The American experience vs the American dream
What is the difference between America's experience and the American dream? Is the American dream a suburban neighborhood with 4th of July BBQ cookouts? Is it being rich and singing on top of your acclaimed wealth going on trips every few weeks? There is no definite answer to the American dream because the American people have different desires. Some Americans might want to live on a farm, wake up to large open fields smelling the hay in the distance. Some Americans may want to live in a large city with an expensive car living blocks away from the busy streets to experience city life. Most Americans want to live the dream, but only a few people in this country have the opportunity to live that dream. Instead, most citizens deal with the typical American experience, a far cry from living in a large city in a house.
The American experience uses the working class's split to make the rich richer while oppressing the poor. In a typical job, you feel like nothing but a "worker sold to the machine," (LABAA poem) working hard with little return making little money. Making minimum wage at fast food, customer service, or even a factory worker. Most make barely enough money to keep food on the table in these positions. When you work for one of these awful companies, you are not human. You are a cheap, replaceable, and exploitable cog to maximize profit.
What makes this divide so large? Why is the gap so expensive between the lower and middle class? The split so many people experience comes from lies, trickery, and the inability to start a new life. Often, the "poor white [gets] fooled and pushed apart" (LABAA poem) to be the most profitable to a corporation. Suppose it's cheaper to hire a new person than to keep you in your position despite your experiences. In that case, companies like McDonald’s, Tesla, or any customer service company can fire you and hire a new person to maximize profit. If you are lucky or good enough to avoid getting fired, you either can fly up through positions in a company or be exploited and stay in the lower class. People do not choose their own destiny in the lower class; you are and will be at the mercy of a corporation.
I've talked about the American experience, how it's divided by large gaps with not many ways to jump it. But what about the American dream? What is a typical "American dream"? Between the world and me describes the typical American dream as "Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways" smelling of "peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake."(BTWAM, 11) That life seems like Eden, too good to be true, maybe even impossible to the ordinary person because of the cost. The unfortunate truth is, the American dream is just that, a dream. One of the main problems holding this dream behind is the cost to live that dream and the segregation of races where the white fly and the minorities fight to survive.
There is a name for mostly black and dangerous neighborhoods, it's called the ghetto, and it can be hard to escape it once you start living it. The ghetto is known as "killing fields authored by federal police, where we are, all again, plundered of our dignity, of our families, of our wealth, and of our lives." (BTWAM 111) These neighborhoods are often near corporations that want to maximize profit because they know their employees can't afford to live anywhere else.
The American dream is not as accessible as people think, to the point of almost impossibility. The gaps are large between the lower class families and middle-class families. Opportunities for a new life rarely come for the lower class making it hard to escape poverty. Because sadly, once you're a part of the machine, there is no escape.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. Random House Us, 14 July 2015.
Langston Hughes. Let America Be America Again and Other Poems. New York, Vintage Books, 2004.