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?
I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately. I was reading W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folks last week, and there’s a line of it I can’t get out of my head–describing Atlanta, he writes, “It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream…”
That made me think of Hughes, and also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, and the line of Fitzgerald’s about Gatsby, “(He) paid a high price, living too long with a single dream.”
Du Bois is talking about the “untrue dream” of the confederacy–the untrue dream of white supremacy. But it made me wonder what other untrue dreams our society, our country is haunted by these days.
Is it a “truthful dream” that everyone can get rich, if they just work hard? Is is a “truthful dream” that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed here, regardless of their immigrant status, race, religion, gender, economic class or sexual orientation? I don’t think those dreams are truthful. I think they’re the untrue dreams that our country is haunted by today. And I think they’re leading in an awful lot of instances to the deferred dream of Hughes’ poem.
But not always.