A poem about how memories affect responses to diversity

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Diversity and memories


Two men got on the Green Line

One at Harlem Avenue

The other at Austin Blvd.

Never met before

One with kinky, black hair

The other with straight, brown hair and balding

One wearing a business suit, silk tie, wing tips

The other a faded Cubs T-shirt and stained khakis*

Do you say hello?

What's happening?

How ya doin'?

Will I get a scowl?

A smile?


The start of a conversation?

All they see is the book's cover

Haven't read the story

Might be a comedy

Maybe a tragedy

Each makes judgments about the other

Memories get in the way

So many memories



Cassius Clay

Howard Cosell

Muhammed Ali

George Foreman

George Wallace

John F. Kennedy

Bull Connor

Saul Alinsky

Fred Hampton

Emmett Till

Richard Daley

Harold Washington

Laquan McDonald

Jon Burge

Ernie Banks

Black Panthers


Bill Cosby

Clarence Thomas


Selma, Alabama

Emanuel AME, Charleston

West Side burning

Appomattox Court House


Plessy v. Ferguson

Brown v. Topeka

Shoot to kill

Voting Rights Act

Is the guy with the shaved head sitting behind me

A Nazi skinhead?

Or just a guy following the latest tonsorial fashion?

Is the woman wearing an hijab across the aisle

Going to blow herself and me up in a minute?

Or wondering if she should say hello?

Or how ya doin'?

Do my memories help?

Or do they hinder?

Do I take a risk?

Or play it safe?

Are "those people" sinners or saints?

A little of both, most likely

Just like me

Can't judge a book by its cover

Can't judge "those people" by my memories

And they can't judge me by theirs

Do we manage our memories?

Or do our memories control us?

Do I take a risk?


*Which man did you assume was wearing the business suit: kinky hair or straight hair?

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