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Essay on Racial Justice in America

Updated August 9, 2022

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Essay on Racial Justice in America essay

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My family has begun discussing our origin more as my grandmother gets older. The dynamics of my family origin may present slightly unorganized in part because my parents are divorced and I consider to have two separate dimensions of family. Most of our history is shared when passing on heirlooms or recipes that have now been passed over generations. My father’s biological grandfather and eight brothers, on his father’s side, came by boat from Sicily to Boston during their adolescent years. As most people who come to the states, it was in hopes for seeking a better life. Shortly after, the brothers settled in in Federal Hill, Providence which was predominantly Italian settlers and remains the “little Italy” of Providence to this day. There has been little passed on over generations about their experiences upon arrival, but my father always talks about how the first family “business” was running illegal meats from Providence to New York in relation to the infamous Mafia, during the prohibition.

Community interactions were made strictly between other Italians and the local business were run by Italians. As my great grandfather aged, he started selling fruit out of a small wooden cart to the locals on the sidewalk. This cart then became a local store that my father and his brothers grew up around and continued their grandfathers legacy until my brother and I became adolescents ourselves.

During his time in Providence, my great grandfather married numerous times. His first wife died at a very young age and as the story goes, my father shows the most resemblance to her. When arriving to the states, my family was very poor which I believe to be the reasoning behind their original connection with the mafia. As money came, more family came, all living within the same community and continuing the tradition of Sunday dinner. To this day, my family and I continue to share Sunday dinner filled with love, life, and traditional Italian cuisine.

I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood very close to Federal Hill. My grandfather on my dad’s side had since passed and I did not have the opportunity of meeting him. I also never had the pleasure of meeting my great grandmother, his fourth wife, Adele. Adele had a very strong relationship with my father growing up. When my father was very young, he had critical medical issues that restricted him to be home most often. Adele was his caretaker until her last days with the family. Originally, it was planned for me to take her name in honor, but my mother changed her mind last minute. I had been the only girl born into the family in decades so you can imagine the excitement.

My mother’s family migrated from Italy but not much has been spoken upon how. What I do know is that my grandfather’s parents were farmers in Italy before arriving to the states. My grandfather grew up very poor with his 3 sisters and mother who died when he was a child. His father worked as a factory worker and was often absent, leaving my grandfather to take on the role of head of household at a very young age. When my grandfather was at a working age, he followed his father’s footsteps and began working as a factory worker making watchbands for Speidel, later to become a mechanical engineer. When I was younger, my grandfather brought me home a wristband that was not able to be sold and I have kept and cherished it since. My grandmother was adopted and did not find out until much later in life, so she did not pursue a search to find her biological parents.

My family still holds many of the values and practices including the importance of religion, family bonds and alliances with other Italians, and high work ethics. Throughout my childhood, Providence was seen as an upcoming city and has since been gentrified, although labeled as a minority city with high crime and drug epidemics. My brother and I attended a predominantly white, catholic school very close to our childhood home. During our childhood, religion was very important and my grandmother would take us to church every Sunday. We were both baptized, received our first communion, and later confirmed. Our neighborhood was also populated by white, middle-class families. The neighborhood was filled with colonial houses, none of which were rented or considered two family homes. An interesting socioeconomic dynamic is surrounding adjacent neighborhoods are, and continue to be, more diverse. These neighborhoods have affordable housing and rental properties and are populated by minority races. The factors that may have contributed could be related to maintaining racial segregation using red lining, a way to exploit a community members using systematic oppression and discrimination (Dias, 2006).

My social identity as a child modeled peer and community partnership that presented with similar environmental factors, socioeconomic status, religion, and race. With that being said, I do not believe I was subjected to identifying difference until I was placed into public school. I would like to say that my experience of acknowledging difference was liberating but it was a painful piece of my childhood. I was very badly bullied once moving to a public school which remained consistent through my adolescent and teenage years.

The first time I learned about racism was receiving education on slavery in elementary school. Slavery then became my ideology of what racism was. But even learning about such a significant time in history and contributing factors to oppression in the black community, the curriculum presented its attention on white elites and their influences during the time of slavery seemed to over power an intergenerational oppression of an entire race. It wasn’t until the Black Lives Matter movement and my continuation in education that I realized racism went far beyond slavery. Currently activists are using Black Lives Matter to provide awareness of police brutality against targeted African American individuals, the overlapping of inequalities that create social injustices in predominately black communities, differences in treatment and resources, and the continuation racial justice issues by carrying out grassroots of communities (Herwees, 2015).

The most significant memory I have in response to family, friend, and media attitudes towards a specific race is the events that followed 9/11. After the tragedy that hit New York City in 2001, the entire Arab, middle eastern, and muslim peoples were identified as hostile and terrorists. The media and my community presented this race as dangerous and associated Muslim peoples as untrustworthy. This racial epidemic brought back the racial ideologies based on the thought of “Arabs as marauding invaders” (Dias, 2006). The media’s attitude created fear and resulted in prejudiced treatment towards this race. As I have expressed in a previous reading response, I was a sponge to accepting these inadequate references of identity, learning from the environment around me, because of my presenting age. I was considered to adapt these thought process. My environment suddenly was not as easy to accept. .

Racism and Oppression in the Present

The surrounding areas of Providence have seemed to heighten in response to race and intersectionality. Providence is now labeled as a minority city. It is stigmatized as a dangerous place to be at nighttime and the location of most crime related activity. There has been no change in these system of images, words, and attitudes towards the minority populations leading to believe that there is no plan of discourse and discrimination is still consistent with when I was a child (Delgado & Stephancic, 2001).

Rhode Island College was considered diverse, represented by race, age, class, and gender. During my undergraduate career, I started to expand my peer alliances with those outside of my social identity (Miller & Donner, 2007). I became more accepting to current indifferences related to race and culture. I also recognized discrimination in receiving privileges as an identifying female in correspondence with control of privileges as identifying white. I started to acknowledge my use of privileges and the ability to control my colorblindness. In mentioning colorblindness, I relate it to me not acknowledging racial differences and disparities because I never had to. When you are surrounded by people that identify in similar ways, it is often hard to identify and process values outside of your identifiers. Recognizing my colorblindness led me to working towards change.

As I furthered my education and established myself in social work related fields, I began to distinguish difference in social identities more frequently. I started working at a residential setting that provides direct services to adults with developmental disabilities and presenting behavioral health issues. These target agents who are identified as cognitively and physically unable to meet their basic needs. To best meet the needs of this population and better their quality of life, I have used my accepted privileges and awareness of inequalities, in order to better advocate through the organization and community. Advocacy for this population is critical in justifying equitability of opportunities. In relation, over the past three years of my participation in field placements, I have served populations stemming from lower socioeconomic statuses, those who suffer sever mental illnesses, and individuals impacted by community violence. The majority of these populations non-identified in our familiar “dominant” white community.

I committed to become part of the cause, taking the role of experience through an outside lens. These experiences have created growth in my awareness of social advocacy and the importance of becoming a social activists. In relation to the role of a social worker, I would like to take more action as a white female working with “non-dominant” populations, with hopes of utilizing my societal advantages more effectively in finding resources that will help my patients establish themselves and feel empowered to grow in communities that are often restricting.

Miller & Donner (2007) believe that our social identity profoundly shapes both our idea of who we are in the world as well as our sense of the others. I believe that I am comfortable with my own identity while also respecting and valuing the identities of other people. In identifying the phase of social/racial identity development, I have recognized that not all people have the same opportunities leading to inequalities in race, age, religion, and sexual orientation, that often distinguish how society and self view social identity. I would like to believe that I am in a phase of ability to accept my social identity but I have internalized and normalized my privileges ultimately hindering my growth of being a social activist (Miller & Donner, 2007). There are moments when I take advantage of my privileges, without thinking of the consequences my actions may have on people who are not allocated the same opportunities as me. In order to show implement best practice recognition of my unconscious use of privilege is beneficial for creating change in approach of treatment and interactions with clients that identify differently.

Considering that social identity development is uneven, non-linear, and unpredictable, the development of separate axes vary our responses to how we react to encounters with targeted identities, depending on if we identify within a targeted status (Miller & Donner, 2007). For instance, I identify as a white heterosexual female. Because my female identity is associated as a target agent in comparison to my white identity, I have responded more empathetically to those who have experienced oppression due to identifying as a female. Identifying as a female has gravely affected how I have been treated in the workplace. I have been sexually harassed in multiple employment positions, all which were handled in a different manner. When I worked retail, I was sexually harassed by a heterosexual male holding a position of power. When I addressed the situation, I was not seen as a victim but someone who was merely over reacting. The repercussions for his actions ended in me leaving my position and no further consequences towards his position of power or employment status.

I would like to add that my place of employment was at a retail store with a dominant male staffing pattern. When I moved to my most recent place of employment, I was sexually harassed by a heterosexual African American male. Unlike the response to my previous situation, the male staff was immediately taken from his position and penalties of returning were implemented immediately. My current job is dominated by females and there are predominantly females in positions of power. The two experiences have allowed me two different viewpoints. I question whether or not these incidents and their outcomes were because of race and gender differences in the workplace. I further analyze the procedure outcomes if I was a black female in the workplace. Although my gender identity hindered the reactions of my coworkers, how I identify through race may have aided in the reactions of both employers.

I identify with the white community. When I was younger, I was not able to distinguish social differences, but being in this class has given me a chance to educate and create change and gain competency to better serve populations that could present as challenging. I believe my best way of modeling social action is by listening, by joining forces and educating those who do not understand social injustices, and coexist in communities other than my own to provide others with awareness and acceptance of differences.

Completing this assignment has furthered my guidance in best practice when working with clients or populations that identify differently. Creating awareness of my social identity and how I view others in association to my social identity will help eliminate biases in practice and aid in treatment. It is not my role as a worker to make clients believe that I know exactly what it is like to experience what they have due to race and socioeconomic factors. I believe it is more my role to be authentic in presenting knowledge, and creating a collaboration allowing the time for clients to trust that I understand their struggles as a bystander. The truth is I am a white privileged female who has never personally experienced oppression. I do not worry about risks when walking in my community or when applying for a job position. It would not be just, in creating a therapeutic alliance, to pretend as though I have lived what life experiences they have endured.

I feel there are times where I am not taken seriously as a clinician because of my age, especially working with a population that is close in age. It is in my best nature as a clinician to keep professional boundaries and establish my role. In order to do this, I need to be aware of differences and similarities. This in turn will help create professional boundaries between myself and clients without breaking the therapeutic alliance. When clients have implications in resources and meeting basic needs, using my knowledge and background in applicable resources can help advocate for these at risk individuals and hopefully receive benefits more efficiently.

One of the most beneficial aspects to my education in the process of writing this paper, was the recognition of my social identity and how that reflects on my impressions of race and diversity. I was able to acknowledge the abilities I have to change. I have also been able to accept how my world views influence my social identity and how I identify with others. It is true that during my childhood, I identified with people that I had the most similarities with. I have since recognized that all people share common similarities and attributes regardless the group you identify yourself with.

I adapted to the viewpoints of my peers and relatives without realizing some of those views were one-sided. As I adapted to these views, I stopped myself from seeing other entities and modalities of social issues. I would like implement these experiencing in practice to create empathy for my patients and by understanding the systematic and environmental factors that affects best practice. It is important to meet my clients where they are at in a social and personal context. It is not my job as a clinician to convince clients to disguise worldview as “right or wrong”. To avoid this, reflecting more on presenting views of the client and developing a true understanding of how they those views were developed in response to the role of the client in their own environment. Understanding the root of emotions and how they reflect through interpersonal relationships of their current, past, and future place in society will ultimately guide how treatment is implemented. Being knowledgeable and competent in this topic is not only important for practice with clients but also with related personal encounters made during the lifespan.

My current field placement works with victims of those who have been impacted by community violence. These populations include but do not limit to, Boston’s homeless population, avid substance users both intravenous and non-intravenous, prostitutes, and people identified as “in the life”. Cultural competence is a huge factor in treating these patients and maintaining a clinical role in their severe trauma cases. To better take the role of social activist and support system, there is a need to build on cultural competence frameworks.

In response to treatment, cultural competence is not just how we interact and understand people but also how systems and services are structured (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2014). In understanding discussion of racial differences in treatment and meeting the needs of clients that are impacted by our inequalities within the racial justice system, it would be important to look at both micro and macro levels of oppression and intersectionality. It is also critical to recognize the structural pieces that hinder vulnerable populations and how this affects their presentation in practice.

Most of the patients I am currently supporting are repeat victims of violence. Their environmental relationships, involvement in community, and role within their identifying group is often a reason why. Understanding these factors in unison with understating how their environment effects their presenting traumas, how the system effects their presenting and past traumas, and how therapy has played a role in their lives, will determine the shift in outcomes.

Although their presenting trauma is an important focus, it is just as important to determine undermining issues that may have lead them to their present trauma. That includes untreated past traumas or the position of chronic and complex trauma. I have furthered analyzed how oppression, race and racism, impacts of the worker’s role, the affects of presenting traumas in field work, and how treatment of trauma will be implemented or presented when reflecting on the impact of social inequalities. Due to the socioeconomic statuses and characteristics, I notice an outstanding gap in resources allocated in relation to patients level of care. Patients struggle to receive appropriate medical care after discharge and inadequate access to medications that hinders their recovery process (Williams & Collins, 2001).

Essay on Racial Justice in America essay

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