Black Lives: Trap. Why civil rights aren’t enough to make the American Dream come true

In spite of individual successes, 21st century African Americans still feel held down by failing schools, drugs, crime, incarceration, unemployment, decaying housing and broken families. Some, like barber Shariff Griffin, continue to believe the American Dream is within reach if they try hard enough.

Playground with African American families playing on swings. Still taken from RTD documentary, Black Lives 10: Trap.
African Americans also want to live the American Dream.

Others suspect they are being held back by a system rigged against them. RTD heads for the seat of American power, Washington D.C. and the nearby Black majority cities of Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia. There, African Americans give their very different perspectives on who, or what is at the root of the oppression they face.

Pearl Jr., an African American journalist, pointing her finger upward. Still taken from RTD documentary, Black Lives 10: Trap.
Journalist Pearl Jr. believes racism is the root cause of Black America's problems.

For documentary filmmaker Pearl Jr., “It's a white world!” The journalist agrees with Black Lives Matter activists who blame systemic racism and White supremacy. She points the finger at tokenism, which allows a limited number of Black people to rise while Whites remain in control.

 Imam Abdul Alim Musa, headshot. Still taken from RTD documentary, Black Lives 10: Trap.
Imam Abdul Alim Musa argues the American system is intrinsically oppressive.

Still, not everyone sees things in black and white. Activist Imam Abdul Alim Musa claims the whole American order is rotten and is hurting White America too. Coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Dr Steve Parson, a Trump-supporting pastor from Virginia, has his take on the root of all the evil afflicting African Americans. He argues that “racism exists – but racism really does not matter”.

So, will Black America ever get within reach of the American Dream, or was it only ever an illusion?

Bruce Stewart, an African American father, in front of a clapboard house. Still taken from RTD documentary, Black Lives 10: Trap.
For this old-time Philadelphia resident, Black America is held back by a lack of unity. He compares African Americans to Mexican immigrants: "They make less than we do! Yeah… But they work together!"