity when systematic oppression still persists? How can one expect America to take care of one, if it can’t even take care of its own current citizens? This stands in contrast to how Arnold describes the American dream, as shown previously in the essay, and Childish Gambino essentially shows that just wanting something hard enough, won’t help when there are systems in place just to keep you down. This mentality of always being hungry is one that is at times definitely hurting the African American community, because the hunger for money is what is distracting them from some of the real issues they are facing. How can you claim equal opportunity exists in America, when a huge part of your upbringing depends on factors you don’t control, which in turn leads to worse outcomes later in life. How is a child living in a poverty-stricken community with a single mother supposed to compete with a wealthy white boy living with his parents in the suburbs? These are just some of the issues African Americans disproportionally face in modern America.

This just goes to show that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, outlined in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963, still hasn’t come to fruition. This dream of course, being that Martin Luther King Jr. wishes to one day live in a nation where a man is not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This is Martin Luther King Jr.’s version of the American dream, and if America is to be a great nation, this must hold true, along with some other things he details in his speech, including true liberty for the black man. Despite this speech being given almost 60 years ago, his dream has yet to come true. To be fair however, 60 years isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. When taking into account that Jim Crowe laws were still in effect just 55 years ago, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the effects of it still have an impact on most African Americans living in the US today, which surely laments the fact that true equal opportunity does not yet exist in America. So while it may not be as bad as it was 60 years ago, systematic oppression in the US still exists today, and this idea of an American dream is nothing but a way to distract people from the issues that are hurting modern day America, and until these problems have been dealt with, no one man can truly claim that America is the land of liberty and equal opportunity.

To conclude this paper on the American Dream, it should be said that if one seeks to achieve it today, one has to be ready to be able to look past all the horrible stuff that is going on in America today, which makes sense as to why Arnold was able to “make it”, seeing as he describes himself as “cold” and “emotionless”, which is exactly what’s needed to succeed in a capitalistic society. 

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A Critical Essay on the American Dream and Equal Opportunity. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from
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