Subway Salad Bowl (and a hot coffee, please)

I was riding the subway, and sitting next to me on my right was a Rabbi, passing the time reading a Torah. Across the aisle from me was a man reading what appeared to be a Himalayan text. And there I was with my yoga mat, reading Shantaram. Then some ladies with their babies boarded and started chatting in Spanish. As I looked around the train, I marveled at the diversity displayed just there in that small space.

I’ve lived in diverse neighborhoods my whole life. I can’t imagine not having heard different languages spoken or seen different shades of skin, and yet I am aware that most of the world is not such a “Melting Pot” or “Salad Bowl” like the USA is. And there are definitely parts of this country that are pretty homogeneous as well. Not the parts I grew up in or have lived in, since I’m a big city dweller, but having driven east-to-west and back again, I’ve passed through enough US cities to have seen for myself how I am a minority.

Other than when I was in first grade and a misinformed classmate called me a Communist, and in eighth grade when this boy insisted on calling me She-Ra (He-Man’s sister, the Princess of Power), I haven’t experienced much racism (at least not to my face). And it may be because I haven’t, or because I wasn’t raised to separate people into all-encompassing groups like that, but my mind doesn’t go to racism when something doesn’t go my way. I was brought up to take personal responsibility for myself – I am firm believer in that virtue, and I have a hard time respecting people who don’t (as exemplified by the fact that if McDonald’s comes up in conversation, I still rant about that clumsy opportunist who spilled coffee on herself, then sued the company for hot coffee being HOT, and was awarded $2.9 million for it!). That is simply beyond my comprehension, and while she laughed all the way to the bank, I scoffed at a system that rewards such idiocy.

It’s an age old question, “What separates us from the animals?” Dare it boil down to a few chromosomes and the ability to twist the truth and manipulate a situation to paint oneself victimized for profit?

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