A large crowd of protesters marches in the street. A person at the front holds an American flag with messages like "I CAN'T BREATHE," "SAY HIS NAME," and "GEORGE FLOYD." Many participants wear masks, and signs are visible in the background, reflecting the intense turbulence of 2020 within American society.

If 2020 has taught us (or confirmed) anything, it’s that the American Dream is not as it seems. Attainable? Sure, but usually only for those lucky enough to make it passed systemic obstacles. But what about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? As principal of an underfunded Oakland high school and one of the subjects of our upcoming doc Ruby De Tie explains—it’s hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you have no boots. In just a matter of 8 months, 2020 has illuminated a plethora of structural issues that have plagued this country for centuries. Here are three ways 2020 has brought the American Dream into question.

Women Still Need to Overcome

We’re living through a “shecession”—yes, a shecession. Due to the pandemic, women have lost more jobs than men, which has only widened the gender pay gap. And for women fortunate enough to work from home, many are still struggling to balance children and careers in a country where childcare is not only expensive—but now mostly inaccessible. This has made women’s chances at the true American Dream all the more unlikely. 

Sexism in Our Election

The pursuit of power in our election has not been an equal process. Remember when we were celebrating the most gender and racially diverse election cycle in our history? Seems like a distant memory. And we can’t ignore what has now led us to another year where the President of the United States will not reflect many of the people living in the land of the free. Ingrained sexism and racism in the media and in voters has caused the American people to question women’s electability—leaving us in a predicament where more than 50 percent of the population have to question if their voices are being heard and represented. 

Racism in Our Institutions  

From Breonna Taylor to, most recently, Jacob Blake and countless others wounded or murdered at the hands of police, 2020 has proven that systems of racial oppression are still at play. The unjust killings of unarmed Black people underscores that, in America, every man is not created equal. While overt racism is obviously rife in our justice system, implicit and explicit bias is also inhibiting the social and economic progress of racial minorities. Black girls are excessively policed at school, women of color in politics deal with combined racism and sexism, and women of color face the steepest gender pay gap. So who exactly can really achieve the American dream?

Take Action! The proof is in the pudding. Don’t fall for the myth that the American Dream can be achieved by just “working hard.” Learn more about the systems that keep most Americans from prosperity in our new film The Great American Lie, streaming 10/2.