"Melville’s ever-philosophical narrator, Ishmael, asks: 'Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that.'"

"From a world he experienced as spherical from atop ships’ masts, Melville perceived a sea-level humanity, embracing and celebrating the latitudes and longitudes of human variation, now termed diversity. When Ishmael finds himself compelled to share a blanket at the sold-out Spouter Inn, he declares, 'No man prefers to sleep two in a bed.' But he settles in, waiting for his mysterious South Seas roommate who, he’s informed, is peddling a shrunken head on the streets of New Bedford. Queequeg’s appearance terrifies Ishmael mute. But after things equilibrate, Ishmael reconsiders: 'For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal … a human being just as I am. … Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.'... Reflecting on Queequeg’s tatted visage, he concludes: 'Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face — at least to my taste — his countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. … Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.'... Nearly two centuries ago, Melville showed us how easy it is to welcome as our own the touches of others, their equivalent colors, customs and beliefs; their journeys, their transitions. And to remember those who, unwelcomed, suffered. How much could have been avoided, and embraced, had we heeded...."

From "Melville’s Whale Was a Warning We Failed to Heed" (NYT).

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