Essay Example on Meritocracy: A False Dream for Many Americans

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1030 Words
Date:  2023-01-11

Meritocracy is a phenomenon that is tightly linked to the idea of the American dream where there is a guarantee of success provided an individual's works hard enough. It is a sentiment that is embraced by many who prefer to hold such a belief than to look at the real world around them. However, to the ordinary American, the racially sidelined, the poor and the mediocre, meritocracy is as far reached as the American dream in itself is. This argument is well presented through Wes Moore's The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates. For two men, with the same name, raised in single-parent families, living in the same neighborhood in Baltimore, African American, yet ending up in extremely different circumstances, it is quite evident that there is no level ground for success. It all comes down to the environment one is raised in, the socioeconomic status of the family, race, political situation as well as the availability of opportunities for individuals. Therefore, meritocracy is altruism that is only relevant to people who have an added advantage over others, and not entirely on the entity of hard work.

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The current capitalistic world has made meritocracy yet another outcome of money and wealth rather than an outcome from the sweat and blood that individuals put in towards success. Money has come to define every bit of the American culture, from the basics such as food to more complex and mandatory ones such as education. Mary, other Wes Moore's mother, was as deserving as every other student from the rest of the country to get an education, graduate and achieve the successes that come with hard work. However, due to her poor economic background, and the pull of the Pell Grant, she was unable to take this milestone that could accrue her similar advantages as others, and had to drop out (Moore, 161). Hers was not a lack of potential but rather a predestined failure due to the environment she came from.

While the issue of the economic advantage is still on the table, one would argue that the situation between Wes and the other Wes Moore would not differ because they were from a similar neighborhood, with struggling mothers trying to make ends meet. However, Wes still holds an advantage over the other Wes since his grandparents "took the money they had in the home in the Bronx, decades of saving and mortgage payments, and gave it to my mother so that she could pay for my first year of military school" (Moore, 96). Among the many reasons that played in their fates, money had it in. It is through the hand in from his grandparents that Wes ended up in the white house, while the other Wes ended up behind steel bars for life. Chris Hayes can adequately explain this in his book Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy when he states that leveled grounds do not exist, but advantages do (Hayes 6). In this case, the advantage is money.

As Wes travelled around the world, he realized that meritocracy was not about the synergy and spirits within an individual but rather what was on the outside. In South Africa for instance, he was considered a better person than the locals, as Mama explained to him, "The lighter your skin was in apartheid South Africa, the better off you were" (Moore, 130). This was the very scenario that happened back in Baltimore, except, in this case, Wes was the person with the darker skin, literary. Therefore, opportunities were only favorable to the whites, while the blacks had to accept their fate. Even with the sacrifice joy, Wes' mother makes to take him to Riverdale to have a better chance at life. However, Wes and Justin the other only black boy in the white school are often reminded that they do not belong. It seems like success is only conditioned for the white students, those who are better.

American meritocracy is flawed at its core, and this can be seen through the systemic racism as evident from the division of Baltimore based on wealth and race. This is done in a way that almost dictates the success of those from the better areas, and an inevitable failure from those on the other. Schools were poorly performing and similarly not as critical for survival. As Moore explains, the graduation rate of African American during his graduation was 38% (Moore, 108). This leaves the other proportion on streets, drug dealing, stealing and killing each other. Indeed, equal opportunities cannot exits with unequal outcomes (Hayes,57) Therefore, however hard one worked from such a place, they either had to be lucky and be part of the 38% or fail and be the 62% that were out there making a mess if their lives.

Choice also plays a part in the outcome of a person's decisions. While Wes and the other Wes did not choose to reside in the areas that they did, they had a choice to either make the best of what they had or succumb to the wave that swept the streets day after the other. Wes hence chose to fight against all the odds, attend schools that made him feel weaker and meeker than ever, attend military school and become the man he late was. The other Wes on the other hand, even after moving to a better neighborhood, took the easier way out, dropped out of school, and joined the drug industry and mistake after mistake ended up with life imprisonment. Meritocracy is hence a sum of the choices one makes in life.

However, this can be refuted by the fact that even after turning his life around, joining the Job Corps and working for longer hours, the other Wes realized that none of the jobs paid him more than nine dollars an hour. All the hard work but the reward was dismal. Therefore, meritocracy is a flawed ideology that only works for those with an advantage.

Works Cited

Hayes C. Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. Crown Publishing Group. 2012. ISBN: 9780307720450

Moore W. The other Wes Moore: one name, two fates. Spiegel and Grau. New York. 2010.

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