“Do you know me?”
I’m the woman who keeps your dorm clean. I’m the man who changes lightbulbs and keeps the hallway lighted. I’m the man who trims the bushes around the quad and cuts the grass in the heat of summer and pulls the weeds. I’m the gardener in the Duke Gardens and all over campus. I’m the security officer, the parking attendant, the bus driver. I cook your food and wash your dishes for the next meal. I clean your toilets and supply you with paper towels and toilet paper. (It sounds like I might be your mom or dad, but I am not.) I help keep the wheels turning at Duke. Do you know me?
I unlock and lock the doors. I insure a comfortable temperature in your classroom. I provide clerical support for your professors. I push paper, carry paper, recycle paper, dispose of paper. I pick up your trash. I make sure you can hear the LDOC band and that the stage is safe. I paint the lines on the football field and hang the banners in Cameron. Sometimes, I even empty your bedpans and push your wheelchairs. Rich or poor, I don’t care. I meet your needs. I’m always here.
Don’t ignore me as if you don’t see me. Smile. Say hello. Learn my name. Ask me about my family. Get to know me. Grow the idea. Then, one person at a time, we can develop trust, respect, appreciation, maybe even friendship, and eventually, hopefully we won’t need sit-ins, protests, inequality and anti-hate committees or safe spaces. We’ll be able, finally, to move on.
An executive assistant in the Sanford School of Public Policy
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