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Korean Americans embody the American Dream Essay

Abelmann and Lie in their article “Blue Dreams” aver that the media is largely responsible for creating the general belief that the Korean Americans and African-Americans are antipodal races and that their conflicts arise from cultural and economic factors. While the American obsession with the ‘American dream’ prompts them to portray the Korean American the model minority, the same obsession prompts them to dismiss the African American the urban underclass. What is the American dream?

The American dream was the celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit in the 1980s. The Americans believed that an unfettered pursuit of profit is the goal of every individual who wants to succeed in life. They believed that America was an open society in which every individual can achieve his dream and that “people succeed or fail in spite of external constraints and contexts” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 400). Hence the concept of the “model minority” and the “urban underclass” became ubiquitous because of their “affinity with the dominant ideological movement”.

However, this concept was based on a number of assumptions about the communities and the nature of the economy. The American dream dismissed inequalities of class, race, gender as meaningless and assumed that “rugged individualism reigns supreme”( Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 400). The individualistic ideology mandated laissez-faire capitalism in which individuals compete with each other to pursue material gains. The hardworking, capitalistic Koreans who avoided going on welfare became for all purposes the iconic figures of the model minority.

Abelmann and Lie say: “At the heart of the interethnic contrast lie the Korean American entrepreneur—independent and diligent—who embodies the promise of Capitalism and free enterprise system”( Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 398) In contrast the it was seen that the “African American cut a pathetic figure”( Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 398) who were constantly on dole. Since welfare schemes were regarded as collective charity, not truly legitimate, people on dole were suspect. Abelmann and Lie observe, “Class is eschewed in public discourse.

Racism, sexism or other forms of systematic discrimination neither explain nor justify existing inequalities” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 401). The African American on charity was seen to represent the urban underclass. The American dream also embodied a social vision. The family was idolized as a haven in a heartless world and the community was visualized as the upholder of the individualist ethos. The suburban family was the ideal. In contrast the city was a compound of all that was undesirable. The city was a demonized environment where communities break down and strange peoples coexist.

The inner city was regarded as “the racialized other of the “American dream”” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 401). The Korean American with his strong family ties was seen to rely on “familial and communal resources” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 398). Interestingly according to Abelmann and Lie the social reality of America contradicts the American dream. Entrepreneurial capitalism occupies a very small portion of the American economy. The global economy is dominated by large corporations and governments. It is via these corporations that Americans seek wealth in affluent suburbs.

Traces of individual success continue to exist but the dominance of the corporations cannot be denied. A down play of racism in the American dream misses racism’s “historical ferocity against African Americans” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 402) that made them untouchables in the 1960s and its weakening force in the modern day. Moreover, they point out that the ideal of nuclear family is not a reality. There are many non traditional households and there are dysfunctions of the patriarchal nuclear family that has been noted by the feminists.

The suburban ideal is also fallacious—gentrification and renewal of the urban centers is more common. Abelmann and Lie aver “many people abhor the isolation, anomie and homogeneity of suburbs”. Moreover, in suburbs neighbors do not help each other as idealized by the American dream and the suburban environment is no different from the urban environment. Abelmann and Lie therefore conclude that the thesis that the “Korean American embodies the American dream” while “the African Americans betray its promise” is argued on a number of assumptions that do not bear the test of investigation.

That is to say that not all Korean Americans are successful entrepreneurs and not all African Americans are on dole. These are but “ready made stereotypes” that the media loves to disseminate as “truths” (Abelmann & Lie, 1995, p. 394). Rachael Miller in her review of Blue dreams says: “BLUE DREAMS examined the black-Korean conflict and found that it’s derivative is the media. The Koreans get their hostility for blacks from the American community and the media”. References Abelmann, N. & Lie, J. (1995). Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los

Angeles Riots, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 393-405. Ashworth, P. Response to Miller’s Review. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2 Doop, S. Re: Rachel Miller Blue dreams. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2 Klass, G. Larsen: Blue dreams. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2 Larsen, D. Addendum to BLUE DREAMS review. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie.

htm#Message2 Miller, R. Blue dreams. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2 Park, E. J. W. (1998). Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Journal of Asian American Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 101-103E-ISSN: 1096-8598 Print Patel, B. Response to Aricka Vinson’s review Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2 Perryman, S. J. Re: Rachel Miller Blue dreams. Retrieved on May 14, 2010, from http://lilt. ilstu. edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/lie. htm#Message2


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