An American Lie the American Dream
“In recent years, thousands of Americans have died at the hands of law enforcement, a reality made even more shameful when we consider how many of these victims were young, poor, mentally ill, Black or unarmed” (Hill 1). Minorities have struggled for years to be accepted into a society that excludes them. In “Nobody” by Marc Lamont Hill, he compares the injustices occurring today to those that happened years ago. African Americans are constantly suffering from racial discrimination and denial of proper justice. Hill asserts the term “nobody” referring to minorities, in this case African Americans, explaining how as victims of police brutality they are abandoned by the state and not served justice. Although America claims to serve and protect its people, the American Dream ideology has been misrepresented to minorities due to racial discrimination, oppression, and brutality.
The American Dream is portrayed in many different ways in which one might perceive it. It is the ideology by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. In “The American Dream and the American Negro” by James Baldwin, he states, “The American soil is full of corpses of my ancestors, through 400 years and at least three wars. Why is my freedom, my citizenship, in question now? What one begs American people to do, for all sakes, is simply to accept our history” (Baldwin 3). According to Baldwin, the conception of the American Dream is to be accepted as African Americans. He indicates that white people have been raised to believe that any conditions or hardships they may be facing, can not be worse than being African American. Everyone deserves the right to live freely without being looked down upon, called racial slurs, and being mistreated. “Until the moment comes when we, the Americans, are able to accept the fact that my ancestors are both black and white, that on that continent we are trying to forge a new identity… I am not an object of missionary charity, I am one of the people who built this country–until this moment comes there is scarcely any hope for the American Dream” (Baldwin 4). This quote indicates how African Americans do the labor but do not get granted the freedom and equality they’ve longed to receive. The American Dream ceases to exist if it is inaccessible to minorities. It continues to be problematically denied to some because not everyone is treated equally. If social class, race, religion, and sexual identification did not determine one’s place in the world, then everyone may have had a chance to live their version of the American Dream.
Racial discrimination is an action or behavior that may result from conscious or unconscious stereotypes about a racial group or from predetermined feelings toward that group. Many African Americans have experienced discrimination whether it be from white people or law enforcement itself. In many cases, these victims were doing nothing against the law that should have resulted in their deaths. When testifying, Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed eighteen year old Michael Brown for stealing a pack of cigarillos, referred to him as “it” as if he were an animal. African Americans are not seen nor considered as equal let alone human. “…Michael Brown’s life was taken with disturbingly casual ease… Brown’s body, left for hours on the hot pavement, his crimson blood puddling next to his young head, staining the street flowing in a crisscross pattern, a tributary running slowly to the gutter” (Hill 6). Brown and his friend were stopped by Wilson originally for jaywalking in their neighborhood, something they did on a regular daily basis. Wilson’s ideology of young African American men consisted of inequality targeted to their specific race. Referring to a human being as “it” after killing them proves what intentions he initially had. “Michael Brown died at the hands of police in Ferguson, but his killing was preceded by the death of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin” (Hill 11). On February 26, 2012, Martin was walking home armed only with a hoodie, an Arizona Iced Tea, and a bag of skittles when a man, George Zimmerman fatally shot him. Zimmerman happened to be the neighborhood watch that night and seeing a young African American male walking home threatened him. Police had told him to stay indoors but he took it upon himself to approach Martin in an aggressive manner. Motivated by racism, Zimmerman killed an innocent boy who was causing no threat to society.Zimmerman was then exonerated in a trial, leaving Martin’s family helpless while mourning the loss of his life. Racial discrimination has led to the shootings of many innocent African Americans.
Oppression of excluded groups has produced a sense of discouragement for minorities trying to be accepted and fairly treated. Oppression is the experience of repeated, widespread, systemic injustice. “It is evident that those in non-privileged groups in many societies will have much less opportunity to enter elite universities and to acquire the skills and credentials which would have high market value” (Deutsch 2). Those who are denied resources and opportunities are oppressed of their basic human rights and equality as well. Education favors the elite “high class” of citizens consisting of mostly whites. Those born into the lower working class are not given the support or choice to advance on the social class ladder keeping minorities at the bottom. The privileged class has the most important source of skill capital, unlike the underclass or working class who are unable to acquire it. Deutsch introduces five injustices, one being moral exclusion which determines who is permitted to recieve fair outcomes and equal treatment depending on one’s moral community. “It is evident that those people and groups with more capital are more likely to have access to political leaders and to be treated with more respect by the police, judges, and other authority figures than those with less capital” (Deutsch 2). Minorities such as Hispanics and African Americans fall under the lower and working class category. Due to their social class, they are denied opportunities and resources. Fair treatment and respect should be given to everyone especially minorities who struggle with fitting into a society that constantly attempts to reject them.
Police brutality has been reoccurring in the past few years causing it to be expected and not surprising. “The role of government, however, is to offer forms of protection that enhance our lives and shield our bodies from foreseeable and preventable dangers. Unfortunately, for many citizens- particularly those marked as poor, Black, Brown, immigrant, queer, or trans- State power has only increased their vulnerability, making their lives more rather than less unsafe” (Hill 1). Law enforcement targets minorities like Hispanics and African Americans, treating them like criminals and “thugs”. Many cases of police shootings portray the racial ideology white males are raised to believe. African Americans and Whites are able to coexist, but throughout the years it is proven that there is no such thing. Minorities have been neglected for many years and law enforcement is responsible for thousands of lives through the act of violence. “Beyond the the level of the personal, Wilson also obediently and uncritically followed the protocol of a system already engineered to target, exploit, and criminalize the poor, the Black, the Brown, the queer, the trans, the immigrant, and the young” (Hill 7). Negative assumptions are constantly made towards minorities and are automatically labeled as criminals even when they have not committed a crime. With most positions of authority held by Whites, the higher the rate of police brutality and shootings increased. In Ferguson, Missouri sixteen thousand people out of twenty thousand were arrested for minor violations. Policemen were issuing arrest warrants without any evidence of unreal crimes being committed. Minorities are seen as a threat to the public. In 2009, a Cambridge, Massachusetts professor was struggling to open the door of his home with a key when someone reported strange behavior and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Another case was Samuel DuBose’s death after a University of Cincinnati police officer shot him in the head when he was starting to drive away. It is sickening how many lives have been taken due to the discrimination and racial profiling that is still taking place today.
African Americans suffer to be a part of this society that constantly belittles and neglects them based on the color of their skin which they were born with. Everyone deserves the right to live their life how they please without one day being killed. Law enforcement who is meant to serve and protect, take an immeasurable amount of African American lives. Oppression and racial discrimination are at the center of those tragedies and until there is a change in racist ideologies of minorities, there will continue to be more shootings and incidents leading to deaths. Whites should not be threatened by African Americans or Hispanics because in the same way that some people of color commit crimes, white males are responsible for the most shootings.