This poem was read at the 2014 Diversity Assembly by Sarah Bowen, Carmen Abbe, Laura Jagels, and Max Taylor. It was written collectively by the Poet’s Committee.

We look at the same sky

The one that is endless and blue

And almost convinces us that we can fly

I don’t know where the sky goes

Just like I don’t know a lot of things about you

I don’t know why your clothes are so different than mine

Why you step with your left foot instead of your right

Or why the houses on your street are a different color than mine

Your face

is like the face of the moon

The one I saw out of my bedroom window

Someone told me you were made out of cheese

But I didn’t believe them,

I knew you were made of the same stuff as me

I knew you could smile and frown and laugh and cry

I always remembered

That we lived under the same sky

But as I grew older

And TV screens and magazines told me what my clothes meant,

What friends I could have,

And which lunch tables I could sit at

I started to see the differences

the ones painted in crayon on your skin

the ones my eyes skimmed over

categorizing you into one of the many boxes in my head

Your differences were my fears

they were patterns of crayon that I did not see on myself

And I thought

We couldn’t possibly be from the same part of the sky

I let myself forget, that I am here, because of you

That your differences are what make mine

That we live under the same sky,

And that I am

Because of you

Diversity is not different skin tones or hair colors

It is the different ideas

different thoughts

different paradigms

that could tear us apart,

pulling us together.

My grandfather spoke through dots and dashes in World War Two

so that we could speak through hashtags and acronyms now.

Where those who never talked in tongues known to this world

were able to speak with those in others.

They spoke with the same mouths

the same tongues

the same words

and meanings.

Where language was served on a silver platter

and chewed by their children

and their children’s children

until they spat out you.

It is through the innate human connectedness

That we find through our unique intricacies;

It is through our celebration of the individual

That we may grow as a species

On Saturday nights

I make rugelach while eating leftover challah

with my mostly-Jewish friend

but my family eats enchiladas for dinner

Belgian waffles on Sunday’s brunch,

afternoon dim sum with the relatives

when I went to Austin last week

Dad took me to a “Tex-Mex” place – so I could know what his childhood was like

and while his growing-up was soaked in tomatillo sauce, sprinkled with chili,

I entered adolescence wielding

a pair of chopsticks and a spatula,

both of which I use to

eat popcorn in front of the big-screen, football-filled TV

Dad used to warn me that if I ate so many vegetables

“You’ll turn green!”

and it’s true:

these years of multi-colored fajitas and chow mein

mixed around under my skin

and now I can’t count all the little freckles of darker pigment

I can’t count the stray blond hairs

I can’t count all the times I’ve said

I am American

No, I’m not oriental. I’m not white. I’m not Greek.

No, I am American.

 

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