Dream Deferred 

Imagining a Latino President with 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?

During my grueling first year of TFA I had one big goal for my students at Oritz Middle School in Houston, Texas. I wanted them to become “real readers”. I wanted them to find not only a measure of joy in reading, but also a sense of power and possibility.

I thought that San Antonio mayor Julian Castro’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 would serve as an exciting introduction this goal. What I found was that my students were at best unmoved, and at worst disbelieving of Castro and his story. Most heartbreakingly, a group of boys in my first period were convinced that Castro and his speech were my creation.

Two in particular returned to my class after lunch, insisting further that I had “made him up”. When I pulled up a video of his speech, the incredulity on their faces shifted to curiosity. “Miss, he’s a tejano?” asked one. “Yes, I said”. The other repeated the question, this time defining tejano in case I was confused.

“Yes, re-read the speech when you answer the questions tonight and he explains it all”.

Miss, but why was he there?

He’s the mayor of a major American city, an important Latino politician… I rambled off a few other explanations.

It is one thing, not to believe in the possibility of a Latino president in the near-future, but the inability to believe that a Latino man who grew up just hours away would be on television, would be seen as a decision maker and featured as a role model is crushing. This disbelief signals that our students not only suffer from a deferred American dream, but that they also have not been taught to dream such things for themselves. Weeks later, this fact sags like a heavy load. And everyday, I hope that we as an organization, a community and a nation make it explode.