When & How The American Dream Died for You?

Johan Orellana, Ecuatorianx (2016)

In 2016, a year after migrating to the US, I was asked by my english teacher to give her my social security number so she could sign me up for college classes at a local community college. I didn't have one, I didn't know what a SSN was at the time. I went home and I started asking my parents and other relatives, that had lived in the country for a longer period, about it but they avoided the questions. My school principal and parents laid out my options; the military or marrying a US citizen.

BS, Italy (2017)

I moved to New York in 2011. I had no money but I found a full time job and things went well for a while. In 2017, I got my green card as an artist and I decided to be a freelancer/gig worker to give the best of my time to my art practice, giving up a job with benefits —but crazy mandatory overtime. When I needed a doctor, as a freelancer with a cheap health insurance plan, I was deeply shocked. I began studying, reading more and I couldn’t stop crying about how cruel/senseless the system is.

Yvonna Pearson, American (2009)

As a black American, I was raised with an instinctual awareness of the lies told by the “American Dream”, but always hopeful that with the right effort I could overcome those lies. The dream died for me on 1/1/2009, the day Oscar Grant was executed by a police officer. It was the first pubic lynching I’d seen. A quote came to mind: we are our ancestors wildest dreams come to life. That day I saw those dreams shot in the back while lying prone on the concrete floor.

Tassy, Human (2020)

I’ve been trying since I was five to revive the American Dream. It was wounded seriously when my parents sold their farm and declared bankruptcy. Near fatal blows happened in 2014 with Michael Brown’s death and when a hater of humanity was elected President in 2016. But when much of the nation and most of the government refused to believe in the virus I was fighting every day at work, I pronounced it dead. My life is worse than my parents because we’re living in a failed state.

Pablo, Argentine (2020)

Moved to the US in Nov 2019, right before the pandemic. For me, the American Dream didn’t even started.

Zeelie Brown, USA, Black (2020)

My American dream died on a slave market auction block in Norfolk, VA in 1850.

Jessica Carolina González, Central American (2016)

The American Dream had always seemed unreachable to me because I saw how hard my immigrant mother worked to barely scrape by. We almost lost our home, we often couldn’t afford our utilities and we would have to “steal” water in the mornings to go to work and school. The dream completely died when Trump was elected. In that same year, after 27 years of battling against US immigration, my mother's residency application was denied through my sponsorship. We’re still fighting to change that.

David S. Schwittek, American (2001)

You know those movies where a group of strangers wake up in an unfamiliar place and have to work together to find a way out, or kill each other trying? That’s what it is like here now. The American Dream died on 9/11, 2001, tragically punctured in its vital organs by armed men and airplanes. Later on the US debased and abandoned its most cherished precept: human dignity, devolving into preemptive war, torture, murder, terrorism and, eventually, despotism.

Judi Cheng, Chinese-American (2017)

The American dream died for me when my elderly parents and I were on a public bus, speaking our Chinese language, and an old white man told my 88 year old father (who has worked and lived in NYC since 1968) to “Shut up! Go back to your own country!” My father replied, “YOU shut up, this IS my country!” It was very upsetting, given all of my father’s 40 years slaving away in dangerously hot Chinese restaurant kitchens, cooking meals for NYC workers.

D, United States (1958)

My American dream died when I realized that the color or my skin is a permanent marker of inferiority in a land where my existence is defined as "other." It died the first day that I was called a nigger. It died when I was not considered for a job for which I was eminently qualified. My American dream actually perished at my birth and as I grew up to see the anxiety it reflected in the faces of my parent's and others around me. However, I am still optimistic about the future of my country.

Trudi Young Taylor, American/Scottish (2016)

When a presidential candidate belittled a seasoned reporter as “Little Katy,” knowingly whipping up such a hostile environment, she had to be escorted to her car by the Secret Service. All because he was angry from an earlier interview. I knew at that moment, America was unraveling, and freedom of speech was dying. What other rights will vanish? At my mother’s urging, I immigrated to the US. She thought it would be safer after living through Europe’s Holocaust. I think she might be wrong.

Lisa Kim, S. Korean (2017)

The American Dream died for me when Trump removed DACA in 2017. Yes, I was aware of my "illegal" status since I was 12. However, I still believed in the American Dream. I worked hard, went to a top university, signed up for DACA, and embarked my corporate life in NYC. Within 2 years, I closed my accounts, said my rounds of goodbye, broke my soul saying goodbye to my mom, and moved to London. Now, I cannot return 10 years to life. Death to my American Dream but a new life of freedom.

Miguel, USA - moved to Mexico (1950)

Having read most of these stories, I say this to all these people: 1- Study the planet & identify a place/country /culture where you find better conditions than you have in the usa. 2-. Move there.

Michele Marasca, American (2020)

The American Dream died for me in 2020 as I watched my only child struggle to understand the world that he lives in. How could I explain the world I grew up in compared to what my child faces. I watch as my son tries to navigate his way through a world where there is a pandemic, drug addiction, a planet in crisis, unaffordable education, racism and a social divide stoked by our lesser angels. What has my generation left for future generations and how will they ever have their American Dream?

Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw, American (2019)

An American raised overseas, I observed from afar the policy decisions that are degrading our planet, FAILING OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM, oppressing women & immigrants & black & brown & gay folk... Yet, the minds of the White Men (and those who think like them) are also oppressed since they are unable to envision true justice and beauty. I observed the ignorance and sighed. But wait! I am American. I am American...? We are disconnected. No community, no USA.

Chelsea Darter, American (2010)

The American Dream wavered for me many times. I was 5 years old when I realized my value as a woman would never equate to the value of a man. I was 12 when my queer identity was dismissed and diminished. I was 19 when I felt shame for my class precariousness among my upper middle - class peers in college. The Dream finally died in my early 20's when I witnessed the ghosts of poverty and trauma overtake members of my family who followed the rules, who by all accounts, were supposed to make it.

Belinda Nicoll, USA (South Africa) (2001)

We arrived as South African expats on 9/11. After the terrorist attack, visa and green card applications stalled for three years. I quickly learned that a trailing spouse without a social security number have no rights; I couldn’t even open a utility account on behalf of my husband. As ten-hour+ work days and frenzied business trips consumed him, my sense of isolation in a hostile culture escalated. My career, self-esteem, and our marriage suffered—the undisclosed price of The American Dream.

A. Alterman, American (1994)

The first time I was unemployed and I heard people telling me that it was my fault the company I worked for let me go in a massive downsizing. The company had said they'd rehire all of us once they had money to. It's been over 25 years. An accumulation of little facts that killed the dream. Seeing my hard work mean nothing. Watching the cost of living increase while our salaries didn't. Seeing money spent on corporations and none on us. GOP not giving Obama's SCOTUS nominee a hearing.

Joseph Kanowitz, USA (2001)

First, upon being raised to put my trust in telecommunications only for surveillance to become the norm. Then when told to medicate to tolerate that norm. Then again, after 10 years of defending Americans' rights with my father, an attorney, seeing how careless and brazen his colleagues became upon his passing, leaving me without a home and with a mound of paperwork no one can complete accurately or afford to complete.

Wendy Diffendall, U.S. Citizen (1984)

My dream died when my husband and I went through 5 years of injuries and illnesses that left us in debt and struggling to pay bills. We had to wait to buy a house for 10 years and could only do it because it was a private sale of a house that needed major work. We were able to do enough work for it to be livable, but in 2000 and 2004 I had to undergo cancer treatments that cost my life savings and left us in debt again. We live on Social Security in an unfinished home. My dream is to die soon.

Rissa, Black American (unfortunately) (1983)

When I realized regardless of who says it or how many times and ways the phrase Black Lives Matter is expressed, it will never be true in America.

Sylvia H Blackwell, African American (1976)

Denied enrollment in College of Liberal Arts -Temple University in 1945, my desire to become a psychologist evaporated as enrollment quoto for black students was full. Unaware of the existence of racism in colleges, I revised my career aims, became a teacher in a public school in Philadelphia, and pioneered TV programs using Spiderman, Happy Days and Fat Albert booklets into reading classroom materials--adopted in time nationally by CBS.... Overturning an Obituary! 1988-retired

Jim Robinson, USA (2016)

The dream died the night Donald Trump won the presidency. Watching people I thought I knew cheer on his hate-filled agenda is demoralizing beyond belief. I've been a teacher my entire adult life. Trump fleeced people with Trump "University." Worse, he took people's valuable time and did so without a second thought. He can never restore that. He is an evil man.

Corinne, White (2012)

My idealistic American Dream had been on life support since second grade when I realized that no matter how much I tried, I would never be as important as the boys. It officially died in 2012 when I finally gained my bachelor's degree and realized that it was worthless. I wasted so much time and money trying to have a life that was as good as my parents'. Even now with a Master's degree, I struggle far more than my parents did at my age, and neither of them finished college!

Mark Warren, US (2020)

My American Dream contracted slow-growing cancer with Ronald Reagan, who persuaded the nation that greed was a good thing, government was demonic, and who spouted the most transparent lies about our support for some of the worst injustice on earth. Through periods of ups and downs, the cancer slowly grew over 35 years. With Trump’s ascendancy from gutter to leader, my American Dream is now hospitalized, perhaps on its death bed. Still, it is hard to give up the hope it might recover.

Mary Ann Maikish, American (1950)

It never existed!!!! My father was born in this country Manhattan NY. Seven children 2 adults lived in 3 rooms tub in kitchen. Dad bathed in public baths. My grandparents from Austria/Hungary spoke only German. Therefore my dad spoke only German and when he started school in 1914 we were at war with Germany so the kids in school beat him up physically and psychologically so that he spoke English without an accent and refused to teach us German. Would say to his mom English mom English

Kathleen Dahl, Norwegian-American (2015)

The American Dream died for me when retiring after 31 years as a tenured English professor, carefully saving for my financial security in retirement, the judge in Minnesota divorce court told me I was not credible and denied my legal right to protect my pension. Now, at age 68, I have no income, no assets, and the court refuses to order upper middle-class white male ex-husband to pay delinquent support. When the judge told me to “get over it and move on,” my American dream shattered.

Ruth Hunt, American (1999)

It came crashing down when the hospital I had worked in for 20 years dumped it's company sponsored pension plan & later closed leaving me with no retirement security except Social Security. I then had to work as an RN until age 75 to save for retirement. Now with old age looming on the horizon & the outrageous medical bills that are sure to follow, I have no real financial security and worse yet no peace of mind. It's hell to get old in America unless you are wealthy. Photo: 1969-young & naive

Enrico Rosetti, American (1983)

The American dream died in the cradle. There was chattel slavery, land theft and genocide, a knee-jerk revulsion to and exclusion of every new wave of immigrants. There were dirty politics, stolen elections and misbegotten wars all the way back. The American dream was a platonic ideal that was never meant to be attainable. It was a pack mule every politician in the land could strap his message to in order to get it to market. That all started to crystalize when I was 16. Reagan was President.

Jim Walsh, American (2010)

When I compared the cost of my education with that of my children. I’m a Boomer of Irish ancestry and had seen how each generation was able to do better educationally and financially than the one before, going all the way back to the Potato Famine. It was clear to me that this was over. My kids were privileged in many ways, and well educated, but it came with a much higher cost. Taking a broader view, I could see how systems kept the powerful in power. Income inequality exploded.

Barbara Chandler, U. S. (2020)

After a four year debilitating illness that begin in 2017, the American Dream took a gasping last breath through a ventilator and died in 2020: the year of a deadly pandemic willfully uncontrolled by the White House, racial injustice and hate fanned by the flames of a sociopathic President, and the final nail in the coffin: the more than 40% of Americans who want another four years of this exhausting, devastating chaos. #RIPAmericanDream

Andrew Harris, American (2018)

When after fifteen years of mental health therapy I realized I would never get better in America. My treatments were dictated by insurance and pharmaceutical corporations, not by myself or my doctors. I worked jobs I hated just to have insurance so I could then pay exorbitant rates for therapy and pills. I was caught in the purgatory of depression that consumes so many millions of Americans. Ours is a system that profits from illness, not cures - and certainly not from happiness or wellbeing.

Jennifer, American (1986)

My sons were born prematurely in Florida, and they got amazing care. But after their birth, my husband and I, newly married with no assets, got a 250,000$ hospital bill. For over 25 years, we paid it back. We could never get a loan, buy a house, a car, or think about saving for our children's education, so we moved to Europe to raise our family. My sons went to the university, have good jobs, and own their own houses - things they would have never gotten if we'd stayed in the USA.

Rosemary Reichard, American, Italian descent (2000)

My WWII Vet dad succeeded in moving his family of 8, from Brooklyn to the NJ suburbs in 1954, where my life was privileged. We have argued about politics since I can remember, as he’s conservative, I’m liberal. We did agree on trust in the Supreme Court’s ability to do the right thing, until 2000. My American Dream was lost when they gave Bush the presidency. Over time, court decisions on voting, guns, politics, made me realize I can never again count on SCOTUS to be neutral. My heart breaks.

Michael Shaw, australian (2003)

I was in Los Angeles and reported to emergency with a spider bite that had occurred the previous day in Sydney. I was prescribed some fairly basic antibiotics that would cost about $12 dollars at home. They cost me $226 for the generic version in California, and the minimum hourly wage is $12 per hour. I realised then that the American dream was dead. Working people can't afford basic health care. What kind of dream is that?

Lauren Carter, USA (1971)

When I began to realize corporations always beat out the people: we knew how to deal with pollution but corporate interests kept it going; that politicians were willing to send our young to die in an unwinnable war for a dubious cause; that people born on third base were always going to have the laws in their favor; that we knew how to solve almost all our problems, but financial interests stopped us from doing that, so the rich could stay that way.

Jessamin Swearingen, American (2016)

Let’s be honest: America has always been a private party for wealthy white men, but in 2016 it went off the rails. I was a school-aged kid when the Reagan administration gutted the middle class. But four years of Trump has gutted our morality.

Christina, American (2002)

I’m a white woman from a military family, who worked hard to get into good schools on scholarships, served in the Peace Corps and achieved success against the odds as a female in a male career. One day I was falsely accused of leaking classified information. I was never indicted, and the news source denied I was the source, but I lost everything— my job, my security clearance and my life savings. I learned that due process, innocence and justice were for the politically connected, not me.

Martina X, Black (1983)

Where to begin? Was it at age 4 not understanding why my mother was so enraged at a word that rhymed with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh? Was it when my first "boyfriend" would walk 20 paces ahead of me and sexually experiment, never date, with me in high school? Was it when my guidance counselor tried to steer me to state colleges despite straight As and extra-curriculars? And everything since. My dream died when I was born. Amerikkka is a nightmare, its people soulless demons.

Kat Cade, American (1992)

The American Dream doesn't exist for anyone who isn't white and male. It died when I realized I'd always have to work three jobs to make ends meet. It dies every time some MAN introduces legislation to strip bodily autonomy away from everyone who isn't a MAN. It died when I realized that as a woman I will never be considered a person by the majority of men. It dies with the planet, which has been brutalized in the name of capital. The American Dream is a fantasy.

C. Smith, US (1985)

Was it the 80s burning an American flag to protest banning free speech, and a group of college Republicans 3x as large chanted "USA-USA-USA"? Was it when a nonprofit where I worked went bankrupt, because of "business mindset" trustees who signed off on the org. monetizing (mortgaging) assets? Is it when I run into Ivy League alumni with every privilege who've been laid off from corporate America or barely afford rent? Or is it every day I read Trump has millions of supporters?

Alex Manfos, American (1980)

My American Dream died when the chance of making more money than my parents became less of a certainty and more of a coinflip. My generation now is more likely to earn LESS money than my parents. That's when it died for me.

DRS, American (2019)

The American Dream began to crumble as soon as I was able to think critically, in middle school. At that time, the first surge of the Black Lives Matter movement began and I began to understand intersectional and systemic oppression. The pinnacle of its death for me was when I applied to colleges. That’s when I really realized how people who had more money had a headstart in life and how economic oppression was related to all other forms of oppression.

doug shaeffer, turtle island (1966)

it may have died in 3rd grade when i refused to recite the pledge of allegiance, but it was never a dream for me, i just knew instinctively the pledge of allegiance was hollow and coercive. i don't know how i knew at 7, and now i have fifty more years of the antics of empire in my cognitive apparatus, and now i know what knew but didn't know i knew then.

Marsha McDonald, American (2020)

The American dream died for me when I realized just how many of my fellow Americans valued selfishness over community, power over justice, prejudice over fairness, greed over generosity, demagoguery over science. For me, the 2020 pandemic is very real, but also a metaphor. How sick our national soul is! The old dream should pass away. Isn't it time for us to dream new dreams, better dreams, that include us all?

Luis Barcelo, Cuban (1990)

I was already struggling with the American Dream having recently read the Autobiography of Malcolm X when the US invaded Panama. I was in my first year of college and openly protested the war when I was told by classmates that if I didn’t like this country I should get out. I was so angry because my parents gave up everything in their homeland for the idea of freedom, only to have their son be told that freedom was only meant for those who follow the status quo.

Hench E. M. Smith, Un-American (2000)

The American Dream died in 2000 when the Supreme Court appointed a madman president. His junta turned America into a cannibal nation. Imperialist bloodshed does not condone dreams. It demands nightmares.

Lucas, Hispanic (Yes) (2004)

In my second go at art school, none of the previous credits transferred prior to 2002 and that school paid off. I was told if I wanted to enroll, I had to sign the paper. Signed it. Starting over my credits and was "pretty talented" wanted to join the interdisciplinary path for my 3rd year, already taking most of the courses. Director of the painting dept denied my request. Life & all happened, school and work both FT. I finally broke, left school 2004 and still paying just for signing a paper.

Mowgli Olenason, Borders are the death of humanity (2001)

Seeing the absurdities of the worldwide US military involvement, and with 9/11 exposed the racial power structures in such a profound way, highlighting the need for profit over a human life. And lo' and behold, from hobby lobby to the White House we're being shown that We, the people, have to protest for basic truths and safeties on our own soil? The guardians have turned to gluttons, be it nationalistic or capitalistic, and such uncaring natures can only lead to calamitous ruin.

Oliver Henry, American (2008)

2008 was the year I moved out of home to attend college. The experience of education was life changing, as was the $60k debt I accrued attending a college that cost $200k for a 4 year degree. I was fortunate to have obtained a 160k in scholarship money but it was not enough. I am now educated enough to see how the world could be but straddled with too much debt to take advantage of it. I’ve paid $500 a month for the last 8 years and am still 60k in debt.

Lee Rossi, Meso-European (1965)

The ’60’s were a terrible decade. All my heroes, MLK, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, were murdered. They were too radical, a real challenge to what we then called the System but now call White Supremacy. Looking back, the death of Malcolm affected me most. More than the preacher’s son or the wealthy bootlegger’s son, he embodied the Dream, jailbird to voice of his people. His murder meant that the Dream was just window dressing for the grim facts of racial and economic oppression.

Lynnda Pardoe, Mixed (2020)

When I lost my position of ten years due to the gross ineptitude of the Covid response. Am now unable to find new employment, due to an issue with age discrimination in hiring. I went through undergrad and grad school hoping for the dream of an independent life. Being self sufficient shouldn’t be an unattainable dream for the citizens of any country.

Thomas Vannatter, American (2009)

I'm now 40, still paying on student loans after being denied multiple times the PSLF forgiveness, unable to purchase a house or have any savings despite or perhaps because of my Masters Degree that I received in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. I have since resigned myself that I will never be able to retire, that my retirement plan will likely be to spend my final years struggling to survive. We were told that education would better ourselves, instead it showed me the game is rigged.

Sarah, US citizen: 2nd gen dad’s side; DAR mom’s side (2008)

We married young with nothing. He got a teaching job. I got a salesclerk job b/c I didn’t have a college degree. Over the years he got an MBA (paid by an accident settlement from which he still has pain). He worked his way up in business; I finished my degree & worked as a freelance copy editor while raising our son. We lived frugally and saved like heck for college & retirement. Paid $1500+/mo for health insurance we never used. Losing ~40% in ‘08 killed the dream; Trump/Covid buried it.

Sandy Sanders, Caucasian (1967)

I believed in my conservative parents. My schools. Our newspapers & news programs. My community, friends & peers. The existing system was fair, with difficulties, but politics was the fix. 16, a high school sophomore, my American History professor spilled the beans on racist American slavery, Indigenous genocide, Federalist anti-democracy, the Robber Baron's Gilded Age, ruthless capitalist Empire and wall-to-wall inequality & war. Now 2020, nothing has changed except the obviousness of it all.

orestes gonzalez, Cuban /American (2018)

The American Dream died when I realized the advent of Social Media replaced real, unbiased journalism in shaping peoples views and the information they receive. This has deeply eroded our way of gathering real facts and making decisions in an unbiased manner. It has eroded our not-perfect democratic system opened the road to fascism.

Theodora Bliedung Beal, U.S. (1962)

A field trip to Puerto Rico for NY college students, I spent the week in Toa Alta, living with a warm family. Daily trips with a barrio organizer to meet communities solving problems together. At the end of the week, I rejoined students and our respected leaders at a 4-star San Juan hotel. The doorman bowed to us students to enter, barked at our leaders: "Food in the back for you." I saw my privilege, my class opportunities, my white skin is an American nightmare for the poor.

Jerry Allison, USA (2020)

As a poor white kid who got to go to college and get an MFA (despite being told "Art is for the Rich") I thought I was doing OK - despite all the racist classist imperialist stuff, I was surviving. One day I told a Trumpie, that taking toddler children away from their asylum seeking mothers and locking them in concrete cages was "Nazi stuff and should be prosecuted". He told me "You should stick a shotgun up your ass cause that's where your brains are". That day the American Dream died for me.

Kate Hughes, American (2010)

The Dream died for me when I began to peer at its silent shadow: the landfills, the poverty, the racism, the profits over the people.

Julia Justo, Argentinian (2002)

The American dream died for me when I realized that after working 50 hours a week I was not able to save and invest in my future. Most of my salary was going to pay the cost of housing and I did not even have enough to cover medical expenses, sad situation specially taking in consideration I'm college educated.

Montserrat Vargas, Chilean (2011)

During my first weeks in the EEUU, another immigrant wanted to share the best advice he thought he could give me: "Here, cats and dogs have more rights than us, even more papers, more documentation. Be careful. You work hard and give back but you are worth nothing." I decided to hand embroider and painted a Social Security card made of recycled fabric and cardboard, to remember.

ED GARRIDO, Afro Dominican American (1988)

My mother was sworn in and we all become US citizens sometime in the early 2000's. I remember being upset that my mom was dragging me along, I felt like it was more her dream than it was mine. I kept wondering if it would now be cool for my friends and I to ride our bikes into the neighboring towns without being harassed by police, I mean we were all Americans now. But I didn't need to take the oath to know where I stood as a Young Black Latino American, I felt it everyday. No love lost though.

Kevin Smith, United States (2016)

I think it is rather obvious but for political reasons I can not say any more. That is really how and why the Dream died. Because we are so divided we can no longer debate each other, nor respect each other's boundaries. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our nation. We deal with all nations and at no time in my nearly 30 years here have I seen us so divided and ridiculed as it is now. We can not attain our dreams if we can not respect each other. It is time to heal.

Maria Lopez, Colombiana (2014)

We all have different American Dreams. Mine was undefined. Mine is still undefined because I don't see myself fit in anywhere. Immigrating to NJ from Colombia when I was 6, and growing up in the midst of so many cultures, constantly redefines the reason of my being and the development of this country--as two things so close but yet so distant.

Stephanie Garrison, United States of America (2014)

Working at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, I learned his successful American Dream story coming from a working-class, immigrant family, and I saw that those opportunities didn't exist anymore, not for me, not for anyone I knew, even though I grew up middle-class and got an education. We address the death of the American Dream in our interpretation of Andy's art and encourage visitors to consider why, and how it died, and what that means for our country.

catalina melo, Colombian, USA (2001)

the dream died upon arrival to graduate school, it was the first day and one of the higher ups made a joke about me being a drug trafficker during a meeting in front of my new classmates. after that, i could barely look at anyone in the eye. since then, it has been a long journey of facing shame, micro or macro aggressions, humiliation, jokes about cocaine, or being put down every time people find out where i come from. at the beginning i just hid, now, i have gathered courage and pride.

Agustina Perez, Mexican American (2018)

I am part of the First Generation, First Woman to graduate College, & first women in my family with a professional job. My success is my parents story. In 2018, while i was in Washington DC at a Latino Conference, ICE went into my home & took my mom. After years of my parents teaching us that America would love / respect us with a higher education... I realize no amount of degree will buy the honor / respect my undocumented family deserve The American Dream died the second they handcuffed mom.

Franklin Peña, Dominican (2016)

The first day I landed in Los Angeles. I realized the concept of inclusion and progression didn’t have me or my people in mind. I realized my community is expected to work for others but never expected to develop sustainability outside the realm of manual labor. It was the day my soul split in two. My disappointment and ambitions exist within each other in my pursuit of happiness. My American dream died but not my desire to be great.

Justin, USA (2016)

When I saw the wage breakout for my company. My boss made $400k while the average worker made $35k. The death, though, was the year he decided not to award raises or bonuses to anyone but himself. He took the entire $300k pool of money that should have been divided between the employees, and then told everyone the company was struggling.

MG, Irish/American (1984)

The naive movie American Dream died for me as soon as I went to college and realized that no amount of hard work can guarantee success when you make bad choices and waste huge amounts of money on degrees that offer poor careers. I grow up fast and realized the American Dream is what you make of it not what anyone gives you, I worked hard, saved hard, struggled to make good decisions, built a career on my state college Computer Science degree and after 27 years retired @55 w/ a modest 45k/yr

B Watson, USA (2019)

I never know how far down the path of necrosis the US had gotten until I moved out of the country for a few years. At this distance you can clearly see the lesions and sores all across the rolls of pallid flesh. I thought, like many others, that we had reached some sort of civic enlightenment after Obama was elected, but the cancer of hate and bigotry was just in temporary remission gathering its strength while the emperor donned his new clothes.

David Vermillion, American (2015)

A one-two punch. First, when I realized that my colleagues and I were "stuck," and wouldn't ever move up, because they didn't start out knowing the right people. But we had good jobs, so I still believed. The final blow was when someone patiently explained how black people FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES when they're pulled over by the cops, and what that feels like. I knew as a white person, it was never something I had to think about. It died there and things are only worse since.

Kevin Chan, USA (1982)

That version of the American Dream where immigrants expect to see gold-paved streets died the second I arrived in 1982 to my roach-infested, crime ridden apartment next to a crack house. But that was the death of a naive dream. The truer version may be ugly with its mix of unfair struggle and unimaginable sacrifice but it's NOT DEAD. I and millions of other immigrants have achieved it and are prospering because life in the US is INFINITELY better than some of places we fled.

Rachel, Puerto Rican (1992)

The American dream was never meant for me. I realized really early on that no matter how hard I worked, how well I did in school or in my job, how nice or put together I was, I would always be "less than."

Mariana Ramos-Ortiz, Puerto Rican (1931)

The American Dream was born dead in Puerto Rico. El Sueño Americano nació muerto en Puerto Rico. Year of Death: 1898

Anjelic E Owens, Black & Latina (2017)

Growing up in a low-income household I took pride in stretching a dollar. I grew used to thrifted clothes (before they were cool) and discount grocery stores. My parents put so much weight on my education as if my grades could save me from the systemic racism I would face. My awareness of my class was heightened once I moved to New York for grad school. I got caught in the never ending cycle of working to afford my materials to make my art while not having the time to make my art because of work.

Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Zimbabwe (2009)

Pronounced dead on arrival.

Levi Cruz, Salvadorian (2020)

My name is Levi Cruz, I’m 26 years old. Now I’m in an ICE facility far away from my family. I don’t know when I’ll be release or if I get deported. All I’m doing now is sitting thinking what is going to happen with my case and the American dream that I once dream off. I don’t feel it is right for ICE to have people detained. With the Covid-19 going on they should let us be with our family. I just need that one chance to prove that I deserve to be free and live the American dream with my family.

Heriberto Paredes Coronel, Mexican (2019)

The U.S.-Mexico border has been a hotbed of violence for many years. In 2019 I was doing interviews and taking some pictures with people who flee the violence in my country, they arrive at the border with the United States thinking that they will find a humanitarian treatment, refuge, security. But what they find is rejection, racism, more violence and inhumane treatment. They arrive looking for the American Dream and what they will find is the American Nightmare. I am a Mexican journalist.

oumy diaw, Senegalese-American (2008)

It died when I realized too late that the kind of hostilities I experienced in my professional environment was because of my skin color and gender. I wasn't born or raised in USA. So American racism was unknown to me. There are codes, American racism has specific codes and culture. From discrimination, to humiliations, stereotyping in emails, blackmail using your immigration status to "tame you". It is fellow Americans that opened my eyes. In 2016, Donald Trump killed the American Dream again...

Elizabeth Spavento, American (2019)

The American Dream died when I realized that it was always only a dream for some Americans. Specifically white Americans, like myself. I knew this truth internally, but I chose to ignore it. I was anaesthetized to its insidiousness, silent and unmoved like a coma patient: alive but not living, propped up by elaborate systems of private and public interests that ensured my life remained vital, comfortable. I’m not sure if the American Dream is dead or just on life support but I can hear its death

Nevena Dzamonja, Bosnian (2008)

I was raised by a Communist single-mother who never made over 40k, and I grew up a Punk, so I was always very aware of class and inequality. When I got to college I realized I was always going to be stuck behind people who never had to work restaurant and service jobs, who never had to pay their own bills or loans, who could endlessly intern for no pay, whose parents paid for their studios and equipment, and that I would always have to hustle twice as hard just to be at the table.

Ana Rendich, Argentinian-America (2007)

The horrible opinions about the Spanish Language : the conclusions based in prejudice, without reasoning and understanding of the richness and immense importance of all the contributions that writers, poets, essayist, academics... brought to the world. The underestimation and ignorance about who we are. That was my first realization of the social thinking and moral flaws in this country, how Latinos were perceived. It was not only about the Spanish Language, but all what this issue has implied.

Dimitri Winchester, White (2014)

Right around the time I learned I was queer and understanding that no matter what I did or what I had I would not and did not want to fit into the “american model” it took me an even longer time to truly see how many ways that the American dream would never become a reality to those who were not born with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sooner we all realize that there is not one single American dream and that everyone can have their own.

Luis A. Vázquez O’Neill, Puerto Rican / Cuban (2017)

It is October 4th, 14 days have passed since María made landfall and 1 day since president Trump threw paper towels at a crowd. We are working endless hours to get the help from our one side of the island to the other. I was asked to join some reporters to cover the story of bodies piling up in the morgue. Later that night they mami handed the news, papi was found dead in his bathroom, he was there for days and my sister was the first to smell his discomposed body from outside his house. Miss U.

Rebecca Miralrio, Mexican American (2005)

Sometime around the age of 5 when I became aware of the fact that my family was considered "illegal". My childhood consisted of me fearing "la migra" and having terrible anxiety over the fact that I could someday be separated from my parents and siblings.

Francie Scanlon, American Irish (1955)

March 12, 1955, in the luxury suite of a Countess holding court in the Fifth Avenue Stanhope Hotel, CHARLIE PARKER exited this plane. His body was so ravaged by racism, ruthless rules stacked against him and repulsion at the 1950s American landscape, this phenomenal 20th century Artist was viewed by the attending physician as being at least in his late 50s when he was 34! Born 29 August, 1920, his entire Life span should have been a BIRD SUITE for his second Pandemic @ 100. Myths die hard.

Perla de Leon, Puerto Rican-Cuban-American (1964)

I attended Catholic schools where nuns humiliated students whose parents contributed small change during Sunday mass because they were poor. That police and people in privileged positions were racist and classist was a daily experience but when nuns were brutally condescending, shamed you in public and told you that you would never succeed, it was both startling and a gift, as it taught us, early in life, that the American Dream was reserved for very few people.

Christian Martir, Puerto Rican (1979)

The day I was born, in an American colony.

Maya, American (2013)

In 2013 while in school for my undergrad degree. I realized how elitist people in higher education are. My parents are both immigrants but with multiple degrees. People would assume because I am first generation my parents are janitors or own a store or something. I worked my ass off working 2 jobs and going to school just so that people could continue to project those beliefs on me. When I worked an office job people didn’t even think I worked in the office, assumed I was a cleaner or caterer.

Darice Polo, American, Puerto Rican (1959)

The fact that Puerto Rico is not listed under nationality for this project, especially one funded by El Museo, in an ironic way exemplifies the tragic illusion of the American Dream for Puerto Ricans and the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Ayasha, American (2019)

The American dream died when scarcity politics replaced hope in the power of collective demands. So many people *couldn’t afford* to protest the conditions that produced their own precarity. I left when it seemed the nation was numb to this crisis and revolution was a lost cause. But now I see new dreams growing in the U.S. -People realizing that a seat at the table where “you can’t sit with us” won’t protect them after all, and that true power is with the people who gather to build their own.

Chat Travieso, Cuban-Venezuelan-American (2020)

The American Dream, who had been missing for the past three months after prosecutors opened a fraud investigation into their business, was found dead today of an overdose in their home. Investigators have uncovered a trove of incriminating evidence placing the American Dream at the center of a massive Ponzi Scheme that defrauded countless over centuries. In November 2016, the American Dream’s sibling, American Exceptionalism, committed suicide after they were found guilty of criminal conspiracy.

June Canedo, Brazilian, American (1989)

When I visited Brazil for the first time as an adult alone because I was the only one in my family with U.S. citizenship. I walked into a large room full of crying strangers who I'd known as a child. I spent hours hugging and kissing all of them on behalf of the rest of our family who remain undocumented in the U.S.

Zahira Shaalan, American (1984)

The American Dream died for me the day I entered kindergarten. Before that, I was an incredibly bright child, self-assured and besotted with learning. In this environment, I learned how inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next. I was “taught” that my existence was problematic. I was labeled as unintelligent, inferior, less, terms all interchangeable with black, brown and female. I emerged with some aspect of myself intact, albeit cast into a woke state of American dreamlessness.

daisy vazquez, American (2015)

The dream died for me when I thought I was making enough to finally get my family out of NYC public housing. But I couldn't afford to buy what we needed. I called the management of a building labeled as affordable housing in NYC and they told me I didn't make enough. Even the rent for the housing lotteries could be argued as affordable, and the one time I finally got a response I was told I could only afford a 2br, which is what I already live in. I gave up believing I could own a home.

Laura Blanco, American (2020)

My American Dream is currently on life support. It will hopefully be resuscitated in November.

Mitchell Banks, American (1959)

I was on a family trip to Albany, N.Y. and was really struck by the level of poverty I was seeing. I asked my mother why, and she said that was how black people lived. I felt she couldn't be right since the maintenance man at the hotel (who was black) was really nice and took time to talk to me. I thought he would want to live the same way I did-in a house, with a yard-in a place I felt safe.

Lizania Cruz, Dominican (2020)

For me, the American Dream had terminal cancer but died of Covid-19 complications. It was through the pandemic that I realized the failure of our current value on work and individualism. I knew the system wasn’t created for a person like me but, somehow, I believed the idea that through my hard work and my exceptionalism I could make it through. As I was forced to pause, I could see clearly that I was wrong.