May 23, 2019 | 73° F

KEMBURU: We awaken from American Dream to inequality, immobility


Opinion Column: An Optimist's Opinion


Historian James Truslow Adams once said, “The American Dream is that dr “today a woman with a bachelor’s degree earns roughly the same as a man with an associate’s degree, and the same holds … for each successive level of educational attainment,” It gets even worse for women of color and people of color in general ffort, your dreams can come true. America is the land of opportunity. 

These are the words that anyone and everyone is told when they first step onto American soil, and it may be the very reason that they came here in the first place. It is what we are promised as children, when we are asked what we will be when we grow up (hint: it is anything you want to be).

While this all sounds nice enough, I struggle to believe that it is true (and this is coming from the optimist). A prime example of where the American Dream fails is the wage gap. More importantly, how an individual’s identity affects how much they earn. This concept is not one that is new or unheard of. In fact, over the years, we have heard about the gender wage gap and even the racial wage gap and the fight to fix it. But a part of the solution, according to some people, is to pursue a higher education. Pursue a higher education, and higher pay will follow suit, no matter who you are. 

While this might be part of the truth, it is not the whole truth, since “today a woman with a bachelor’s degree earns roughly the same as a man with an associate’s degree, and the same holds … for each successive level of educational attainment,” according to Forbes. It gets even worse for women of color and people of color in general as, “college-educated Black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80 percent the hourly wages of white college-educated men … Black and Hispanic women with a college degree earn only about 70 percent the hourly wages of similarly educated white men,” according to Pew Research Center. Of course, I am not here to say that these disparities are solely due to discrimination, but gender and race definitely play a part in the wage gap. 

The point that I am trying to get across is that the different aspects of an individual’s identity (gender, race, religion, age, etc.) can work to help them or hinder them in the United States. This concept is known as intersectionality, and it was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw. If this is true (and it is), then from birth, some people are at an inherent disadvantage, one that cannot necessarily be fixed by “working hard enough.” 

But most people in America are either ignorant toward this (after all, ignorance is bliss), or they ignore it, maybe because they benefit from it. And so, they choose to keep this idea alive. But, the consequences of holding onto this belief are more dire than one would think. Take the current healthcare system that is in place for example. Most Americans “tend to believe that health outcomes are under individual control, and discount the concept that societal unfairness may be behind many poor health outcomes,” said University of Washington professor Stephen Bezruchka. 

Because of this perspective, the government is less likely to enact universal healthcare, implement parental leave policies or provide social assistance to families and those who are unemployed (all factors that have been proven to improve the health of a nation). 

Despite being one of the richest nations in the world, the United States is the least generous when it comes to social assistance and welfare for its people. The United States government consistently does little to help those who are in need. This is because of the belief ingrained within us that those who fail are lazy, and that those who succeed are successful because of their work ethic and nothing else. But, this is so clearly not true, and this perspective needs to change. 

The 2020 elections are coming up, and Democratic candidates are announcing their proposals and standing up for the policies they believe in. There have been mentions of Medicare-for-all, universal childcare, free college and so much more. All of these ideas have one thing in common: the push for government assistance. I can only hope that these are not just promises to campaign on, but policies that will turn into real programs. Because as a government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” I believe that America must strive to do more for its people. 

Anusha Kemburu is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in political science. Her column, “An Optimist’s Opinion,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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Anusha Kemburu

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