So we’re different colors
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I never even met you
So what could I have done
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
– DePeche Mode, People are People
I was traveling into the city on the subway standing in a sea of people and was struck by the variety of noses something I never really noticed before. Perhaps this is because I am indifferent to the structure of my nose and never fantasized about altering the shape. I was seeing noses in profile. There were hook noses, button noses, noses with large bumps at the bridge, Roman noses, thin noses, Nubian noses, bulbous noses, upturned noses. About the only nose type I didn’t see was a broken up, mangled nose stereotypical of boxers on the losing end of battles or low intellect muscle working for the mob.
I encountered all these noses within a few square feet of where I stood holding a pole struggling to maintain my balance as the train rocked around corners and swayed more than I would have expected in the gentle curves.
A short time later, I was sitting at the outdoor tables in the Daley Center when People are People by DePeche mode played through the one earphone I had stuck in my right ear. I was, as is my norm in the mornings before heading into the office, watching people. It struck me that Chicago is a melting pot city with a wonderful aroma derived from a hugely diverse populace, spiced by people of differing ethnicities and cultures and creeds. A great strength of Chicago is its diversity.
I grew a heightened sensitivity to diversity while living in India. It was the only place I have ever lived where I did not blend in with the people around me. Every place I visited in India, my pallid complexion & ginger hair screamed, “I’m not one of you.” At least, those were the words echoing in my head. I never did experience any discrimination from anyone in the country. Although I was asked quite a few times to pose in a picture with the locals. My difference seemed to draw them in when I toured outside the big cities.
The reality is, I am one of them. The accident of my birth says I am American. But, I am also Indian. Just as I am African, Asian, Eastern, Western. I am one of the collective known as human. There is no them. There is only us. Unless, that is, you are too caught up in your own importance to believe borders are necessary to keep others at bay.
Our physical and cultural differences are trivial yet used by those in power to keep us separate us, to judge us, to place us on an arbitrary continuum of best to worst, to discriminate against anyone the is not us. At our core, we are the same. We want the same things. We want to live a happy, healthy life with the prospect of a better future for our children. The way we chase that dream may be different depending upon our family of origin. One is a process the other is an end result.
Despite growing up in lily-white Suburbia, I have become a big fan of diversity in my later years, years needed to scrub away biases that slowly seeped into my pores during my youth. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. One of those childish things was a belief that any race or culture or citizenry is better than any other.
We are all simply people with a diversity that makes life exceedingly interesting.