When someone mentions the American Dream, what image comes to your mind? I picture the basic image of a family of four in front of a white picket fence and a nice house.
James Fortozo, a first-generation Mexican-American college sophomore, thinks of families of color who migrate to the U.S. and “Of Mice and Men”, a book depicting working-class struggles to succeed in America.
Whatever image you pictured, do you believe it to be realistic?
I think the American Dream is pointless, unattainable and problematic.
“The American Dream contradicts the reality of the U.S.,” Fortozo said. “There are obstacles in the way for my community prohibiting us from reaching it.”
It is almost a creative way of saying “nothing is impossible,” or “the sky's the limit” and to “shoot for the stars,” when in America that’s not possible for many reasons. What comes to my mind first are racial injustices.
Fortozo explained the struggles many Mexican families face when starting their lives in America. Undocumented people have difficulties getting high-paying jobs and people take advantage of their status for cheap labor, he said.
“It’s a common idea to think hard work equals loads of money, which in many cases is not true,’ Fortozo said “Some of the hardest working people I know never made it to middle-class status.”
Fortozo was born in the United States, but his parents migrated from Mexico. His mom is a teacher and his dad is a small business owner.
“By the book definition, my family has achieved the American Dream,” Fortozo said. “Just because we hit some of the main points of the American Dream, it doesn’t mean we are satisfied with our experience in America.”
The same goes for my family. While we have not always been successful, we have always made things work despite the obstacles placed in our way.
Sometimes it makes me sad to see the sacrifices my grandparents and parents have made and are continuing to make so my life can be as privileged as it is. I think the drive to give your children better than what you had stems from the American Dream stereotype.
Fortozo said he is unsure if the traditional American Dream is something he wants for himself.
“I’m not sure if it is something to aspire to because it can build an unhealthy view of America,” Fortozo said. “I think the American Dream should be personalized to the individual and should not have specific guidelines for everyone to achieve.”
While he once idolized it, he sees how the concept negatively impacted him by hiding the reality of the troubles he faced as a first-generation Mexican-American. He said he created his own version of the American Dream.
“As a queer individual, my American Dream is going to look different from the traditional American Dream,” Fortozo said. “I spent my adolescence inheriting my parents’ dream but now it is time to focus on my own dreams.”
He finished by saying he will strive to satisfy his dreams, even if they go against his parents’ wishes. In my opinion, that is how we all should picture our American Dreams.