The importance of diversity to the fabric of the nation has been a huge (and essential) talking point in recent months, especially given some of the xenophobic, intolerant rhetoric that has dominated politics. Sometimes, however, an image speaks volumes. This subway photo is going viral for capturing the diversity of America in a brief, everyday moment — it shows people simply living their lives alongside one another and offering the people around them basic courtesy and respect. It’s a simple moment that has struck a cord among viewers; since it was posted on Facebook last week, it’s been “liked” 96,000 times.
On April 16, New Yorker Jackie Summers posted a photo on Facebook that he took on the F train. It shows an orthodox Jewish couple sitting next to a Muslim mom feeding her baby. Summers captioned,
A Taoist (me) gives up his seat so a Hasidic couple could sit together. They scoot over so a Muslim mother could sit and nurse her baby, on Easter Sunday.
This is my America: people letting people be people.
For Summers, these situations are everyday occurrences in New York — and in America more generally. “The moment is extraordinary in its ordinariness: common courtesy as an afterthought is the NYC and the America I was raised to believe in,” he told The Huffington Post. “Given the age of divisiveness we live in, it seems people are looking at this photo as a reason to put issues like race, religion, and sex aside to focus on more important issues relevant to peaceful coexistence.”
Nearly 100,000 people have “liked” the post. “THIS, is what makes America great and these days I've been struggling to find ways to feel good about America. We, the people... Thank you for restoring a little of my faith in humanity today, Jackie,” one commenter wrote. “When I see how beautiful we can be, it makes me so happy,” another added.
Summers told the Huffington Post that his grandparents were immigrants. “[M]y ancestors believed America to be a place where the possibility of equity existed,” he said. “While it’s clear we still have a long way to go to achieve that goal, I and people like me across this nation are fighting every day to see that end.”
The United States has a long history of intolerance and division, but diversity is, nevertheless, a cornerstone of American life. Although the nation may feel incredibly fractured at the moment, photos like this one remind us that, in this country, people of different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and viewpoints live in the same communities and share space every single day. As Summers pointed out, this photo is remarkable precisely because it isn’t.