What Happens To a Dream Deferred?

Baltimore Street Corner. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign 1992

The title of this blog post is the first line of Langston Hughes’ powerful poem ‘Harlem.’ NYC-based poet/novelist, teacher, and photographer Don Yorty has made an excellent short video/reading of ‘Harlem’ linked here.

I recognize that it is a bit ‘too politically correct’ and in a way even cowardly to be a white person writing about the persistent problem of racism in the U.S. on the official Martin Luther King, Jr. government holiday. It’s not as if the topic of racism–of having conversations about racism–should occur in ‘polite’ (as in white) company on only one day of the year. Racism is, of course, back in the national spotlight due to the 2014 high-profile cases of race-based police brutality in Ferguson and beyond. I’ve written about the intersection of racism and health in previous posts, most recently in “Virginia Relics Part One: Racism” (9-15-14). Last year when I was teaching community health in New Zealand and learning about their indigenous Maori population and racism, I wrote a post “Cultural Safety: A Wee Way To Go”  (3-12-14). In that post I included information and links to two wonderful video resources I use in teaching about racism: 1) Cultural Humility: People, Principles and Practices by San Fransisco State professor Vivian Chavez; and 2) Shaun Scott’s short documentary A Really Nice Place to Live (about the historical context of racism in Seattle). I use these videos in combination with the excellent PBS series Unnatural Causes‘ episode “When the Bough Breaks,” which highlights the serious health effects of racism on African American women and their infants. Together, these three videos help spur important (and oftentimes emotionally-charged) classroom discussions about racism.

Happy (thoughtful, reflective, peaceful) MLK Day.


  • A good and clearly-written article “Why There’s No Such Thing as Reverse Racism” (Daily Kos, by ‘hepshiba’ 7-15-2010). Helps to clarify that thorny and oft-quoted statement that black people can’t be racists.
  • Anything by Dr. Camara-Jones of the CDC. Especially her cliff analogy of determinants of health/where racism comes into play (low-budget but good video of it here); and her Gardner’s Tale/three levels of racism (video of it here).

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