Poem in response to Reduced Inequalities
Prejudice: A History
By Ilana Arougheti
And our ancestors scrapped like matadors,
Blood-lusted and blind, lashing madly out
At any sign of something different. We soured in the heat, clumping and clotting, no uniting flow.
Suspicion stamped out common ground. Self-defense turned to conquest. Diversity bore excuse.
Pandora’s box collapsed on its hinges.
We cannot regress. We still haven’t learned.
Our battles are smaller now. Old scars have found new shapes. Old torches scorch new tongues.
Stereotype, diaspora, dysphoria. Words you must be caged inside to understand. Words you can rage against and still too easily be dismissed.
They hear your vowels and talk right past you, too loud and too slow.
They see your hue and raise their hackles, tense their trigger fingers too early.
They guess your affections and predict hell where you predict love.
Would you willingly accept the pain of a stranger for the chance to live their world?
Would you step behind old walls for the chance to break them down?
Often we are too ashamed to try. Instead, we retreat inwards.
We tell ourselves our water runs clearer,
Our pockets run deeper, our schools run larger, our stomachs run fuller,
Because we have won some cosmic contest. Those others could never.
Perhaps if their spices are sour, their values are rotten. Perhaps if their garments are tattered, their gods are false.
Perhaps they are as faceless as we regard them. Perhaps they have thin skulls and brittle bones.
Perhaps they deserve the difficulty of their lives, says the whisper we have not yet learned to ignore.
The cries of the world burn to dust in our periphery. We cannot hear them. Our language is different.
We have all forgotten how to be kindred,
Or maybe we have all learned too many of the variables that pull us apart.
Well, not all of us. When we meet in airports and markets and forests
Our babies shriek with the same abandon,
Touch each other’s faces, match nose to nose, eye to eye,
Chubby hands and squirming feet.
They don’t need mirrors or language or courage. They know they are the same.