When the American Dream is a nightmare

August 23, 2016


Kym Young
Zenith News


The tears started flowing as I stood a passive witness
horses drawing another son to a premature resting
my feeling some type of hurt in distant relativity
sadness contends mutely
supposing now he is truly free
say hello to my angel for me
he was spared the whip the rod the chains you see
still I cried tears mingled in far off bloody streets
trampled by the man
too many feet
dying to be free
as a four year old child cries mommy its me, its gone be alright
man chile calls out I want my daddy
supposing in the back of the mind
I guess Im the next hashtag...
there just aint no swag in
a black body bag

On July 15, as Philando Castile’s body was being transported by four white horses to his final rest, many cities in the US, including Duluth-Superior, held call-to-action vigils and rallies.
These vigils were different. They needed to be different. We needed to really see the issue of Blackness in America and understand that our concept of how Black bodies should respond is based on unrealistic expectations from the White community and unspeakably destructive experiences from within our own.

African Heritage communities are raised, conditioned, and taught compliance—compliance to White rule, White law, White social order, and White lifestyles. We are bombarded with the ideals of the White American dream, in which hard work, compliance to law and order, and equality are a way of life cherished by all.

Except when you are continually reminded that what you seek in that dream is unattainable because you are not White. When your experience has been one of compliance by fear to laws and situations that are meant to curtail your reach for that piece of the American dream, you are not living; you are surviving a nightmare.

Philando Castile held a respectable position with the St. Paul School District. He was a registered gun owner. He was a family man, a son, and a productive member of society. And he was killed while complying with the law. This nightmare was broadcast live on social media as his daughter and partner sat in fear for their lives.

This is the nightmare that we Black mothers and fathers must prepare our children to face. Our lives are governed by compliance, discrimination, and violence against us. How can we ever hope to achieve the American dream when we are ensconced in a nightmare?

Compliance has been beaten into the Black perception of reality. We pass it down to our children along with family recipes, cherished photos, and the legacy of racism in which we have struggled to survive.

Yet even when we are in compliance, we are still subjected to abuse, police brutality, racism, and lateral hostility—a noncompliant effort to realize a modicum of the freedom we are denied in the greater community.

So when we came together on that Friday in July, we felt it imperative to not comply with the normal routine of lighting a candle, praying, forgiving, and going back to surviving in the American nightmare. We knew that compliance was a death sentence. We could no longer march as our sons and daughters became the latest trending hashtag on social media.


We could no longer wait for the justice that has always been denied us due to the color of our skin. We could no longer sit in compliance to a set of societal expectations that unarmed citizens of this country must allow themselves to be brutally murdered in the streets without due process by those who are sworn to protect us. We knew the time had come for drastic change.

So we made a National Call To Action in Response to Police Brutality and Killings. We called upon our communities, elected officials, and White allies to not only speak up about the injustices, but to put action with words. We called upon our White allies to become accomplices in the fight to eradicate racism, end hate, and stop the killings. We can no longer afford to be complicit in our own oppression. In calling for action from the White community, we have opened the door for White allies to take steps to end systemic racism and oppressive policies that call for Black compliance in systemic racism and oppression.

This is the ultimate act of noncompliance, in that it demands accountability from those who profit off our oppression. It is a bold request and one that many of our White neighbors and coworkers will deem out of their purview and to which they cannot comply, but truth be told, they must taste the American nightmare that is Black existence in this country in order to understand and help us tear down systems of oppression. We can no longer be expected to comply and we ask—no, demand—that our White allies join us in this act of non-compliance and turn the nightmare into the dream to which we all aspire.

Kym E. Young is a Community Human Rights advocate in the Duluth/Superior Area. She received her M.A. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and uses her artwork and experience to advocate for those whose voices are not heard.

Please reload

More from this Author

Archives by Date

Please reload

Archives by Title or Author