What Happens to a Dream Deferred?
[Editor’s note: This post is from a speech by Trish Millines Dziko of the Technology Access Foundation. It begins by citing a poem from Langston Hughes.]
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
The dream or life goal of a human being is central to what makes a human a valuable member of society. But suppose you’re told you can not fulfill your goal. You must wait until society changes, until institutions and laws change to allow you to become the doctor, the engineer, the professor, the scientist or the poet you may become. That’s what Langston Hughes was writing about. He was writing about what it was like to be an African-American in the 1920s and 1930s.
But when I read that poem today, I think about all the children of color and low-income kids who are in so many ways told they are only this good, or the bar for them is only this high, because the system makes judgments about students’ abilities based on what they look like or where they come from. The outcome of this behavior, of course, is devastating. High dropout rates, high crime rates, unemployment, and for too many, incarceration.
I’m reminded by something from another favorite author of mine, James Baldwin. He said, ‘these are all our children. We will all profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.” He’s basically saying we get out what we put in. That’s a lesson we hold dear at TAF. We hold it close to our hearts. We truly believe that what you put in is what you get out. We believe if you set high expectations, invest resources, and provide access to opportunities, students will rise to the challenge. They will create their own success.