At certain moments, especially when cultural expectations require you to reflect on thankfulness, it becomes difficult to know exactly how to process certain events that take place in life. As I continue to try and understand privilege, struggle, and resilience the two things that continue to surface are the themes of place and environment. Specifically how these things impact the developmental process of human beings. I heard one of my friends say it makes them angry when “people were born on third base and feel as though they hit a triple.” This is my tension with individuals with privilege.
It is also my recently found privilege that I have somehow stumbled upon somewhere between high school and getting my masters degree, that I’ve had to recognize, be thankful for and figure out how to use that privilege to support others. Regardless if it is based on your race, gender, or socio-economic status (or all three for those wealthy white men out there), the important thing is to know your position in society and how that impacts the people around you. This is what I am forced to think about daily as I work for the HIV/AIDS impacted community. How does power and privilege impact their daily lives?
Within my Job site it is impossible to interact with clients without taking the overall environment into consideration. Furthermore, it is important to understand the nuances built into the multiple environments that exist in one locale. Here is a story of a person that I have been working with for the past month. From her life the issues of privilege is challenged and the idea of resiliency is pertinent.
Jane Doe has been in the program for three years. She has a history of sexual and emotional abuse in her family. Jane has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and is also HIV positive. Jane doesn’t want to take any medicine and go to see anyone about her mental health issues because of fear that her family will think that she is crazy. Jane is unemployed with two children. One child repeatedly states that the mom loves the other sibling more. At the agency several interventions have and continue to take place with the client Jane. The Center offers Jane case management. In these meetings plans for progress and service plans are made for Jane’s life. When Jane is stressed the Social Worker goes through a process of normalizing her experience and explaining to her that the struggles she faces are often what many people deal with, who have gone through the same struggles. Jane is also admitted into the employment service program where she is given job and life skills training. Jane’s children have gone through the education and mentoring program at the center and their grades have increased drastically because of this. Jane has also been encouraged to see a psychologist and remain compliant with her HIV medication and mental health medication. As we can see there are multiple levels of intervention that take place in Jane’s life. There is an ecological systems approach towards Jane. The agency seeks to understand the physical and social settings within particular cultural contexts. This understanding will bring one closer to solving many of the struggles that Jane experiences. These are struggles ranging from cultural views of mental to physical environments of abuse that have psychological consequences. Overall, it is encouraging to know that Jane’s resiliency has moved her to progress and her children are doing well.
Some clients take advantage of all the different programs and are able to grow from them. Other clients do the same programs and are only reinforced with negative outcomes. I think a common theme around is that the agency does not give up on people. There is a harm reduction model that takes place at the agency, so even if individuals are expressing risky behaviors, the agency does not pass judgment or disrespect, they only try to support individuals while making sure they retain their self-determination.
As we give thanks this year we must keep in out minds the privileges we have, the ones that we do not have and the structural reasons behind both. As for now, I am grateful to be in a position to support others. Happy Thanksgiving.