Equal and Different


Sasha Legagneur, Editor-in-Chief

The slogan “ Equal but different” is a common phrase that is used to describe the United States of America. The meaning behind this saying is that we may be entitled to the same rights, but we are different from one another. The highly unnoticed peculiarity of this phrase is its diction. The preposition ‘but’ serves to separate one thing from another. Arguably, it is almost that the purpose of the phrase is to say that yes, we may have the same rights on this land but never forget that you will never be who I am. 

         The diversity of this country is its most distinguishable quality. The phrase ‘ Equal but different’ suggests a tone of superiority. Rather, I would argue that we are equal and different. Our differences do not serve to separate us. They exist to unite us. They exist to be shared amongst each other.  They exist to tear the veil of discrimination that we strive to end. 

        One way to highlight the cultural variety in the United States is by observing the holiday season . The holidays hold a variety of meanings to different people.  To some, putting up a Christmas tree may seem odd. To others, lighting a menorah may seem unusual. 

        To explore the role of diversity during the holiday season, a number of students were asked about their traditions.  When asked about their rituals, many students who identify with a Jewish descent explained that although they do not celebrate Christmas religiously, they celebrate it festively. This is due to the widespread popularity of the holiday in the United States. A Jewish man or women from Israel, on the other hand, would likely never celebrate this sacred day. Many Jewish Americans celebrate Hanukkah, a holy day that exists in remembrance of the rededication of a sacred temple in Jerusalem. This day consists of prayer, lighting the Menorah, and playing with a dreidel.   

        Furthermore, students from a Haitian background were inquired about their practices. Most Haitians celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with family and enjoying a meal. The flavor of the culture, however, is discovered through the taste of the food. In addition to popular Thanksgiving foods such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pies , Haitians may add their own unique cuisines. Banan peze ( fried plantains) and mushroom rice,  may appear at a Haitian dinner. Many Haitian- Americans practice some form of Christianity. As a result, attending a church service on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve is a popular tradition . Haitians also make a special hot chocolate on Christmas day and a unique soup known as soup joumou for New Years Day.  

            By the same token, Colombians in America celebrate as they do because of their cultural origins.  Unlike some Americans, many Colombians celebrate Christmas the day before the 25th. Just as many cultures do, those of Colombian ancestry stay up late and celebrate  the holiday on the eve . When explaining their New Years experience , one student noted that her family eats 12 grapes as soon as midnight strikes with each grape symbolizing a wish for the new season. 

              A brilliant mind once said, “ Different roads lead to the same castle. “ Although we express ourselves in different ways, we are all American. We are one nation, regardless of the country we come from, the food we eat, or the languages we speak. As a result of the diversity in this land, a cultural syncretism becomes prevalent. Those of foreign origins adopt practices that are seen to be ‘ American’ while Americans adopt practices that are seen to be foreign . As opposed to judging one another, it would be beneficial to ourselves, and to the future of our nation, to explore the realities beyond our own.