FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Deferring Dreams

by LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.

What happens to a dream deferred renowned poet Langston Hughes asked in his resonate poem “A Dream Deferred” published in the early 1950s.

This question poised by Hughes carries contemporary interest during the dawning weeks of the Year 2008 when the word ‘dream’ is so much in the news.

January is the month of the birthday and national holiday of the inspirational man who moved America mightily–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–best known to so many as the person delivering that historic “I Have A Dream” speech.

U.S. Senator Barack Obama has a dream of becoming the first black man to serve as President of the United States.

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has a dream of becoming the first woman to serve as President of the United States.

Republican presidential nominee candidates dream of keeping the White House under the control of their party.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Clinton and Obama hoist their candidate competencies on the dream-like stance of being agents for change.

Obama framed his candidacy around ‘change’ from the beginning with Clinton recently adopting this theme when convinced of its resonance within broad sections of the nation’s electorate who want change beyond a new face in the Oval Office.

The dreams driving Clinton and Obama’s electoral ships recently hit shallow water silliness with an ugly imbroglio arising from a Clinton statement prompting surrogates for both candidates to pontificate about their possessing the proper interpretation of that history-tinged reference regarding President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. King.

Obama gets mileage out of his book titled “The Audacity of Hope.”

Well, the man famous for the Dream speech–King–authored an essay released after his assassination entitled: “A Testament of Hope.”

In that essay King credited Johnson for his seminal strides on civil rights legislation yet criticized Johnson for stumbling in transforming hopes from that legislation into making the American Dream a waking reality for all.

“President Johnson did respond realistically to the signs of the times and used his skills as a legislator to gets bills through Congress that other men might not have got,” King stated in his “Hope” essay.

“I must point out, in all honesty, however, that President Johnson has not been nearly so diligent in implementing the bills he has helped shepherd through Congress.”

Clinton gets mileage out of her book “It Takes a Village.”

Well, in that “Hope” essay King discussed the need for collective responsibility of all Americans to address ravishes of institutional racism.

“Americans who genuinely treasure our national ideals, who know they are still elusive dreams for all too many, should welcome the stirring of Negro demands.”

So, what really happens to a dream deferred?

“Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore–and then run?” legendary black poet Langston Hughes asked.

When the dream is constantly deferred: “Does it stink like rotten meat? Or curst and sugar over–like a syrupy sweet?”

Candidates talk about jobs yet none stress findings of studies like that issued in August 2007 by the UC Berkeley Labor Center stating fifty-four percent of all full-time black workers in the United States work for low wages.

During his last Sunday sermon before his 1968 assassination, King declared, “if a man doesn’t have a job or income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.” When assassinated, Martin King was in Memphis, TN helping striking trash workers.

Some candidates fume about America’s faltering economy yet none reference the “State of the Dream” report issued in mid-January by the research/advocacy group United for a Fair Economy that found the sub-prime lending mess responsible for the “greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history.”

While Dr. King is seen as a champion of civil rights whose central thrust was social integration, his core concern was actually the attainment of ‘silver rights.’

During the last years of his life, King’s push for ending the economic inequity experienced by Americans of all colors probably played a larger role in his assassination than his being a popular black leader.

In the months before his April 4, 1968 murder, Dr. King was preparing for The Poor People’s Campaign, a populist protest planned for Washington, DC to push the federal government to eliminate poverty from ‘the hollows of Appalachia to the ghetto of Harlem.’

During an interview conducted shortly before his murder in Memphis, King said, “the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people generally, are confronting.”

In that “Hope” essay King noted, “When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly processWhite America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.”

None of the front running candidates Democrat or Republican are advancing radical changewith exception of Republican continuance of radical ‘rich-first’ restructuring of America’s economy that has raped the middle-class of all races since President Reagan’s reign during the 1980s.

Mythology marginalizes the continuing import of Dr. King’s message.

Many forget (or never knew) that before King articulated his famous 1963 Dream, he detailed nightmares like police brutality, electoral disenfranchisement, structural discrimination and disillusionment–deprivations that persist today.

In a 1904 speech the first black man nominated by a national political party for the U.S. presidency, George Edwin Taylor, reminded America of the “bold fact” that its “fundamental principles are fast being covered up, ignored, disregarded and practically nullified”

So, what really happens to a dream deferred?

Langston Hughes wondered if “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load or does it explode?”

Deferring dreams, King reminded in “Hope” is the “illusion of the damned.”

Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune, America’s oldest African-American owned newspaper, founded in 1883.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

February 21, 2018
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein’s on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail