When being asked the question “What is American dream”, different kinds of people would have various answers. Kids living in this country would say “Be a rap singer, or a professional athlete, and become famous and rich like a superstar rising within a single day”. College students would answer “successfully graduate from school and find a promising job”. Scientist’s version of American dream would be “create new technologies to make a better life”. Politicians would convey their dream of true freedom and ideal policies.
Even people from different cultures would have different answers in mind: white people from east coast dream to get into a private college, and come out as lawyers and doctors; black people from south are more intended to develop themselves to professional athletes and hip-hop singers. People who travel across the ocean and just landed on this continent may only want to settle down and find a appropriate job. However, no matter what culture those people are in, there is always a basic and fundamental spirit or rule for the American dream, that is– they can achieve what they want through great effort and hard work.
However, isn’t there something always complicates people’s attempts when they are trying to achieve their American dreams? Of course yes. Although every other day we can see a person starting as impoverished but ambitious underclass turns out to be an idol and a symbol of American spirit, there are still thousands of people behind the camera who work as hard as he or she does or maybe even spend much more effort but never see the hope of achieving their goals, and their dreams eventually break, brick by brick.
Although in nowadays American society, thanks to some wise politicians, many factors such as mpoverishment and race are no longer the barricade for those who are resolute to achieve their American dreams, cultural differences are still making a contribution to smashing American dreams, especially for immigrants. As we know, America has a white-leading-culture society, which means, although America seems to be a multiple-culture country, people living in this country are still more willing to spend their time with those who have the same culture background instead of blending different cultures altogether.
For example, you may notice that African Americans mostly hang out with black people; a brown skinned boy never gets the chance to hook up with a white girl; nobody knows about Spring Festival except Chinese and some weird Chinese culture zealots. So the thing is based on the non-white culture that you not only familiar with but also used to abide by you must work much harder, harder than those who was born in this fantastic country, to merge yourself into American culture, before you even started to pursuit that absurd, ridiculous and mostly outreached “American” dream.
We can easily find a example in the article “Two ways to belong in America” written by Mukherjee. In the article, the author describes her and her sister’s experiences of living in the U. S, which seem to be distinctively different for two Indian women who share almost the same genes, appearance, and attitude before they came to America –as the author describes: “We dressed alike, in saris; we expressed identical views on politics, social issues, love and marriage in the same Calcutta convent-school accent. However, the author’s sister Mira, married an Indian student and soon acquired labor certification for the green card, but the author herself, getting rid of saris which is a label of traditional Indian women, married a Canadian American and for some reason acquired American citizenship.
Although walking different paths, they ended in similar places: Mira felt betrayed by America since she devoted her almost entire career into American education ystem but had to face the new rules curtailing benefits for legal immigrants like her; Bharati, the author of this article, although not yet compromised by this country politically, had undergone a hard time fitting into the community that she was supposed to be in. Undeniably, cultural difference between America and India played a significant role in Mira’s feeling of not belonging to America so much-as the final sentence of the article says: “The price that immigrant willingly pays, and that the exile avoids, is the trauma of self-transformation”.
It is the unwillingness of cultural self-transformation that make Mira “happier to live in America as expatriate Indian than as an immigrant American”, which causes her political disadvantages and thus tears apart her American dream of living well as an Indian in America. Unsurprisingly, unwillingness of cultural selftransformation is neither the only nor the most important factor that complicates people achieving American dream.
As the production and most apparent label of culture, language is sometimes the most influential factor that complicates people when they are pursuing the American dream, especially for immigrants who are non-English speakers. As the article “”More than just a shrine-Ellis Island” mentions: “Immigration acts were passed; newcomers had to prove, besides moral correctness and financial solvency, their ability to read” and “Intelligence tests were biased against all non-English-speaking persons”.
It is easy to imagine the scene of non-English-speaking immigrants coming to Ellis Island, full of complicated feelings combined by disappointment in their home country and the hope of restarting in a new continent, but leaving with a greater disappointment due to their lack of ability to speak English, and their first step of chasing American dream just swamps them into the deep disappointment only because they come from a different culture that have a different language.
As an cultural outsider myself, I recalled my own experience of entering this country–not myself being blocked by the visa officer in the U. S Embassy at China, but what I saw, the girl standing before me who was rejected by the officer and thus unable to travel to America to fulfill her American dream. It was a Tuesday morning when I went to the U. S Embassy at China, applying for my visa to travel to America. I was the second in our line, right after a girl who seemed as nervous as I did.
The officer finally showed up and asked her to step up for a face-to-face conversation. Apparently that white, male visa officer assumed that the conversation would be smooth and brief since the girl, as I glimpsed from her paper file in hand, was going to America for a college education. However, to both officer’s and my surprise, she didn’t have enough ability to communicate with a normal English speaker as she failed to answer nearly all the questions by the officer.
In the end, the officer rejected her by saying:”Sorry I can’t give you visa” in Mandarin, our native language. I soon realized that I had witnessed a moment of dream broke–she was not allowed to be in America because she couldn’t use “American language” fluently, and obviously there are thousands of students entering this building but leaving without permission of visa–this is how dreams are broken, nakedly, without even one more step on the way of chasing the American dream, just like thousands of outsiders attempting to enter America from Ellis Island.
As nearly everybody thinks America is where the dream comes true, there are still many factors that can more or less influence and complicate people from accomplishing their American dreams. Culture difference is one, but never the only one. Although it seems like America is the nation that embraces and adopts all the outside culture, nobody would notice that, for those outsiders who come to this country for their dream, the sacrifice, the cultural abandonment, the price of selftransformation, and the fact that they can never truly fit into this culture created by “the only one percent” people are beyond imagination.