The American dream – present and accounted for

With the 4th of July imminent, the crowd gathered in Brooklyn on June 30 to take the oath of United States citizenship was excited about their chance to live the American dream.

Reflecting the thoughts of the assembled group, Felix A. Okema, 38, formerly of the Ivory Coast, now a resident of Elm Park, Staten Island, spoke with pride and enthusiasm of the naturalization experience.

“You have a system that opens its doors to opportunity, to others,” Okema said. “You hear people talking about it. It’s real. The vibe, the intelligence, the special blast of the people here — it’s going to make the country better.”


Okema and the rest of the new citizens obviously didn’t get the message from University of California President Janet Napolitano.

She thinks saying the United States is a land of opportunity is insulting, a microaggression.

Earlier this year Napolitano sent letters to UC deans and department chairs inviting them to seminars “to foster informed conversation about the best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate.”

A principal goal of the seminars was to help faculty “gain a better understanding of implicit bias and microaggressions” in their vocabularies and to urge the faculty to purge potentially offensive words and phrases from their speech.

Examples of such offensive speech included the following:

  1. Statements that indicate that a white person does not want to or need to acknowledge race, such as, “There is only one race, the human race.” “America is a melting pot.” Why is this a microaggression? It delivers the message that you must assimilate to the dominant culture.
  2. Statements denying bias, such as saying to a person of color, “Are you sure you were being followed in the store? I can’t believe it.” Why is this a microaggression? It denies the personal experience of individuals who experience bias.
  3. Statements that don’t recognize meritocracy is a myth, such as: “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” ;“America is the land of opportunity.”; “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.” Why are statements such as this a microaggression? They deliver the message that the playing field is even or that people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.
  4. Statements implying that the values and communication styles of the dominant/White culture are ideal/”normal”, such as saying to an Asian, Latino or Native American: “Why are you so quiet? We want to know what you think.” Why is this a microaggression?: It delivers the message that Asian, Latino and Native Americans must assimilate to the dominant culture, that there’s no room for differences in America.

Where does this stuff come from? Not from Americans.

A just-released Penn Schoen Berland poll of about 2,000 Americans from June 8 to 19, 2015, commissioned for The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, revealed that 72 percent of those polled said they are living the American Dream or expect to, 85 percent of are satisfied with their lives and 86 percent are optimistic about the future.

Young people are on board, too. According to the poll, 77 percent of Millennials say they’re living the dream or believe they can. Among African Americans and Asian Americans, that rises to 82 percent and among Latinos to 83 percent.

Napolitano and her ilk are clearly way off base. As the Atlantic concluded, the American Dream is alive and well. It’s the misguided people subscribing to Napolitano’s thinking who are undermining it.

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