How to make the American Dream a reality

Nigel Cohen
4 min readFeb 13, 2024
Photo Art: Nigel Cohen

As a Brit, I love the sound of the American Dream. It is the dream that anyone can become successful, regardless of their background. They can even define what success means to them. How wonderful to have a world leader, whose economic success dwarfs that of almost any other country, in which anyone can make their own bed on which to lie.

Such a pity that is not what America is.

The Problem

On the news yesterday, a woman took her seven-year-old son and an AR-15 rifle to a church in Texas. She showed the rifle to an unarmed security guard, an event so common, that he let her in without another thought (probably). What hit the news in the UK today was what she did next. She opened fire on the congregation. Luckily for the congregation, but not the women with mental health issues, two off-duty police officers were nearby and armed. They killed her and shot her son in the head. We have yet to see if he will survive.

In 2021, around 50,000 people died from gun-related injuries. Around 10% of people with white skin were victims. The victim rate for people with black skin was 40% higher. The average income of ‘All White’ Americans was 55% higher than African Americans. The percentage of people with black skin who are serving life sentences without parole is 48%. They represent just 13% of the total population. In 2022, the unemployment rate for Americans with black skin was 6.1% compared with the rate for people with white skin of 3.2%.

Ever since slavery, people with black skin have been unfairly treated. Their opportunities are limited not by their aspirations but by prejudice that makes it more difficult for them to get a job, more likely to be arrested and convicted for the same crimes, more likely to be victims of crime and more likely to be unemployed and living in poverty.

Prejudice is one of many barriers that society erects to limit opportunities for success. The barriers are not limited just to people with dark skin. The UK has a very high level of inequality relative to other developed countries. The top 20% of the population earns six times more than the bottom 20% of earners. The GINI coefficient of inequality in 2021 was 35. We rank sixth in the world for inequality. The most unequal country in the world is the US with a whopping coefficient of more than 40.

In the American Dream, everyone has the opportunity to make something of themselves. To a Brit like me, the American Reality seems to bulge with continuing segregation and glass ceilings that work perfectly in combination to keep the rich rich and the poor poor.

The Solution

With such callous inequality, it is tempting to give up on the American ideal. The country draws ever closer to civil war. In cultural terms, it is already there. Over the last fifty years, American democracy has been under increasing attack. It is hardly surprising given the inequity in its midst. But it is important to keep the evaluation of society in perspective. The most accessible alternative to democracy is autocracy. There, freedom, justice and human rights are very much more limited. Society becomes dominated by the demands of its rulers at the expense of providing for the needs of its members. In Russia, for example, its monetary economy continues to grow apace, despite the fact that around 20% of the economy explodes, quite literally, in Ukraine with no benefit to the Russian people. There is no accountability to the half a million Russians who have died or been mutilated in war or to their two million family, friends or work colleagues who drown in sorrow. Nazi Germany voted to elect a fascist leader. Twelve million Germans out of a population of eighty million died during the war to which they were led by Hitler.

America may have its fair share of problems. But giving up on democracy is not the solution.

How much better would America become if it dismantled its barriers, redoubled its efforts to bring equal opportunity to everyone and forged a new path to make the American Dream a reality?

Long live the American Dream.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my Animating Vision website at It brings to life a vision of the people we live with and the world we live in.

To see more of my Photo Art, check out the Photo Art gallery at

And if you are an artist seeking to influence the world, you may want to explore whether to incorporate the emerging genre of Morally-Explicit Art as part of your artistic expression at