Immigrants and the Myth of the American Dream

Posted on May 6, 2011

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By Chenelle Peynado.

In the “Allegory of the Cave,” Plato explains the lives of prisoners bought up in a cave who see only images on a wall. Plato states, “All in all, then, what people in this situation would take for the shadows of the manufactured objects.” (1). In essence, what Plato means by this is that many people are not aware of the truth; because of all the illusions they’ve grown to know. The majority of the illusions people tend to perceive as truth in today’s society are because of their ignorance.  One of the major illusions is that many immigrants believe is that America is the land of streams of milk and honey. However, this belief is not accurate because class status and race greatly determine life opportunities in America (Steinberg, 1978). Unfortunately, the shadows and illusions that are been portrayed in the media convince many immigrants that these myths about the American Dream are real. After all, the fables they hear about the “American Dream” in the media most immigrants believe that a little hard work will get you wealth, Material objects, and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed according to their ability.

Although immigrants tend to think that hard work will make them wealthy enough to live the American Dream, the truth is that most Americans aren’t wealthy, regardless of hard they work, and that only those who are already wealthy can enjoy the American   Dream. Immigrants strive off false hope thinking that when they’re in America they will be rich by working excessively, but they don’t understand that in reality only the rich get richer and the other minorities are not so fortunate.  After all, my own experience in America has not been what I thought it would be. Living in Jamaica life wasn’t too much of a struggle, but my mother wanted a better life for me, so she decided to send me to live in America. I was so excited because I had always dreamt of living in America. While watching movies, I got to see all these great buildings, nice cars, pleasant people/unity; students seem to be smart and always became successful and in my eyes America was heaven on earth. When I moved to live here my opinion changed completely after a year living here, nothing was as I saw on television. Being here I’m no longer in the dark just seeing the illusion, I get to see reality for myself, and so do other immigrants that hard work in America does not lead to wealth. In addition, I’ve noticed that many people who work within the government and parliament make money without really working. They earn money by polluting the poorer class , and asking them to pay more tax and deducting the upper class tax, taking drug money, and loans. However, many inherit wealth, and legacies in which are pass on from deceased relatives on to generation to generation. Therefore, hard work does not always pay off.

Extreme Class Segregation

Many immigrants tend to believe that having material things such as expensive cars, name brand clothing, and big houses is a part of the American Dream. People believe in order to get accepted in society you need to spend a lot of money to live well. If you comparing the people in America to the people in Plato’s the Allegory, many people in this day in age are living like the prisoners who were restrained. They aren’t allowed to live the wealthy lifestyle like others and of the Allegory; the prisoners are chained and restricted to the floor.  The prisoners have to accept where they are and the illusions, as reality, and watch as their existence fades away. The apprehension spoken of is derivative of the person’s beliefs, holding them to submit by the cultural customs, so they acquire over priced clothing. The prisoners fix their eyes on the shadows on the wall, until he or she breaks free.  Therefore, to break gratis in this world, you must look at substance, folks, metropolis, and societies even the cosmos as an entire different point of view, with reason. As a result, do not live your life to please society but to view life in a more meaning full way, not only rely on others insight but on reality itself.

Another myth that immigrants believe is that everyone has equal opportunity in the “Land of Opportunity” such as professional opportunity health care, and social class. The health for the lower class has a higher rate of mortality, diseases, mental illness, and heart disease, than an upper class person (Mantsios 2000).  Citizens who come from certain country like Puerto Rico, Jamaica (Caribbean), and Mexico have a more difficult chance at succeeding the American dream. Yes, there is a chance that they’ll find a job but it’s very difficult for African Americans and immigrants to become successful in America or even achieve the American dream because of the existence of racism towards African Americans and Immigrants.  For instance, in many job related areas Latinos, African Americans, and other Immigrants have a intricate time when they apply for a job because many job are owned by a wealthy Caucasian person, therefore they would rather to employ a Caucasian man with an illegal record than an evenly competent black person without an illegal record, and if they do get the job they have to work for minimum wage. These African Americans were taught that once they work hard it is possible that they can do anything, but most have been working their whole lives for minimum wage and are poor because they work at jobs that are not valued by Caucasians. Therefore, all labor should be valued. Is this the American Dream? Research shows the rate for employment rate for Caucasians men and women, also of African Americans men,
women that are noticeably different. The unemployment rate for Caucasian men in March 2011 is 7.7%, for an African American man it is 16.8%, and of Caucasian women it is 6.9% and for an African American it is12.5%. On the other hand, the employment of white men in March 2011 is 59.5% and the employment of African American women 51.9%. Caucasian men are more likely to get employed at a 10-point higher rate than African American men (Comprehensive Advocacy). Therefore, not all Americans have an equal opportunity to succeed.

In conclusion, what many don’t understand is America is designed to uplift the upper classes, and to deprive the other minorities. This American dream has been a fantasy for many immigrants because of poor-paying jobs, the high cost of living, and racial inequality. So, not everyone who comes to America is happier, successful, and wealthy as a result of coming to America. Hopefully immigrants will eventually realize that there is less chance of succeeding at the American dream because of their class and skin color.  It’s easier to be in the dark and believe that everything will be fine once you move to America, it is harder to face reality just like the slaves in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, who have been chained down knowing only the images on a wall. The reality is moving that to a new country will not be a quick fix for all your problems. Hence, these immigrants should leave the cave so they can see the truth about America. Therefore, I would recommend that immigrant come to America work hard, save, and return to their country of origin.

Works Cited

1. Steinberg Stephen, ed. The Ethic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America. Boston:  1978.  Print.

2. The Ethic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and class in America. Web. 16 April 2011.

3. Cowan, Rich, et al.  13 Myths about Immigration.  April 1996.  Web.  16 April 2011.


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Posted in: U.S. Politics