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November 29, 2022

 

“America Means” Blog Post

America’s influence around the world is notorious and undeniable. From clothing to culture to music, the word “America” buzzes in the mouths of people around the world. Consequently, people arrive here expecting a warm embrace from this haven. But, when face to face with America, it’s notably different than what one would expect it to be. Once the pretty layers are peeled back, a dark history bubbles to the surface. In Dr. Kendi’s incredibly written essay “Denial is the Heartbeat of America.”, he flawlessly explains one of America’s major problems. Its affinity for hiding the truth. This action of hiding is what subliminally advocates for the racial violence that is rampant across America. Dr. Kendi effectively peels back layers of America’s pretty exterior to get to its questionable interior.  “Has American denial blinded Americans from seeing what has happened in their country over the past year in states across the land, on social-media apps across the internet?” (Page 2) He makes strong points as to how we can begin to heal the wounds that lie underneath the surface. In my opinion, Dr.Kendi has shown America through a lens many people refuse to look through at all. He presents America without the sugar coating and presents a problem. I find this to be quite necessary, because as a colored person in America, as a child of immigrants, I am aware that the America I’m in will never quite be the same as the America where my white peers dwell. 

 Yet with so many people and so many perspectives, the idea of America is illustrated in books, stories, and experiences in a variety of shades. Take, for example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s renowned novel “The Great Gatsby.” It includes an agglomeration of themes but one that is striking is the recurring theme of the “American Dream.” After reading both Denial is the Heartbeat of America and The Great Gatsby I can confidently say that Jay Gatsby resides in a different America than the one of Dr.Kendi. When not residing in his opulent home or throwing colossal parties that permeate into the night, Gatsby is out and around town in his canary yellow Rolls-Royce. Shortly after being caught in a tangle with a police officer due to speeding, Gatsby is let go after receiving an apology from the officer. This particular section of the book led to my comparison of Gatsby’s America and the America that Dr.Kendi describes in his essay. In 2020, police-related racially-motivated violence has been rife. While people are left to pay with their lives, Gatsby can evade the situation without a scratch. This example here is a clear representation of the “Two Americans.” Unfortunately, the harsh truth is that the way America treats an individual is highly dependent on factors such as race and wealth. 

 The America where one’s chances of success simmer down to their race and wealth is described in Langston Hughes’ riveting poem Let America Be America Again.  Like Fitzgerald, Hughes emphasizes the idea of the American Dream. However, instead of focusing on the manifestation of the American Dream in the lives of people like Jay Gatsby, he focuses on the people who were robbed of their opportunities. “Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme. That any man be crushed by one above. (It was never America to me.) (There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”) In this quote, Hughes explains that he never received America as it was advertised. That the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution paint a beautiful picture of America that Hughes is not able to enjoy. That these documents not only shut people out but also hide the truth. The truth that Dr.Kendi hopes Americans will acknowledge.

All the sources mentioned above are vivid in their explanations of America, and bring light to the topic of educating people about America, specifically, American literature. As I’ve explained in my writing, there is no singular way to describe an American experience to someone. It’s clear that to present America’s past, present, and future, we need a conglomeration of projects. We need pieces from individuals that have embarked on different walks of life. This here is the only way to catch a glimpse of the un-polished America. The true America.

 I can say without hesitation that my personal experience as a young POC has had an impact on the way I see these sources and the way I see America. While I am tremendously grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given in America I am aware that as a young woman of color there are constructs out there simply made to break me down. This is something that needs to change. As a people, it’s vital that we peel back the layers and see this country for what it truly is. We need to understand that America is not the same for every individual. It’s time we live up to the echoing words of the Constitution and Declaration that ring in every American’s ear. 

Works Cited

  1. Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby (Scribner Classics). Classic, Scribner, 1996.
  2. Hughes, Langston “Let America Be America Again” 1994. The Estate of Langston Hughes https://poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again
  3. Kendi, Ibram. “Denial Is the Heartbeat of America.” The Atlantic, 27 Jan. 2021, www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/denial-heartbeat-america/617631

America Means Inequality

I have lived in the United States of America for my entire life, growing up in the Bay Area gives me different views of what it means to be an American to other people. The idea of what it means to be an American can alter wherever you are in the country. To some it means extreme patriotism and to others it just means to be living here. To me America means freedom and the extreme opportunities given. Yet, others have had very different outlooks on what this country is.

The country that I see as a land of freedom and opportunity has been a land of false advertising to others. The idea of our country being a place where everyone is equal is just a lie. In “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes he talks about how America has never really been America. In our own countries Declaration of Independence it states, “all men are created equal.” This part of the document was written by a slave owner which highlights the ways in which our country is built on unkept promises. Langston Hughes talks about all the ways in which African Americans and many other groups of people who have been oppressed don’t have the same opportunities as white people in America. In a particular part the author says, “ O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—.” This conveys that America means a country that has only worked well for white men so we need to make it a place that works for everyone, as promised in documents like the Declaration of Independence.

While some see America as a country that has not worked for them, others have been able to live the “American Dream”. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book, told from narrator Nick Carraway’s point of view, about the lives of his wealthy friends. One of those characters, Jay Gatsby, is a very rich man who came from a poor family. This book shows another side of America which is the people this country did not give false promise. As he comes from a poor family and ends up an extremely wealthy man.

Like Langston Hughes said previously, many Americans have not been given the opportunity and freedom they were promised years ago. This same idea is prevalent in Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”, a poem she performed at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021.  She talks about how we can make America a better place by giving equal treatment to all. The poem states, “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president.” The ways in which they do not compare is she seems to talk about how we all need to unify to adopt these standards. This is largely because of how different the country is nowadays versus in the 1930s.

As stated earlier I believe that America is a country that many have found to be great due to the fact of the ways in which it has allowed them to succeed in life. America is a country that many have found to be great, whereas others have found it to be a place not providing equality for them. Growing up as a white, middle class, male I have felt the United States has been a great country that has worked very well for me. Yet, I have grown up in an extremely diverse region which allows me to observe the ways in which it doesn’t work for people of color and other marginalized groups. So, I agree with all of these texts, for some the country is a place where your wildest dreams can come true and for others you are not given the opportunities you were promised.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940. The Great Gatsby. New York :C. Scribner’s sons, 1925.

Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again.” Poets.org. The Academy of American Poets. 07 May 2013 <http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609>.

Gorman, Amanda. “Amanda Gorman’s Poem Stole the Show at the Inauguration. Read It Again Here.” Town & Country, 17 Feb. 2021, www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a35279603/amanda-gorman-inauguration-poem-the-hill-we-climb-transcript


Undeserved Solitude

(Great Gatsby: Nick’s poem to Gatsby)

I contacted so many who I expected to show.
Those who weren’t expected did.
I remember the parties full with infinitive glowing stars.
But just as when the bright truth like a sunny  day appears they cease to be visible.
To my utter disbelief and disgust towards those many stars who never showed.
No call or card from Daisy who said to have fancied you.
My blood boils for you Old SPORT and your GRAND future that was lost.
All for a prohibited and poisonous drink that  you took that killed you slowly.
Now here I stand with your father, the minister, Owl eyes, and a few of your servants.
The irony of how you never accepted your father yet he stands here like a proud lion.
With this letter I say goodbye to the Great Gatsby who deserved so much more but was given nothing.
I can only carry you in my memories.
That is my gift to you old sport. 
-A.R.


The Beauty of Ethereal

As surprising as it may seem, I did not know what my favorite word was, or what it meant for that matter, until just recently. I was in my American Literature class earlier this year watching The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann, when I heard one of my peers use this word in an oral review of the movie. I recall this student referring to the beautiful scene in the beginning of the movie where Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker are in the living room of the Buchanan household. They are dressed in long, flowy, white dresses and are flouncing around on the couches while the wispy curtains in the room are blown about by the gusts of wind. The student in my class described the scene as “ethereal”. I had never heard this word used before but it intrigued me, so I Googled it, and I could not help but agree with her. Ethereal is defined as being extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. The depiction in The Great Gatsby was so dream-like that it almost resembled a heavenly state. Every time I hear the word “ethereal,” I picture this beautiful, light scene and it makes me happy.

The scene is not the only reason why this word interests me; I also admire the pronunciation of ethereal. There is shear beauty in the way the word’s four simple syllables sound coming out of someone’s mouth. Even the word itself sounds delicate, dainty, and graceful. Ethereal. Ethereal. Ethereal.

https://www.youthvoices.live/tag/the-great-gatsby/