Forgotten Groups: the American Dream Discriminates Against Those Who Need it Most
We know by now that the American Dream is not unprejudiced. There is institutionalised discrimination within the very powers which are meant to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected. But this isn’t new. We all know this.
And yet there are still groups of people who aren’t talked about – their plight is simply not discussed or acknowledged publically. These groups are suffering a silent marginalisation, acutely particular to their own circumstances and perpetually ignored out of convenience or even for political leverage.
Known to be politically invisible, they have very little representation within the political sphere and therefore have next to no voice. They are wrongly identified and categorised to assume the hindrances that affect other groups, but not their own.
And herein lies the first problem. What does ‘Asian’ mean to you? The term ‘Asian’ is one of the most demographically generic tags used in America today – it represents Indians, Bangladeshis, Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Japanese, the Chinese, Filipinos and many more. However, each individual nationality within this group will have their own socio-economic and political issues.
Filipinos face their own very specific fight against political invisibility and the scars run deep. They were the first Asian group to arrive as slaves in the US, the only Asian group to be colonised and were promised and then denied citizenship and proper recognition. Filipinos make up 20 percent of the Asian population in America and were extremely instrumental in giving Asian Americans a stronger identity in the eyes of the powers that be. However, they experience some of the worst racism to be found in the states – a recent study revealed that 99 percent of Filipinos experience racism every day.
To add to the issue, media has contextualised Asians as the minority that doesn’t need to be worried about. Asians are known to be excellent mathematicians and accountants who do well for themselves – they’re sometimes referred to as the model minority. While this is offensive and demeaning to other minorities, it is also ignoring a large group under the umbrella of “Asian” who still need serious socio-economic help.
When we hear politicians addressing this subject it is usually wrapped in phrases like “families still struggling” and “need for jobs,” but very rarely is it called by its name – poverty. Yes, talking about poverty is hard and there is a huge amount of shame attached to the concept of being poor in America. However, while it isn’t voiced nearly enough on Capitol Hill, the queues grow longer and longer at food pantries across the country – hunger in the US is quite literally growing in front of our eyes.
Single women are the hardest hit. In fact, many never recovered from the recession. According to statistics from the Department Of Labor, only one job out of every thousand that was created or recovered after the recession went to women, and many mid-level jobs for women disappeared and have not been seen since.
America has not seen so much poverty since the Depression – child poverty has rocketed by 35 percent since the recession and this now makes the US home to the largest number of children living in poverty in a developed country aside from Romania. In total, 16 percent of the American population is living under the poverty line and 16 percent are invisible in the eyes of the government, which is reflected in a literal sense through how they define poverty. A single mother with two children must be earning $17,000 or less to be considered “living in poverty,” and yet this is higher than a mother working a minimum wage job.
This isn’t talked about nearly enough. Perhaps because they don’t know what it is they even speak of.
100 years ago Arabs were introduced to America in the film The Sheik and were portrayed as exotic, mysterious, sexually deviant and unpredictable. Time has not helped, and following September 11th and all the tragic events that followed in America and outside, Arabs remain a voodoo concept. This is regardless of second, third and fourth generation Arabs.
The extremely negative view of Arabs and Muslims abroad seems to have shadowed the nation’s history of these people who have helped to mold our culture today. Arab-Americans have fought in the military, built houses, and worked in factories. There are an estimated three million Muslims in the US today and yet they seem to be on a permanently temporary visa status in the eyes of politicians and the media.
In order to address the deep-rooted issues within these groups, the marginalisation and quasi denial of the marginalisation needs to be discussed both on a grass-roots level as well as on Capitol Hill. There is fantastic work going on both within Diasporas considered part of the Asian community, Arab-Americans, as well as within anti-poverty NGOs across the US. Progress is being made thanks to their continued collaboration and efforts in getting these facts out in the public eye. But there remains so much more to do, and the first step is acknowledging that.
About the author
Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Kate Harveston is a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about social change and human rights issues, but she has written on a wide variety of other topics as well.
She blogs on social and cultural issues at Only Slightly Biased.
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