Poem by Leila Clifford, 10th Grade – SBH High School
Introduction by Kirsten Steele, English Teacher – SBH High School
At the beginning of the semester in English II, we examined the existence of stereotypes in the world. We read the poem by Diane Burns, “Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question.” [read here]. Then, we discuss how all people make assumptions about one another, but we don’t have to allow others’ assumptions to define us.
My students have written poems critiquing, and in many cases rejecting, stereotypical assumptions others have made about them. It is a powerful, vulnerable exercise for everyone involved, and I am grateful to my students every year for their courage and willingness to be vulnerable.
“Sure You Can Ask Me”
By Leila Clifford, 10th Grade – SBH High School
Sure you can ask me?
If i like watermelon
If fried chicken is my favorite food
If i chase all dudes
If my favorite thing to do is cook food
If i have a lot of kids which i cannot maintain
If i have a long over exaggerated name
If the only reason i want a man is for the money and the fame
If anyone in my family is on drugs
If i live in a beat up house with bugs
If i know how to braid
If i ever got bad grades
If i grew up without a dad
If i was hard headed or bad
If i was better at sports than academics
If people ever told me i would never aspire to be a nurse, doctor or even a paramedic
If it’s true that black don’t crack
If i ever used the word wack
If i was pretty because of my shade of black
If i have ever been called a monkey
If someone in my family was a junkie
If i was idiotic
Why some of our music videos so erotic?
If i am mean
If on saturdays my mom made me get up and clean
But you never bothered to ask me if i liked to write or read
Instead you asked all the things that stereotyped me