Friday, December 6, 2013

Blog Post 12

Blog written in response to the following article:

This riveting article tells the story of Jacob, a lost boy of the Sudan who sought asylum in the US and applied to the Atlanta police force. The story opens with him drought with anxiety over his target shooting exam, and recounts the other obstacles he has overcome in his incredible life. 

Recently in our foundations class, we heard a guest lecture on international crisis management, refugee services, and systematic violence. The topic was heavy and overwhelming, and I know I wasn't the only one who left that class a little emotionally exhausted. However, the lecture was also interesting and inspiring, both to hear about the amazing work that social workers can do internationally, but also to see and hear the amazing stories told by the people they work with - stories of overcoming fear and violence to move into a life of peace and consistency. 

Jacob did not pass his exam for the police department, and so once again his life is uncertain. I know his story depicts a certain level of the “American dream”, a certain haze of “if you work hard enough, anything is possible” – a sentiment that so many people like Jacob will work their whole lives for but never make any real headway. However, I do believe that the more stories we hear like Jacob’s, the more we can begin to change our perception of what it is to be successful in this country.

Blog Post 11

In foundations of social justices a few weeks ago we watched a very eye-opening documentary on immigrant detention and deportation, and the terrible facilities in which immigrants are living. this documentary brought up several things that I had never thought about before concerning asylum and immigration laws, and I appreciate the way that the documentary seemed to try to focus on facts rather than bias. I had never thought about the irony that to ask for asylum, you have to either be already in the country or at the border. I was struck by the statistic of people who were immigrating to the US to seek asylum rather than simple work or education. 

 When I was younger I was almost fluent in spanish, and I thought I had lost a lost of my conversational skills, but when listening to the immigrant families’ interview on the video, I could pretty easily understand them. I was excited about that, and now I’m thinking it might be a good idea to brush up on my spanish skills or go to a spanish meet-up group. If i plan on working in Texas much longer, my future agencies and clients would really benefit if I were bilingual, and I know that most agencies pay their bilingual employees more (or at least SafePlace does).

Blog post 10

In thinking about religion and religious privilege, I began thinking a lot about faith-based nonprofits. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for a while, but always in a secular organization. I myself have never strongly identified with any particular religion, but years of Christian summer camps have given me a visceral reaction to any organization that imposes its beliefs on the people it serves, regardless of their personal backgrounds. I know that faith-based organizations have done a lot of good for a lot of people, but I have a hard time understanding the duality of the organization – are you serving these people and their problems, or are you gunning for conversions?

            These ideas have really struck home with me lately – my father is an alcoholic, and has been struggling for several years. My father is an atheist, and though it is a faith-based program, we pushed for him to go into AA simply because of the success rate. He pushed back for a long time, telling us he “refused to drink the cool-aid” of a religious recovery program. After several difficult years and a rough rock bottom, my dad finally gave AA a try, and we have seen a really significant difference. He is now more than 1 year sober, and he is very involved with the program. I appreciate AA and everything they have helped my father overcome, but I can’t help but wonder if we could have gotten him in sooner had they been a secular organization. 

Blog Post 9

I realized how much this semester I've been interested and looking forward to hearing my classmate’s views on religion and religious privilege. Personally, my parents raised my sister and I in an Episcopalian church, but when I was 14 they changed their beliefs – they sat us down and told us that they would love for us to have religion in our lives, but that it wasn’t up to them to decide what that would look like. They then offered us comparative religion classes on several opportunities (I didn’t end up taking the class until my junior year in high school).
This experience has strangely given me religious privilege in two ways. First, I was raised for over a decade in a Christian (or some refer to the Episcopalian church as “diet catholic”) household. This puts me in line with the 78.2% of Americans who practice or identify as Christian, and in more conservative settings, allows me to welcomed as a part of majority. Second, it is unfortunate, but in some circles having strong religious beliefs can sometimes alienate you more than it aligns you with your peers. Coming from a Christian background comes with a certain set of expectations, and people tend to jump to conclusions about the type of person you are. My unorthodox religious upbringing (after the age of 14) puts me in favor with these groups, and lets me play the “spirituality over organized doctrines” card.
I have recently renewed my quest for religion and/or spirituality, and with that process comes a lot of questions of how I wish to talk about my beliefs or whom I wish to talk about it with. With this also comes the struggle of how to stand my ground. It’s been easy for me in the past to play each situation as I see fit – either I’m a Christian who doesn’t really practice (but I am accepted because once a Christian, always a Christian), or I’m the spiritual person who renounced Christianity (and I am accepted because of my worldly and liberal views). I recently went on a date with a man I’ve been interested in for a long time, and on this date I discovered he was Baptist. He seemed as taken aback by my religious ambiguity as I was by his religious resolve, and in that moment it was interesting and somewhat sad to witness how our views of the other’s religious choices suddenly and severely shaped our ideas of each other, and I was taken aback by my own judgment. I had been struggling with which identity to choose with this person, and I instead chose honesty – I told him the full story, and he seemed slightly unpleasantly surprised. While that may not have been full-throttle religious oppression, it was interesting and altogether disheartening to experience. 

Blog Post 8

"Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality. He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry." - Nelson Mandela

I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately, but of course my thoughts are much less elegant and concise than Nelson Mandela's words. I grew up being told by my parents that the American dream is achievable by everyone – that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. My father impressed upon us that the more education you had, and he harder you worked, the more money you’d make. It seemed like such a clear path.

Now I see things everywhere that challenge this idea. I work with clients who work three minimum-wage jobs, who can’t get higher paying jobs because they don’t have the education, but who don’t have access to education because between their three jobs they don’t have the time or the money. I’m also considering what kind of masters work to apply to – I know to be able to go into counseling, I’ll have to get my masters no matter what. But what about a combination masters and Ph. D? I automatically assumed that with more education I’ll automatically be considered for a higher salary, but that is evidently not the case. Lots to think about…

Blog post 7

A lot came up a bout racism this week during class, mostly because of the reading for my foundations of social justice class, but also because we are unfortunately living in a country and area where racism is still very apparent. At the beginning of each class we discuss what we heard in the news, and it is very unfortunate that about 8 of every 10 current news stories has some sort of racial impact. I also think it is very important to touch on the fact that just because America elected a non-white male to be president, that does not, in any way, indicate that we are in a country that is free from racial prejudice or discrimination.
            Even the linguistics of racism leads the mind to define groups – our race of people versus their race. It is precisely this kind of subconscious distinguishing that I believe contributes, at least in some small part, to continued prejudices and stereotypes. These prejudices are unnecessary in modern times, and Adams does a good job of illustrating this when she says “many scientists today reject the idea of race as a useful biological concept to classify human beings because it does not correspond with the realist and the complexities of human biological variation” (Adams, 63). While I believe that many scientists do in fact believe that there is no place for racism in today’s world because the genetics tell us so, I also believe that all people have hardwired experiences, stories, and parental pressures from when they were very young that is going to make this kind of deep-seated racism so difficult to overcome.

Blog Post 6

 Blog written in response to the following article:

This article both interested and terrified me. I know that I am among a growing (hopefully not majority) group of people who are thoroughly confused by their own health insurance and the process of navigating the healthcare system. It always seems to go that just when I feel as though I have a handle on healthcare, the rug is pulled out from under me – sometimes in the form of a astronomical bill that I was sure would have been covered, and other times in articles or stories such as this one.

This article scared me in two different ways. First and foremost, it made me incredibly anxious about the everyday possibility of an injury. I walk up and down stairs every day, cross streets, drive in cars….and I haven’t gotten hurt in a while! It’s statistically reasonable to assume that my next accident is just around the corner (knocking on wood as I type) and with it will come substantial debt! I better be extra careful…but where will those thousands of dollars for five stitches come from? I’d rather superglue a cut together and hope for the best than land up a financial creek without a paddle. Secondly, this makes me terrified for the lower income populations in our community. So many people I come into contact with at SafePlace or in the community don’t have the time or money to go to a doctor for every ailment and pay the copays, so they wait until they are extremely sick or hurt (or just have a REALLY bad flu) and they go to the emergency room. I have known for a long time that medical costs are the #1 way people in America fall in to debt, but this article helped me to see how it hits much closer to home than I would like.