The American Dream: The set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success. A promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people. Rooted in the belief stated in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal.“
My parents chased this dream from Ghana, a beautiful West African nation known for its natural vibrancy, bright kente colors, friendly people, and of course, its gold and cocoa resources. It’s overflowing with business opportunities that many Americans take advantage of. Conversely, many Ghanaians also go to America for opportunities. Some, like my parents legally moved to America to get a higher education. Entertainers such as Kofi Siriboe, Boris Kodjoe and Idris Elba are of Ghanaian heritage and are talented actors that are shaking the industry (and melting hearts with their tall, dark and handsome optics). The new Chief Brand Officer of Uber, Bozoma Saint John, is a proud, strong Ghanaian woman who is taking the business world by storm.
There are so many people from the African diaspora that are thriving in their homeland and/or outside of it. In fact, even their existence is a blessing to society. Yes, that’s right. Even though it’s beautiful to see the accomplishments that many in the diaspora have earned, many people have found it necessary to lead conversations with their qualifications in order to justify their worth to American society. It’s admirable and even inspiring, but just not quite necessary in these contexts.
But I digress. Here we are in 2018, enjoying a 3-day holiday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – a man who dedicated his life to eradicating the racial tensions of the United States and instituting freedom for African Americans in many arenas. He stood up for the marginalized. He stood up for Black people, who like my parents, Idris, and Saint John, had a dream but just weren’t given the opportunities to pursue it or the infrastructure to thrive in it.
In his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King said:
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment….In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
To put it in the words of Michelle Obama, the wife of President Barack Obama, “When they go low, we go high” even when it’s hard. In fact, without Dr. King, it might even be fair to say that the 44th president wouldn’t have been the first African American U.S. President. And yet, even still, Dr. King’s dream hasn’t been achieved just yet. Just days ago, the 45th U.S. President said and I quote:
“Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?”.
He was referring to people from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and African countries in the temporary protected status program. Beautiful people of all shades of black and brown that contribute so much to society and aren’t deserving of such comments no matter their status.
(If you want some statistics about that, check out this video.)
Talk about going low. It’s quite ironic that this country that takes pride in calling itself the “melting pot” has a leader who seemingly does not see the value-add that lawful residents of this country intrinsically bring to the table. But I guess it’s not too surprising:
There are schools in the south that just got integrated (or are still segregated due to gentrification). There are people still being lynched, beat up and killed because of the color of their skin. There are countless Black men incarcerated for selling weed and yet countless white people starting weed businesses, illegally or legally, because it’s “trendy” and inconsequential to their livelihood.
So yeah, I guess I can’t be surprised that America still isn’t completely practicing what it preaches, but that doesn’t mean that I am not saddened by the hypocrisy of it all.
America says, “all are welcome to this beautiful melting pot of a country, but only if you meet our ‘standard’ image.”
America says “we need to protect ourselves from people south of our border,” and simultaneously “oh look how hospitable they were on our gorgeous Cabo vacation.”
America says, that this is the “land of opportunity,” but “we are not going to pay men and women at the same rate.”
America says that “African countries are sh**holes,” but hasn’t cleaned up the water in Flint, or sent enough help to the flood and hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or fixed our homeless problem.
America says that we were founded on the message of hope and freedom, but chooses to forget that they had to take away the freedom and livelihood of a whole people group to get there.
America says, “In God we trust,” but doesn’t even follow the foundational biblical practice of “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”
Dr. King worked tirelessly with generals like John Lewis to make sure that the light, freedom and equality championed by the civil rights movement would prevail. They did not fight for the “American Dream” as we know it today. My hope is that many of us would continue the fight that they started. Furthermore, my hope is that one day soon America will sing a different song, a song that rings true to Dr. King’s Dream.
America will say, “every nation, faith, origin, creed is welcome here, is safe here, is home here” (and mean it).
America will admit to its sins and its flaws while providing reconciliation and reparations where needed.
America will take the plank out of its own eye before judging another group of people for the speck in their eye.
America will lead by example in all that it does. And treat all people equally and with utmost respect.
That’s the America I hope to one day live in. I, too, have a dream. (And although the focus is on America right now, the dream is not just for America but the world at large).
The U.S. has painted itself as the ideal – the place for freedom and opportunity for people of all races, ethnicities, religions and other identities – and yet ostracizes the very people that are a result of this “American Dream.” As I say regularly, I love my country. I’m a proud American and this is my home to stay. But it’s important to correct the things that you love. So I’m here to say that the “American Dream” that we are living out today is NOT the Dream that Martin Luther King Jr. was referring to. The ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has to be a reality for all people for it to be true for a whole nation.
So we have some work to do, America.
Let’s start with our day-to-day lives. Let’s commit to radical change in our communities. To not exploiting others for their resources/what they can offer but instead truly loving our neighbor as ourselves and working towards mutual edification. Lets commit to stepping out of our comfort zones and learning/living with people that are different than us. By having faith that this dream is achievable and taking the actions to back it up.
To put it simply, as Dr. King said, “Let’s not overlook the urgency of the moment.” We’ve got a dream to fulfill.