American Dream Of Egalitarianism Research Paper

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Native Americans Type: Research Paper Paper: #41264984 Related Topics: Statue Of Liberty, Plessy V Ferguson, American Literature, Demography
Excerpt from Research Paper :

America: A nation of paradoxes

America is a nation of paradoxes. On one hand, it is a nation that has symbolized freedom to many immigrants, as poignantly illustrated in Emma Lazarus' poem "The New Colossus," a poem included on the famed Statue of Liberty that greeted so many refugees as they strove to escape from Europe and avoid intolerable situations. The Lazarus poem proclaims the dawning a new America, free of class restrictions, which can offer prosperity even to the poorest new arrival. Yet federal policies in regards to African-Americans and Native Americans have been marked by injustice and prejudice. The American Dream of egalitarianism exists next to an ugly strain of racism that has run through the thread of American history since its inception.

Emma Lazarus' poem is perhaps the most explicit, famous rendition of the American dream: "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp... / Give me your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (9-11). The poem creates a clear contrast between the oppression of Europe, despite its supposed superior culture, and the promise of America. The statue is called the 'Mother of Exiles' who offers "world-wide welcome" to all. This is the American ideal, the America of popular myth.

During the early 19th century, America indeed seemed to embody some aspects of the Lazarus poem in reality. America did become considerably more diverse in terms of its ethnic composition. "The most visible manifestation of diversity in 1900 was the multitude of nationalities, languages, and cultures within the white population….more than one-third of the U.S. population was composed of immigrants from Europe and their children. About half the immigrants in 1900 were considered to be 'old immigrants,' meaning that they came from the traditional sending countries of Great Britain and northwestern Europe. The rest, including Italians, Slavs, Greeks, Poles, East European Jews, and many other groups from southern and eastern Europe, were labeled 'new immigrants'" (Hirshman 595). In fact, a greater proportion of the U.S. population was made up of immigrants in the 19th century vs. The 21st. "Only 54% of the population in 1900 was native-born white of native parentage, compared with 62% in 2000" (Hirshman 595). However, these immigrants often faced considerable prejudice and the 'new immigrants' were often considered to be nonwhite (including the Irish and Italians) and treaded accordingly.

Yet in the poetic rhetoric of the age, this diversity was often celebrated, despite the difficulties faced by new immigrants. The ideal of American democracy is similarly embodied in Walt Whitman's vision of New York City in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Whitman paints a picture of the ferry that depicts it as something that all human beings in New York can enjoy and benefit from: when he uses it, he participate in a larger conversation with American democracy, a conversation which will continue even after he is gone.

"Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high;

A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,

Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide (17-19).

However, this sunny, uncomplicated vision of America is not enjoyed by all. In the essay "Will Smith's defense of his race," the writer notes "to the Negro alone, politics will bear no fruit" (Smith 749). While Irish immigrants have been able to mobilize and generate common support politically according to Smith, African-Americans have been denied their voting rights due spurious claims of miscegenation and rape. The Irish, once despised, now dominate politics in the North while African-Americans are segregated and denied parity with whites. Historians have since argued that "the Irish 'became white' by distinguishing themselves from those who were not [White]. As longshoremen and steelworkers, they...


It was argued that a "Negro educated is a Negro spoiled" and that education was 'wasted' upon the Negro, yet "of what use has education been to you in the upbuilding of the political and social structure which you designate the United States of America," asks Smith (Smith 750). Smith implies that a good education is worth very great deal, underlining the role education plays in social mobility in America. Racism is the root of any alleged crimes of African-Americans against whites, stresses Smith, underlining the lack of party of the social conditions of the races an also the fact that the South in particular is not a place where African-Americans can "breathe free" like the immigrants of the Lazarus poem.

Of course, it could be argued that prejudice was at the foundation of America, given the destruction done to the Native American way of life at its inception. As noted by Walter Echo Hawk in his essay "Justice, Injustice, and the Dark Side of American Indian Law," although the courts did strike down segregation against African-Americans in Brown v. Board of Education and even allowed the religious minority of the Amish to suspend formal education at eighth grade (arguing that protecting their religious freedom was more important than compulsory high school) in the case of Native Americans there have not been similarly liberal protections (Echo-Hawk 30-31). Furthermore, even though eventually the U.S. Supreme Court did grant parity to African-Americans in education, this was only after many years of using the law to deny them their rights, as seen in cases like Plessy v. Ferguson and the Dred Scott decision. No matter how great the proclamations of American freedom have been, the enforcement of freedom has often been wanting.

This irony is also seen in "Unguarded Gates" by Thomas Bailey Aldrich who begins his poem with the words:

WIDE open and unguarded stand our gates,

Named of the four winds, North, South, East, and West;

Portals that lead to an enchanted land (1-3)

However, that enchanted land of America is not enchanted equally for all. "But if a slave's foot press it sets him free. / Here, it is written, Toil shall have its wage," notes Aldrich. Aldrich ends his poem with an ominous warning of the legacy that hate and denial of justice can lead, ultimately leading to the destruction of the American dream:

Have a care

Lest from thy brow the clustered stars be torn

And trampled in the dust. For so of old

The thronging Goth and Vandal trampled Rome,

And where the temples of the Cesar's stood

The lean wolf unmolested made her lair (37-41)

For African-Americans, the struggle was the desire to become a part of the American firmament: returning to Africa was no longer a possibility for most, given the degree to which they had assimilated, for better or for worse, into American society. But for Native Americans, the struggle was the opposite -- to preserve their culture in a land which wished to deny it. Perhaps the most scarring legacy of American prejudice upon the Indians of the 19th century was the development of so-called Indian boarding schools in which young Native American children were taken away from their families and forced to copy the mannerisms of whites. The idea for the schools came from an Army officer named Richard H. Pratt, who supported "removing Indian children from their culture and subjecting them to strict discipline and hard work would force their assimilation into mainstream society" (Vanderpool 14). "Pratt's famous dictum was straightforward: 'Kill the Indian and save the man.' School officials prohibited children from speaking native languages, and punished transgressors" (Vanderpool 14). The rationale behind the 1897 program was extremely ruthless and cynical: it was deemed cheaper to socialize and convert Native Americans than it was to fight them. There also may have been a not-so-subtle desire…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Aldrich, Thomas Bailey. "Unguarded Gates." 1895. Print.

Hawk, Walter Echo. In the Courts of the Conqueror. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum, 2010.

Hirschman, Charles. "Immigration and the American century." Demography (pre-2011) 42.4

(2005): 595-620. ABI/Inform Complete. Web. 19 Sep. 2014.

Cite this Document:

"American Dream Of Egalitarianism" (2014, September 19) Retrieved January 18, 2022, from

"American Dream Of Egalitarianism" 19 September 2014. Web.18 January. 2022. <>

"American Dream Of Egalitarianism", 19 September 2014, Accessed.18 January. 2022,

Related Documents
American Dream the Term American
Words: 1606 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Economics Paper #: 11154809

A solid work ethic can help stimulate creativity. Work ethic does not entail laboring for long hours in deplorable working conditions. A healthy work ethic means that Americans work hard because they love what they do and take pride in it. Warshauer shows how the "get rich quick" ideal has permeated American society, replacing what was once a healthy work ethic with an unhealthy arrogance. Liu also refers to

American Revolution's Emphasis on Individual Rights the
Words: 1324 Length: 4 Pages Topic: American History Paper #: 2823346

American Revolution's Emphasis On Individual Rights The American Revolution was in many ways a conflict over liberty -- a war between the ideology of the old world (as represented by the monarchy and the crown) and the new world (as represented by the Romantic/Enlightenment doctrine illustrated in Thomas Paine's Rights of Man). This paper will discuss the ways in which the early political experiences of our nation's forefathers gave the American

American Romanticism the Literary Movement
Words: 944 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 79634586

Henry David Thoreau also senses this loss of distinction. His book, Walden, published in 1854 at the height of American Romanticism, celebrates his return to Nature -- a sanctum of non-artificiality -- where Romantic writers sought knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. Walden is a key work of American Romanticism because of its embedded ideas of solitude, individualism, pantheism and intuition. Thematically rich, Walden tackles the importance of self-reliance, solitude, contemplation and

Advancements in the Humanities
Words: 2016 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Drama - World Paper #: 80276501

Vietnam and the Two-Sided American Dream The Vietnam era began under a cloud. Kennedy had inherited a government neck-deep in covert operations and rather than check the rate at which the U.S. exercised military might in foreign countries, he accelerated it. The American Empire had been doing so for nearly two decades since the end of WW2. With the Cold War in full force, the Bay of Pigs fiasco behind him,

History 1500-Present World Civilization From
Words: 3002 Length: 10 Pages Topic: Drama - World Paper #: 21153161

The American Dream was repeatedly exposed as a lie by American dramatists, ranging from Eugene O'Neill to Edward Albee to Arthur Miller -- but the PR machine had already been established: Orwell's warning was not heeded -- and "ignorance" became "strength." Millions now enjoy economic, social, and cultural slavery -- and don't even know it -- because they all believe they are experiencing "life, liberty, and the pursuit of

State of Race and Ethnicity in Baseball
Words: 3145 Length: 10 Pages Topic: Sports Paper #: 34898406

Race and Ethnicity in Baseball The State of Race and Ethnicity in Baseball In this paper, I have described the state of race and ethnicity in baseball (particularly referring to America) in detail. Starting from the history of ethnicity and racism in baseball, I have also provided the present scenario in the game. In the last part of my paper, I have described the importance of baseball to American society. Race can be