The Lies of the American Dream

by Bene Viera

I waited anxiously on the phone line for a representative of Direct Loans to tell me how much in loans I had accumulated for three semesters of graduate school. I had an idea, but I wanted to hear how much I paid to obtain this fairy-tale of a myth that we call The American Dream.

America has been called the land of opportunity for centuries. It is where immigrants from far away lands migrate to work hard, save money, achieve success, and create a better life for their families. No one bothered to tell them about the ugly truths of this country—racism, oppression, sexism, homophobia, poverty and injustice. A few succeed in obtaining that American Dream by eventually starting their own businesses, gaining a profit, purchasing their first home, and living well. The majority, however, work sun-up to sun-down for someone else for the rest of their lives, finally realizing that this land isn’t as sweet as the dream they were sold.

For those of us born on this soil that was stolen from the Native Americans, we are also taught the power of The American Dream. Early on, education is instilled in us as the key to the golden gate to opportunity. Our parents truly bought the hype. Deep in their souls they believed that if you obtained your college degree, you were automatically qualified for decent paying jobs, you would climb the corporate ladder, set-up a nice retirement plan, all the while being able to support yourself.

What our parents, and the people we trusted for guidance, failed to mention are the struggles one faces with degree(s) in hand—landing jobs that pay us comparable salaries based on experience and education. Now, two and three degrees later, we are learning the hefty price we’ve paid in an attempt to obtain something that wasn’t necessarily designed for us.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is currently at 9.6%. If you take into account underemployment, the numbers are significantly higher. The unemployment rate for Blacks is 15.7%, and 12.6% for Latinos. This comes as no surprise to those of us born Black and brown. Any time the American public suffers from anything—disease, loss of jobs, recession—Blacks suffer ten times worse. “White folks catch a cold, Black folks catch the flu.” More like pneumonia.

The rate of unemployment for college graduates is 5%, but that doesn’t take into account unemployed Black college graduates, or underemployment.

Hunter College Professor, Courtney E. Martin, wrote an article three years ago, prior to the recession, sharing similar sentiments about the delusion of the American Dream.

“But knowing the statistics on social mobility and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, I just can’t stomach this “happily ever after” scenario. It is too clean.

Part of me wants to cringe, lecture them about how one success story is dangled in front of a struggling public so they won’t get angry enough to revolt against an unfair system. How oppression can so easily be mistaken for personal failure. How many employers won’t even look at their resumes if they don’t see an Ivy League college at the top. But another part of me wants to keep my white, upper-middle-class mouth shut.”

She continues on, expressing how she does not want to crumble their dream of making it big.

“As long as they are distracted by their own dedication, they won’t stop to question why the richest people in this country pay far less in taxes, proportionally, than the middle class. They won’t have the time to organize against elitist candidates because they will be too busy working dead-end jobs.”

Add to the recipe a dash of nepotism where meritocracy is as mythic as “justice for all.” No one calculates that into the American Dream where people who are less credentialed, about as smart as Sarah Palin, will land a dream job straight out of college because daddy made a phone call to one of his golf buddies.

The American Dream was in fact designed to make the rich richer while the poor remain poor.

Owing thousands of dollars in debt for the sake of adding a few letters behind your name, despite the fact your salary may never match what you’ve invested in your education, is not what I consider a beautiful dream. Sounds more like a nightmare. Blacks go to school, accrue an astronomical amount of debt sometimes taking up to 25 years to pay off, only to work for someone else’s company; sometimes never owning a home until the age of 40, still paying off debt and not really fulfilled with their career choice.

The Black middle class is depleting, many households living paycheck to paycheck. If you ask them, though, of course it was all worth it. They have been conditioned, trained, to think it is the only way.

I will always value education, which is why I went to college and then graduate school; but not at the expense of being indebted for half your life to the American government. It is our responsibility to tell the next generation the whole story. Not just the romanticized one. Just like the prison industrial complex, debt is a form of modern day slavery. We work hard for companies that don’t really value us, and then have nothing to leave to our children. No land. No homes. No assets. No money. No businesses. Just the lies of The American Dream.

  • EmpressDivine

    This was an excellent piece. I’ve been considering applying to grad school myself. I wonder if it’s really worth debt considering the unemployed black folks with advanced degrees out there. Something to think about….great read!!

  • Alexandra

    My parents are living paycheck to paycheck; but they’re making it work. And my father better thank god that my mom is a big saver, cause some things just come up so sudden & we’re not rich at all. I’m currently in school and working, but one of the main things I told my parents before going to college was: “no loan”. I refuse to take a loan and I’ll continue to avoid taking one unless I really need it. These loans are traps to me and they put a strain on people. I applied for a scholarship and was awarded enough money for my first school year and everything else has been paid by parents money + the little I have. There is no dream. You can only hope that your life takes you where you want. Even though I’m satisfied with where I’m going in life, I dont know where I will end up. I’m not looking to be super rich, but I dont want to struggle with money either.

    I dont run miles with statistics, and I have mixed feelings whether its true Black college grads cant find jobs compared to white grads. But I do know that there are stereotypes out there and Blacks just have to work even harder. I’m still going through the learning experience, but there’s not much to say or do. Some people don’t expect much from Blacks and that will affect some job seekers. All I can say is ‘Keep your head up’.

  • Chrissy

    I like this article a lot. I had to take out loans and might have to take out more. It looks like I will be paying them off forever. But, my parents took out some of the loans and they believe it is worth it, as long as I get my education. I think they are right, but I guess Ill see when it’s all said and done.

    I contemplated droppin out of college (just because I hate school), but what kind of life would I have without a degree. Like the other poster said, I dont plan to be rich, but i dont want to live paychech to paycheck either.

  • liz

    As a current college student I have to agree 100% with this article. College is a business point blank…sadly in high school the teachers weren’t teaching us how to REALLY succeed in this type of business . Because at the end of the day getting all A’s is not the only important thing.

  • http://www.themeanblackgirl.wordpress.com Mel

    This is a reality that I have been struggling with for a very long time. A harsh one that crashed down on me as the job offers did not flood my email inbox, in spite of the fact that I graduated with honors. In spite of the fact I worked my way through undergrad, and forewent the “college experience” to focus on the task at hand and do what was right to get where I wanted be. Though it worked (I’m currently in India, working on my MBA), I’m often kept awake at night thinking of what my next move will be. Unfortunately the only answer I can surmise is going to school, again, to add more stock to my growing alphabet soup at the end of my name, and hope to God that somewhere the lie that I was sold growing up eventually pans out to have some side of truth to it. That this is all merely and hyperbolic misrepresentation, and my just desserts are well on their way.

    I’ll let you know when they show up…in the meantime, I have a paper to write and an internal brainstorming session to attend on how to find myself a career, not a job.

  • http://www.chellbellz.com ChellBellz

    “Deep in their souls they believed that if you obtained your college degree, you were automatically qualified for decent paying jobs, you would climb the corporate ladder, set-up a nice retirement plan, all the while being able to support yourself.

    What our parents, and the people we trusted for guidance, failed to mention are the struggles one faces with degree(s) in hand—landing jobs that pay us comparable salaries based on experience and education. ”

    Well I think it’s because times have changed, but my grandparents when to college and made great names for themselves. They bother had a masters, and the other a docorates. I think because college had become so easy, and because people are out of work and can just enroll that things are going to be this way until the economy gets better. Until our government figures something out.

    I know that i am struggling hard without my degree, I’ve been in school part time, and people have to realize that just having a degree won’t have people throwing themselves to hire you, these days you need to network, you need to be active, and def need to be creative. There are so many options other then working in someone’s cubicle or office. I still think that school is so important, but i also hate to say that easy access to school is messing things up, and there simply aren’t enough jobs to cater to those who have invested so much into school.

    Trust me when i say trying to work with just a HSD isn’t going to get you but so far once things fall back into order.

  • http://AirInDanYell.tumblr.com Erin

    I graduated from college almost seven months ago and my student loan payments begin in about two weeks. Currently, I work a part-time job that has nothing to do with my degree in any way shape or form, but I’m thankful to have a job. I’ve been applying for jobs and paid internships for almost a year, and still have yet to land one, which is similar to several of my peers. I even know people that graduated years before me that still have yet to land a position for which they gained their degree(s) in. It’s extremely disheartening but all I can say is that we must continue to be positive and persistent in searching for positions, applying every day, and networking with others.

  • Simon

    Good article! My loans get paid. I earned 2 graduate degrees and worked in Public Policy for 10 years. I started a consulting company and real estate investment business. I tasted some success in real estate investing but lost all of my properties due to market recession and market crash. I started over with better strategy in real estate and a trucking business. I’d rather be a small business owner than toil 9 to 5. Nonetheless, the American Dream is fallacious for many.

    I encourage all college graduates to deploy resources outside of major field of study.

  • Tahmeka

    Good article, but the writer failed to offer a solution or alternative. Do we teach our kids that college may not be worth it? Or we telling them to go, but don’t take out loans? I really don’t understand how people are given the opportunity to go to school and major in anything they want, and complain because they are not making 6 figures when they graduate.
    You have to pay your dues and a college education is just the first step. Our generation has a strange sense of entitlement and a need for immediate gratification.
    (No, jobs are not easy to get right now, but that’s true for anyone black, white, brown, educated, rich, and poor. That’s just what our country is going through right now.)

    Maybe we should not be teaching children that college= high paying job, but instead college+networking+performance +experience= high paying job. Ask those in your field that are successful how they got there. Most probably started doing grunt work with degree in hand.

    When I enrolled in college, no one promised me anything but an education.

  • Ebony Maple Leaf

    I graduated in 2004 with my bachelors in biology, made dean’s list and graduated with honors. When the time came to find a job related to my field, nothing was lined up. I searched and searched. Sent out cover letters and resumes galore. 6 months later? NADA. ZIP. ZILCH!

    The jobs that I finally did get related to my field? That was achieved by NETWORKING!!! I am now in grad school working on a degree in pharmaceutical manufacturing. I am in my 30s and my class are majority in their early to mid 20s who have been in school for the majority of their lives who really never had to hustle for their jobs, like I had to do. These youngsters freak out when they get a grade lower than a 90!!! They are where I was at in my 20′s, thinking I would be hooked up for life with my education. HA! College is a business indeed, and grades doth not make the student. Networking does! Grades are for etting the scholarships which are rare and quite paltry in their awards indeed. If only I knew this in my 20s.

  • Ebony Maple Leaf

    I graduated in 2004 with my bachelors in biology, made dean’s list and graduated with honors. When the time came to find a job related to my field, nothing was lined up. I searched and searched. Sent out cover letters and resumes galore. 6 months later? NADA. ZIP. ZILCH!

    The jobs that I finally did get related to my field? That was achieved by NETWORKING!!! I am now in grad school working on a degree in pharmaceutical manufacturing. I am in my 30s and my class are majority in their early to mid 20s who have been in school for the majority of their lives who really never had to hustle for their jobs, like I had to do. These youngsters freak out when they get a grade lower than a 90!!! They are where I was at in my 20′s, thinking I would be hooked up for life with my education. HA! College is a business indeed, and grades doth not make the student. Networking does! Grades are for getting the scholarships which are rare and quite paltry in their awards indeed. If only I knew this in my 20s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ty-Renee-Pinckney/12613306 Ty Renee Pinckney

    “The American Dream was in fact designed to make the rich richer while the poor remain poor.”

    Wow, Bene, you must have read my mind because I was just expressing outrage over so-call “American Dream” recently. It’s frustrating to say the least. This is why when I do have kids, I’m going to give them the true take on the American Dream and keep them involved in the arts so that they are able to get scholarships for college and not be bogged down in debt.

  • http://arielleloren.com Arielle Loren

    EXCELLENT PIECE! I couldn’t agree more. I did a blog post awhile back on why I personally said no to graduate school and it sparked incredible, lengthy conversation.

    http://arielleloren.com/2010/10/debt-and-success-why-i-said-no-to-graduate-school.html

    I don’t believe in being neck deep in educational debt. Additionally, I’m not convinced that grad school helps you in the long run financially (depending on what field you work in). Imagine if people actually took the loans that they invest in grad school and started small businesses. With the power of the internet, library, and maybe a few evening courses, I believe that most people would know the foundations of entrepreneurship and learn the rest along the way. I see it like this: the only free individuals living the American Dream are entrepreneurs. Living paycheck to paycheck on someone else’s clock with 2 weeks of vacation per year is not the best life. While many people will work for other people the rest of their lives (and that’s fine), I truly can’t wait to break free of the monotony, financial restrictions, and limited opportunity.

  • kellys

    No one should be taking out loans for degrees in the Social Sciences (unless they plan on going into the medical/counseling field for MD or PHD)

    No one should be taking out tons of money to be a teacher or social worker -low pay

    No one should be taking out tons of money to study Communications- the media industry is compacting, magazines are going out of business, radio stations are running on syndicated programs and celebrities are taking DJ Jobs as well as writing gigs (Steve Harvey), blogs have replaced magazines/newspapers.

    A person graduating now cannot model themselves after what their parents did, its a different world. More technology, more global. We are in a knowledge economy now.

  • stacey

    You know why they call it the American Dream? Because you have to be asleep to believe! In the words of George Carlin.

  • aj

    i agree with this article, but my story is a bit different. i graduated in 2000 with an arts degree and went into web development during the dot com boom. i had about 5 jobs offers lined up before i graduated. at the time web design/development and design wasn’t even a course of study (outside of programming). and as an art student we were taught about working at a job and freelancing, so we were always prepared to “think outside the box”.

    because in art … working a 9-5 is like death lol. that was no ones goal. lol

    i have honed my skills and been employed since i graduated. even after being fired it only took me a few months before finding something else.

    even now, thru the recession, i continually turn down work, because it just just become overwhelming to keep up with. i have even been offered teaching positions with no teaching experience because is such a high need for professionals in technology.

    so while this article is true, because i didnt need a degree to design websites, i still feel like it depends on what your discipline is.

    i wish i would have saved my money, although i had a BALL in school, i didnt need my degree to be successful. because most of what i learned, i learned after graduating.

    technology is one of those careers that continues to grow and a new job is always around the corner. so i lucked up.

    i do however feel the pain of the commenters who posted above. good luck and keep trying. or when all else fails, don’t wait for a job to come your way. create your own path through entrepreneurship, it’s not as hard as you think it is.

  • @shaystew

    Thank goodness I don’t have any student loans from undergrad but currently I’m in portfolio school and debating on a loan to cover expenses while drawing unemployment from a layoff. I don’t want to be in debt and the same I don’t want to put my soon-to-be retired parents in the poor house for supporting their 25 yo. They are anti-Sallie Mae but I just don’t see any other way… excellent piece on a common dilemma.

  • Simon

    @Arielle Loren:

    You said: Imagine if people actually took the loans that they invest in grad school and started small businesses.

    I agree somewhat. I have 2 grad degrees: Education and Public Policy. That money would have allowed me to keep my real estate investment business when market crashed and recession began.

    AND

    You said: I see it like this: the only free individuals living the American Dream are entrepreneurs. Living paycheck to paycheck on someone else’s clock with 2 weeks of vacation per year is not the best life. While many people will work for other people the rest of their lives (and that’s fine), I truly can’t wait to break free of the monotony, financial restrictions, and limited opportunity.

    I enjoy entrepeneurship and the freedom its brings. I own a bread distributorship and 2 OTR FEDEX routes now. I enjoy a 6 figure income and have 6 employees. It didn’t take many resources but does require work. I’ve met many people that have thriving in this lane. But I think many don’t attempt due to illusion of prestige gleaned from college education.

  • shaw

    Eff it all! Join the military!

  • aj …

    @ simon … i couldnt agree with you more. people think having your own business is tough and it is. but trust me, its a lot more fulfilling than working for someone else.

    when was the last time you thought about work 24hrs a day, came up with ideas to improve what you do, lived and breathed for work and it all seemed like fun?

    i’ll answer for you … never. this is what working for yourself does.

    you are your biggest obstacle and resource. yes you will do everything yourself when you first start out, but thats the fun of it. the journey.

    and another misconception is the fact that many first time business fail. and if your does, you should take everything you learned and apply it to your next venture. dont give up!

    or … well … you can keep working everyday, waiting for your big tax check at the end of the year and your 20 days of paid leave until you retire, while the rest of us live life to it’s fullest or die trying.

  • Dolce Diva

    I’m 28 years old and about to receive my BA in English. I work as a teaching assistant. I have a mountain of debt, including student loans. As much as I am an advocate for education, I am considering not going on to graduate school because I don’t want to be looking at another damn bill. The same goes for looking at another damn professor, attending another damn class, writing another damn essay. I’m tired. I don’t feel like spending another damn minute in college. I want to have fun. I want to continue to learn, but this time I want to have fun while doing it. I have fun writing–what I want to write, when I feel like writing. I want to learn how to be a DJ. I love music and I love to see the reaction on people’s faces when their song comes on. I want to be a nail technician. I discovered my talent at my job when I volunteered to be a part of their beauty club. Before I turned 28, I was set on going on to grad school, but because of the things aforementioned, I just don’t know right now. My goal is to be well-rounded and if I can be that without paying off another damn loan, that would be sweet. Debt is the devil. It’s vicious and you stress over it too much you could end up in the hospital. What’s equally stressful is the pressure put on individuals to be college educated. Ugh! I can’t…

  • Ms. Todd

    I personally would not trade my college education for anything. It was probably one he the best experiences of my life. But the fact is this country has sold itself to the rest of the world and it’s own citizens as the land of opportunity, but the middle class has been shrinking at a super fast pace making it more and more difficult climb up the latter of success. A college degree is no longer a ticket to the “good life” as we were told. Most of this has been cause by corporate greed (ie: the greedy white male establishment) that puts profits and self interest of the ultra rich before anyone and anything. Check out a few of these facts regarding the shrinking middle class.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/the-u.s.-middle-class-is-being-wiped-out-here%27s-the-stats-to-prove-it-520657.html?tickers=^DJI,^GSPC,SPY,MCD,WMT,XRT,DIA

    Here are the statistics to prove it:

    • 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.

    • 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

    • 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

    • 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.

    • A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

    • 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

    • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.

    • Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

    • For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

    • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

    • As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

    • The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

    • Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

    • In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.

    • The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

    • In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

    • More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

    • or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

    • This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

    • Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.

    • Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

    • The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

  • brooklynqueen

    I totally agree. I’ve been thinking about going to grad school but the cost seriously out ways the benefits. undergrad cost me an arm and a leg and i haven’t even used that degree for anything. knowledge is the key to power, success and wealth. But higher learning is not always the best place to gain it

  • Simon

    Most mericans don’t know these facts. Its why I’m self employed.

  • http://heardhimsay.com Drew-Shane

    Great reflection!

    I had to make the decision if I wanted to go back to graduate school. I didn’t rack up on too many loans in undergrad, so I wasn’t too concerned but debt is debt. Not like those loans would have been paid off by now anyway but needless to say, I decided to go back and so me and Sallie Mae are becoming reacquainted. Good thing to say, I’m actually enjoying the curriculum and network I’m building now. Even if it’s just a few more letters, I’m getting a great experience. Many of my friends who went straight through was like, “Drew don’t worry about it” But it’s hard to not think how much money you’ll have to pay back.

    I think we just graduated in the wrong time. The economy is horrible. I just never thought we’d all have these negative experiences. Here’s hoping it gets better-

  • secret ninja

    the “American Dream” isn’t a dream, it’s a nightmare. listen to Jill Scott’s “My Petition” and you’ll see what i mean. this is the way this system is designed. they want people to go to school and rack up exsorbment fees in loans that they know they will spend the rest of if not most of their life paying back. and then when you get that degree, you’re told you don’t have experience, or you need the next level of degree, you need to network. and then when you finally do land that position, you’re paid ten bucks an hour for a position that should really pay seventeen. i’m actually surprised there isn’t protesting, flaming cars, and tear gas over this jobless rate, underemployment, too high rent fees/gas/etc.

  • Keychee

    I totally agree!

  • fraulein17

    “Owing thousands of dollars in debt for the sake of adding a few letters behind your name, despite the fact your salary may never match what you’ve invested in your education, is not what I consider a beautiful dream. Sounds more like a nightmare. Blacks go to school, accrue an astronomical amount of debt sometimes taking up to 25 years to pay off, only to work for someone else’s company; sometimes never owning a home until the age of 40, still paying off debt and not really fulfilled with their career choice.”

    so effing true!! we are taught all this since we were in kindergarden.1.go to school 2.get good grades 3. graduate and go to college 4. get several degrees 5.work 6. retire with a gold watch.

    i’m currently not (stressed out)/ enrolled in college but when people find out then they get on my a** and tell me that if i dont go to college i wont have a future. basically i only went to college 2 years ago cause people wouldnt stop bugging me about it. i didnt go cause i wanted to. i went cause everybody else was saying its what i should do.

    meanwhile, you have people with 2 or 3 degrees working at friggin mcdonalds for a living. you have people with multiple degrees not even working in the fields they got the degree for. some people just go to college cause they’re taught that its what they should do. they dont even know why they’re there. they finally get their degree and are like “now what?”.

    people act like going to college is going to solve everything. all that stress,thousands of $$$ in debt, and scraping to find a job all for a piece of paper and a couple letters.

  • Chrissy

    Yea. I basically went to college and was like “now what.” I thought about leaving but Im almost finished.

    I want to ask u a question. What are u doing since you’re not in school? Do you think you’ll go back later? Do you live on your own? Are u working? Im just asking because I didnt want to go to school either, but Im here though, and still thinking about leaving? But I dont have a plan though.

  • momo

    I understand some people are frustrated with not finding a job but i seen what not have a degree did to my mother. people can say what the want but we moving toward a society that they wont even look at you if you dont have a degree. My thing is have a plan dont go to for profit college or a 40,000 a year school.
    i started out at community college than will transfer to a state universtity.
    Also it really depends on what degree you go for. You cant be a doctor without a medical degree or Engineer without at least an 4 year degee.
    So unless you have so really great idea i dont see what the other real option thier is.
    like someone said on here noone promised me a job but i will have an education and thats important to me

  • Toya

    While I understand debt is not fun, I am not inclined to believe student loan debt is a death sentence for my future. We have all kinds of debt. Debt to buy a car, debt to buy a home. Those things can perish. An education cannot be taken away. I went to college and obtained a degree in Sociology. I now work for a bank…nothing to do with my field of study. I was working there less than 3 months when I was offered the only trainer position that guess what, preferred a degree. I beat out people that had worked for the company 20+ years. The degree helped. I’ve seen the alternative and it does not work for me. I consider it an investment.

    I plan to go to to graduate school for social work next year. While I am not mad at my pay check, I do feel a void because I could be doing more to help people in my community. So I decided to change my scenery and get a career and not a job. I don’t want to do it for the money. If I did, I would stay where I am.

    While it can be discouraging when the American Dream (not reality) does not pan out, I am thankful for what I do have. I’ve decided to redefine the American dream to suite my tastes and desires.

  • lynette

    “White folks catch a cold, Black folks catch the flu.” More like pneumonia. Wow…can I steal that line:). Listen, it’s hard out there and that’s a fact. Although I am one of those who has racked up debt in student loans, I still wouldn’t trade my education for anything in this world. It was more than just a degree but an experience for me. It took me from being a child to becoming a young woman. I’m not sure that would have happened without going to college. I would probably have had 10 babies out of wedlock by now. There are so many positive people in school and kids need that environment especially those who grew up in the inner city.

    As far as the American Dream goes…well that’s a whole other story. The American Dream has changed so much in the last 10-20 years..not only jobs…but marriage…kids…etc. Rather than waiting for the President or Congress to help you out…help yourself out! I think wealth can be had by anyone with the desire and willingness to achieve their goals. Seriously!(talking to myself:)) The wealthy people I know didn’t start wealthy but started like you and me and were creative enough to start their own business…work hard at it…and now they’re reaping the rewards.

    Having travelled globally, I know that other countries would love to come to America because they see its potential. For some reason, we as Americans don’t take the time to explore the opportunities we have right here. We just wait for someone to hand them over to us which is never going to happen.

    Bottom line…you want the American Dream…then you’re going to have to go after it hard.

  • JSim21

    I was just talking about this to my mother. I am an unemployed grad student trying to get my own business off the ground. I did get a job after graduation through a staff agency, but was let go 3 months later because I didn’t appreciate working for 2 companies (I wasn’t told this when I interviewed) while only getting a paycheck for one.

    It has made me sort of angry at my professors who kept saying, “graduate w/ honors and get a great job in the industry then make sure you keep going to get your masters.” They are telling students this, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of the economy. I just knew that no matter what, because I held a degree with lots of experience in my belt, that I could find a job…because they told me so. It gets our hopes up only to be let down.

    And after being let go at the job I did manage to get, which was not in my industry, I have become very afraid to go out there and just get any job available because of the power for someone to just decide at any point that they don’t want you working for them anymore. Where I live, it is legal to fire an employee without giving a reason. (Not sure if this is for every State or not) It just makes me feel like the safest way to have the dream is to create it yourself.

  • ash

    sorry
    you don’t feel my pain

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sheena-Henry/530439349 Sheena Henry

    I think this is the best response yet. I just wanted to say that I totally agree. The American Dream isn’t something that is given. It’s the opportunity to achieve, IF you put the effort into it.

  • Penny

    I want to applaud you for telling what you were not told. I have to say in defense of my generation (although I only have a 4yo child, many of my age cohort have children facing these decisions now), we may not know what to tell you. I have three degrees, one from a top school in the country and two from a private college, and the amount that I have stacked up in loans may not cover one year in college today. And, I borrowed every penny I could to get while working my way through school. At the end of workforce career (before I started staying home three years ago to be with my son), I worked as an educator for a non-profit that held people manage their money (not a financial advisor, but day-to-day balance your budget, make your ends meet sort of stuff). So, even at that time, I would recommend to people who would come in and say they wanted to go back to school for something like social work that they reconsider since that would not do anything for their financial situation. But, I was very surprised when I though that taking a few classes while I was now working at home might be a good idea. I’d always wanted a law degree and checked out the program at the local college (you’ve probably never heard of it unless you live nearby), and I was astonished to learn what the going rate for law school is at an unknown non-ranking university! So, thank you for getting the word out there. Unless you are going into a very technical field, one that requires said degree to be allowed to do said job, and you are very young and plan to spend an entire career working your way up the ladder so you can eventually pay off those student loans, a traditional college degree may be too expensive. Parents can’t dispense this advice, because they likely do not realize how insane it is today. It’s up to those who have recently graduated to get the word out…

  • Shizzo

    Basically!!!

  • Crystal

    The American dream has always been to have one’s own business. And Uncle Sam has always rewarded business owners.

  • Anon25

    I completely agree with you. On another note, I think that only a country like America could breed such arrogance as to say that a 9.6% unemployment rate is atrocious. That is really good compared to the rest of the world. We have to look at the context. We can’t be so spoiled and take what we have in this country for granted. People who come here know what it’s like to not live in a democratic country, to not have the rights we do have, and to not be able to get an education.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ebonylolita Ebonylolita

    I have a BA degree and have YET to go back for Graduate school. However, coming from a family of “School is Important” West Indians they look at me like I’m an UNDERachiever. My degree is the LOWEST in my family. I explain to ppl that I am loan-free and prefer to be that way. My aunts/uncles have incurred 2nd and 3rd mortgages to pay for my cousins IvyLeague schools. I REFUSE to allow my parents to take on that burden nor will I put that burden on myself.
    I have been able to advance in my career based on experience & “certifications” but I’m aware that everyone cannot do the same. At 31 I want to FREE UP MYSELF from the burden of ANY debt so I can own my first property. If I go back to school please believe it will be to CUNY & be paid for by AMS, which is a monthly payment plan. BUT…. that will only be for a personal goal. I am well aware how many of our folks have MSW, MBA, MA and are sitting right alongside of ppl who DON’T have the same degrees or in positions where their degree is useless.

  • court

    “The American Dream was in fact designed to make the rich richer while the poor remain poor.”

    too true.

    Lady Day said it long ago:
    <>

  • court

    “The American Dream was in fact designed to make the rich richer while the poor remain poor.”

    too true.

    Lady Day said it long ago:
    “Them that’s got shall get
    Them that’s not shall lose
    So the Bible said and it still is news”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/TheBlack-BoxOffice/1485474273 TheBlack BoxOffice

    High School, College, Marriage, Children, Company Man, Savings, Vacations, Kids College, Daughters Wedding, Retirement.
    The American dream…

  • Sam Boers

    “As long as they are distracted by their own dedication, they won’t stop to question why the richest people in this country pay far less in taxes, proportionally, than the middle class.”

    LIES LIES LIES

    How has nobody commented on this yet? Last time I checked this country uses a progressive income tax: the more you earn, the higher percentage of your income you pay in taxes. The rich pay far more, proportionally, than the middle and lower class.

    The top 10% of workers pay 70% of this nations taxes. If you’re in the middle class and you think you pay too much in taxes, you need a serious reality check.

  • momo

    no we did not have that system anymore it used to be that way but it has changed where the middle class is taxed at a much higher rate than rich and poor

  • jamesfrmphilly

    rich people have tax lawyers. they pay little or nothing. wake up!

  • Michelle

    The American Dream is generational in its rewards. The real rewards are seen after a few generation. Its for your progeny. Very few actually live a rags to riches life.

  • http://www.DaveCelestian.com Dave Celestian

    i think you’re missing one key point and that is money does not buy happiness. we should be working to help each other and not for individualistic purposes only.

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