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Who Am I?

Lenora Billings-Harris
Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021

Who am I?
I am the Latino teenager who works 
part-time in your mailroom.
You know
The one you think is in a gang
Just because I use street slang.

Who am I?
I’m the Black woman who works in your group.
You know
The one who wears her hair in braids,
or a natural, or dreadlocks,
the one you call a radical with an attitude.

Who am I?
I am your blind neighbor
You know
The one you always speak loudly to,
as though I had a hearing disability,
instead of one of sightlessness.

Who am I?
I’m the Korean grocer in your neighborhood.
You know
The one you call unfriendly, just
because I don’t smile enough for you.

Who am I?
I am a lesbian, or the gay person
who is your associate.
You know . . . oops, maybe you don’t know.
I chose not to share that aspect of

Who I am,
Because you and your friends are
always joking about “Homo’s”, and
“queers”, and “lesbos”.
If you only knew how closely I work with you.

Who am I?
I am the Japanese American who
works in your sales department.
You know
The one whose name you make fun of
and expect me to laugh.

Who am I?
I am the Christian woman who travels
with you to make client calls.
You know
The one you keep apologizing to,
every time you tell an off-color joke,
or use God’s name in vain.
Why do you apologize?
You obviously are not sorry, or you would
change your behavior.

Who am I?
I am the older man.
You know
The one you get impatient with
because I don’t talk, move, or drive
as fast as you do.
One day you will be old, unless
you experience the only other alternative.

Who am I?
I am your administrative assistant.
You know
The one you always call “Hon” or “Sweetie”
whenever you want coffee.
How many years will it take for you
to learn my real name?

Who am I?
I am the new associate who just
relocated to your office.
You know
The one you imitate all the time,
because of my southern accent.

Who am I?
I am the American Indian.
You know
The one you call chief, and ask how’s my squaw.
If you were interested in me as an individual,
you would know
that squaw is a derogatory French Canadian term,
and chief is not a word I joke about.

Who am I?
I am the Puerto Rican.
You know
The one who speaks Spanish to my
friends at work.
You think we are talking about you . . .
Don’t flatter yourself.

Who am I?
I’m the African American man who
works down the hall.
You know
the one you and your friends say,
I only got my job because of my color, of course not because I was the
best candidate.

Who am I?
I am the Chinese American human resource specialist.
You know
The one you keep asking to help you with your computer,
even though I don’t understand that technical stuff either.

Who am I?
I am a White American.
You know
The one you blame for the errors
made over 200 years ago,
the one you think “has it made”,
the one you think “just doesn’t get it”,
even though I am your strongest
advocate among my peers.

Who am I?
I am an American person
I worry about the environment,
education for my children, my next
paycheck, crime, and crabgrass
in my front yard.
I am the person who wants to know
the real you, if only you would act
interested in the real me.

- Lenora Billings-Harris, 1994


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