Summary: This video from The Boston Globe tells the story of two young brothers trying to overcome difficult barriers to achieve the "American Dream" (read associated article here). Johnny and George live in Dorchester, MA, a Boston crime and poverty "hot spot." In addition to their economic issues, they face many family challenges (e.g. their father committed suicide 3 years ago, and their mother has a disability preventing her from working outside of the home). As the older brother notes, the most challenging thing is probably "living every day without our dad and with a single parent, who can barely afford to give us any of the resources we need." But while people in such neighborhoods are often depicted as being hopeless, Johnny and George are very hopeful and seek a better life. They work hard to achieve grades at the top of their classes, earn their own spending money through tutoring, and have received help from a local mentor and non-profit organizations. Viewers might reflect on how Johnny and George's story reflects the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ideology of the American, but that everyone needs help to do so. Despite their challenges, they see themselves as more fortunate than many others. How does the class structure shape an individual's ability to live a successful life, and what types of social and economic resources are necessary to help those less fortunate in attaining it? What is the effect of this ideology on society? Given that the boys are Vietnamese, viewers should also be cautioned away from explaining their situation with the "model minority" myth, which obscures the struggles of many impoverished Asian immigrants. Viewers may also be interested in this documentary on social class, the challenges of living on minimum wage, and George Carlin's critique of the American Dream.
Image by Yoon S. Byun/Boston Globe
Submitted By: Cathryn Brubaker, PhD