This was a paper born of frustration. Written as my final essay for Professor Jessica Bozek’s WR 100 section, “Reading Disaster,” its contents were a culmination of all the injustice and racial politics that we had spent the semester dissecting. What most agitated me, I believe, was the concept of respectability politics—the idea that a black person’s life must meet certain standards of behavior in order to be considered valuable. We’d picked at this topic throughout the semester, but for me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s dismissal of the American Dream in Between the World and Me was what truly brought it into focus. It was through his work that I addressed my frustration, tackling the notion of the Dream where I most often saw it: threaded across the American media.

REETU VARADHAN is a rising sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in computer science. She was born and raised in the DC area and has always enjoyed writing as a pastime. She would like to thank her family, for always encouraging her to have an open worldview, and her friends, for their endless debates on this topic, without which this essay could never have existed.