Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Acceptance and Equality

Psychologist Erich Fromm once said, “Men are born equal, but they are also born different.” I feel that this quote perfectly represents the themes in this week’s poems which all deal with forms of acceptance. “Theme for English B”, “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school)”, “Queens, 1963”, and “Fork” all discuss the problem of accepting others because they are different, or accepting yourself based on other’s judgments. While it is true we are all different, this does not mean we are not equal in the world.

The struggle for equality and acceptance is evident in “Theme for English B”, where an African American student is assigned by his white teacher to write a paper based on what is true to him. He struggles with this assignment because he likes and does the same things as a white man, but the world will still view the two men differently. The student wants to be accepted and understood as a person, more importantly an American, and not judged by his color.

The same type of acceptance is expressed in “Queens, 1963”. A young immigrant discusses the racial diversity growing up in her neighborhood in Queens. The main conflict revolves around the story of a new African American family that has just moved in across the street, in which each diverse family has a different reaction to the newcomers. Each family seems to be too worried about themselves and does not want to accept the other families because the only thing they see is their nationalities. It is obvious to the reader that the speaker is also aware of the problem of acceptance, when in line 23 she discusses how whites and blacks get along in a different town. This informs us of the apparent cultural inequality in the neighborhood. In both “Queens, 1963” and “Theme for English B”, the speakers plead for unity and acceptance of all humans, no matter where they come from or what they look like.

“this morning (for the girls of eastern high school” continues with the theme of acceptance, but deals more with acceptance of one’s own self. One morning, a young, black female finally accepts herself for who she is, and not what others see her as. She realizes that even if others see her one way, she is going to disregard their opinions and be the person she really is. In “Fork”, a grown man reminisces of his past actions of revenge on someone who did not accept him. The speaker talks about his negative teacher from his childhood, whose opinion influences almost every action of his life. The teacher once told him that he was hopeless and would never write, and as revenge he stole an elegant fork from her house. He lived the rest of his life with her opinion and fork constantly controlling his thoughts. One day, a question from his daughter made him realize that he doesn’t have to prove himself to her at all, and only has to prove to himself what he is capable of doing. He finally comes to terms with who he is. Both of the characters in “this morning” and “Fork” throw away the opinions and acceptance of others, and start living for themselves.

The plead for acceptance and equality in all of these poems is an issue we deal with everyday. We must realize that everyone is different and unique, but we must treat everybody with respect and equality because we are all humans. First though, you must accept yourself. Otherwise, you will struggle your whole life with accepting others, and will never look past what is just on the outside.

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