Editor’s Note: Gwen Butler is the 1st Vice President of the NASW-NYC Chapter. She presented us with this poem at the 2012 Board of Directors Retreat, which resonated deeply for everyone in the room. We wanted to use our blog as a platform to share this poem with you all. Please let us know what you think in the comments section below!
How do you See me?
How do you See me, when you look at me?
With my Dark Skin Latin Curl, Africana Sass
Educated, Well-dressed, and yes a little Class
Full of life, Full of love, Full of Pizzazz
But what if I was Three Shades Darker
With Locks for Hair and a Fist on my Shirt
What if I was Three Shades Lighter
With Waves for Hair and a Perfect Pencil Skirt
Tell me… What if when I spoke
My accent is what you heard
Or when I passed you in the hallway
You smelled the herbs that I burn
If I came to you in marital distress
And Feeling hopelessly bound
Then I introduced to you my wife…yes, my Lesbian wife
Would you assume I’m hell-bound?
If I was an 18 year old male
With my pants hanging low
Would you automatically hide your bag
And slow the flow of resources I might need to go….forward
What if I do not speak English
But tried really hard with what I know
Would you raise your voice 10 decibels higher
I’m not deaf, or dumb, you know…
How about if you see me struggling to walk on 42nd Street
So many people, so many cars, so many sounds, so many feet
I’m blind, I need my stick to walk
Excuse me, I didn’t know I was in your way
Or how about if I’m trying to catch that bus too…
I got a job, finally!
Does my wheelchair offend you?
If I stood before you, with an unshowered smell
Because I live in a shelter, more like a ‘hell’
Would you meet your eyes with mine?
Nope, not asking for a dime…
Just looking for some time, a moment to call mine
What if I came to see you, with all my five young children
Yeah, they’re loud and rambunctious
They’re young children what do you expect?
I couldn’t find a sitter
But I want to keep my appointment, trying to be responsible
In this already unforgiving world
Ok, wait… Let’s change the scenery
I’m your new supervisee, so excited to work
But please don’t send me into that room with him
He smells of dirt!
Help me Supervisor!
This paperwork is Nuts!
How can I manage all of this?
And I feel like I’m working for PeaNuts!
Please don’t let me go…
I really need this job
I entered this field because I truly love it
But passing the exam has been hard!
I know you think I’m young
It’s true, I do have a lot to learn
But listen to me… this technology thing
Is something you need to learn
I don’t work on the Sabbath
It’s my day of rest
Yours may come tomorrow
I will honor it too, at best
Social Worker, this is a call
to the inner most parts of YOU
A time to reflect and examine
The way in which you view
The people around you
The thoughts you have
The feelings you have
And the way it informs YOU
Gwen Butler is a NYS Licensed Clinical Social Worker currently in Private Practice, both in Manhattan and Forest Hills, Queens. Gwen is also the First Vice President on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers, NYC Chapter where she serves on the Executive Committee. She is also Chair of the Diversity Plan. Additionally, Gwen serves in her community as the President of the Queens / Long Island Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc., a National Organization in support of Mothers of Color. More information about Gwen Butler and her practice can be found at www.gwenbutler.com