Saturday, March 11, 2017

Social Work Conversations

A young black client of mine recently told me that he didn't understand why other black people hated white people. 'Slavery was forever ago, and there are white people like you out there, so why are they mad?'

My response? 'Don't let me off the hook.'

It's so easy to see a fairly evolved white person as an ally. But ask yourself what it costs a white person to be an 'ally'. The answer is that it costs nothing, and the reward is great. If I'm not a total open racist, I get rewarded for it. I'm 'woke'. I don't have to answer for systemic discrimination. I told this kid that I was glad he liked me, and I like him too, but don't let me off the hook. What do I do to change the system other than posting something on Facebook every now and then, or show up at the random rally? I am not your ally, because while I may be concerned about the way the police treat you, or by the way you have to work extra hard to access the privilege I glided into, what have I given up? I'm being rewarded for honoring the basic lessons we all learned while watching Sesame Street, although I haven't put in half of the work. Yes, young man, don't let hatred cloud your heart, but please understand that I am not your ally. I am a white man who has benefited from a system designed to promote my race and gender, and although I may like you, I will never give up my own position for you, and I will only help you until it cuts into my own bottom line. Be your own ally. Don't look for others to boost or improve you. Don't let hatred and anger make you ugly, but be realistic: I am not the one who is going to boost you to the next level, and I will never give up my position in order to advance your own.

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