At the high school where I used to teach, students grouped themselves into “Yanks” and “Zoes.” Yanks were the African-American students. Zoe is a slang term to refer to a person of Haitian descent. In Miami, the Zoe Pound is a gang started by Haitian immigrants. When I took pictures of my students, they would try to throw up the sign for Zoe Pound, unless they were Yanks.
At Manhattan International High School, the student body represents over 50 countries. Because I became so accustomed to student conflict over cultural heritage, these scene moved me:
Last week, when I was in Cinzia Bontempo’s 12th-grade English class, Urgyen came in late. She blamed the snow. Fatou and Lindsey cheered when she entered, snow flying off of her jacket.
When I asked Urgyen where she is from, she said, “Tibet.” Lindsey and Bing immediately responded, “China, she means China.”
Urgyen turned to me, smiling. “Somehow we get along,” she said.