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?
-- Langston Hughes
Writing about the Duke debacle, one of Bloomberg's syndicated
columnists invoked the rhetorical question asked by poet Langston
Hughes, whose query presaged the eruption of the civil rights movement
in the sixties.
As the days and weeks since the lacrosse team incident have passed, the
resentment born of poverty and generations of dreams deferred, because
of race and lack of education, has bubbled up to the surface once again in Durham -- a
small city of 148,000 which is fairly evenly split along racial lines.
The incident can no longer be defined as the result of male college
athletes continuing their historically misogynistic treatment of women.
Race is clearly driving it now. Be assured that if a typical Duke coed,
white and upper middle class, had gone to the police and claimed she had
been sexually assaulted by members of the lacrosse team, the crime
would have remained a local incident. Such is the status quo of most
assaults perpetrated on women by men on campuses across America.
But not in a southern town, especially in this sensitive day and age,
when the accused males are white athletes and the woman is black.
A black woman at a recent press conference on the North Carolina
University campus, where the alleged victim attends class, wanted to
know why she had been taken to Duke hospital for her rape kit
Clearly, anything having to do with the university was
suspect, not just the three young lacrosse players as claimed by the victim.
Essentially the angry questioner impugned the integrity of the hospital
personnel because she assumed they would be part of a cover up, since
they were white.
To his credit, the white district attorney, Mike Nifong, who has been obsequious in
his deference to the black community while handling this case, refused
to dignify her question with an answer.
One player hasbeen suspended, the coach has resigned, and a highly
ranked team's entire season has come to a premature end. All despite a
lack of DNA evidence. More and more the young woman's accusations are
beginning to look like she
said, he said.
Many lacrosse players have left campus worried for their safety. There are concerns
about drive by shootings aimed at Duke students still living in the area surrounding the house where the
incident took place.
Rightly or wrongly, one of the finest lacrosse teams in the country has
been dismantled by one woman's -- so far unsubstantiated -- allegations.
The question to ask is -- whose dreams have been deferred now? Whose hopes
and inspirations have been put on hold? Who will feel the anger of
suppression, the frustration of inequity and the impotent rage caused
by racial prejudice?
Langston Hughes' poem, so spare and simple, yet so devastatingly powerful, takes on a new, and surely unintended, meaning.