Let People Be Different
On a Saturday night, Kamran and I were in Hackney, a neighborhood in London’s East End. We ate at a wonderful Turkish restaurant near the Hackney Empire theater.
The restaurant was filled with people of every skin color and age you can imagine. There were black, brown, and white people, often sitting at the same table. Often together as one family.
There were three birthdays being celebrated. There were balloons and confetti. There was laughter and singing.
There was a twenty-something black woman in heels, leather pants, and a feathered shirt. There was a short 70-something white woman in brown cords and a sweatshirt. There was an 18 year old birthday boy making a speech about becoming a man.
People brought in homemade cake to accompany the grilled food.
We ordered enough food for four on a budget for two. It was all delicious.
I looked around me and thought: this is what so many people in the world fear.
This. Us. Here.
These diverse, multi-cultural families.
These impossible, loving, happy, messy, diverse people.
These people who have managed to reach out across class, ethnicity, and color to form bonds of friendship and family.
I thought, all this is about to come crumbling down.
Brexit. Xenophobic immigration policies. Unfounded fear.
All these things want to clean the mess of us — the best of us.
There is no going back. There is no utopian world free of difference. That imagination only leads to violence and destruction. We know that.
Every day for the rest of my life, I will struggle to embrace, protect, and expand the mess of us, the best of us, our diversity.
It’s a small promise, from a small person, but it’s all I have.
“Let people be different.”
Hackney Empire, 2017