The American Dream

February 15, 2011
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Writers such as Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, and Zora Neale Hurston suggest the American Dream for African-Americans is simply one for freedom. For equality. For the chance to be normal, and to even go as far as excelling. This may be because of the long history of the struggling race or merely because of their own opinions and experiences.
In his poem, “I, Too”, Langston Hughes suggests that discrimination leads to success, because perseverance builds character. In his poem he is not being allowed to sit with everyone else at the table, but he doesn’t let that bring him down. Hughes withstands it and retaliates in saying that one day he will be eating with them – he will be considered equal. It is pretty obvious that Hughes is replying to Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing". Almost as if he is adding on to Whitman’s list, saying that ‘I, too am America’. There is still this longing for a social equality, which is also what Nikki Giovanni addresses in her poem.
In Giovanni’s “Revolutionary Dreams”, she alludes to the fact that being normal and being black together would be a revolution in itself, because of all the discrimination that still exists within the American society. She dreams of making all these monumental changes, but in reality even something as being natural is revolutionary. As she is describing a dream of being her natural self, one can infer that she also has a longing for a firm identity.
Zora Neale Hurston suggests that people aren’t defined by their color, because it’s their individuality that makes then unique in her poem, “How it Feels to be Colored Me”. In the beginning of her story Hurston knows who she is, in reference to all those around her. However, once she moves, everything changes, and she loses that sense of identity. She suddenly feels colored and out of place. Yet, Hurston still manages to keep this confidence in who she is. She clearly proposes that although peoples outward appearance may look different, it’s what is on the inside that truly matters – it’s what defines us.
Throughout history African Americans have been specifically discriminated against. Whether it was slavery, violent KKK raids, or segregation laws, it is clear that their race as a whole definitely endured a lot over the years. Even to this day, there are distinguishing qualities between Blacks and Whites. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, African Americans have lower levels of educational achievement, attainment, and earnings than Caucasians do.
In Hughes’ “Let America be America Again” he is calling for an America where “opportunity is real, and life is free, equality is in the air we breathe.” Even now, these issues still aren’t extinct. One may argue that we have come a long way. And yes, we certainly have, but they are still very relevant. Discrimination still exists in many parts of the country. Hughes’ also says in his poem, “‘homeland of the free.’ The free? Who said the free? Not me?” How many people in America today would say these same words?
Obviously we all like to think America represents unity and equality among all people. But our world is not perfect. One may argue the opposite, however, if it was, Obama becoming the first Black president wouldn’t have been as big of a deal as it was. Or Oprah being one of the wealthiest people in America. Or Michael Jordan being one of the best players in the NBA. Or Michael Jackson being one of the most popular artists of all time. All these achievements wouldn’t have been so monumental because, well, they’d be normal. Inequality still does exist.

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