Eyewitness News on the 28 April 2015

I have had Rihanna’s new single American Oxygen on repeat for a week. The lyrics narrate the story of immigrants who have made their way to the United States, fuelled by the promise of a better life, and chasing the elusive American Dream. What could have been yet another simple endorsement of this ideal and its narrative fantasy is complicated by a video that signals what is beneath the surface of that dream.

The video is politically charged, punctuated by numerous iconic moments across American history and the present day. With multiple images of Martin Luther King Junior, the black power salute, juxtapositions of both Wall Street and the Occupy Wall Street movement, and past marches and demonstrations shown next to Ferguson protests, it reveals a dream that is more complicated than the easy ‘you can be anything at all in America’ narrative. It shows the costs paid by those who struggled to open that dream, and American identity, to all, and the present-day struggles that remain, occupying the same space, time and breath as the American Dream.

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