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“At the Back of Progress…” raises an interesting question: is true equality ever guaranteed? It’s been almost 54 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed, and yet we are still fighting racism on a daily basis in this country; women are still fighting for equal pay and reproductive rights, though it’s been decades since the Equal Pay Act and Roe vs. Wade; since 2015, it’s been legal for gay couples all across the United States to marry, yet many parishes still refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. This poem reminds us that, no matter how far we advance as a society, that same level of advancement is not guaranteed for each individual. There will always be those who disagree with the way things are; this could be because they were raised by someone who remembered and valued the old way of doing things, or simply because change of any kind can feel strange or even threatening.

This poem also reminds us that no matter how respectable or kind a person may seem outwardly, you can’t always know what they are like personally:

“The employee who’s speaking in such a low voice
that no one knows or would ever suspect
how much he could raise his voice at home,
how foul his language could be
how vile his behavior.”

“The bearer who brings the tea
Who keeps the lighter in his pocket
And who gets a couple of taka as a tip:
He’s divorced his first wife for her sterility,
His second wife for giving birth to a daughter,
He’s divorced his third wife for not bringing dowry.
Returning home, this fellow beats his fourth wife
Over a couple of green chilis or a handful of cooked rice.”

Nasrin reminds us that there will always be opposition amidst progression and that, in spite of it, everyone must do their best to uphold true equality, even with the possibility that it may never exist.

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