As a social work student it is important to become culturally competent in order to provide assistance to clients and serve their best interests. In order to develop skills I will have to understand my own social location, in which I will provide a cultural biography of who I am, my cultural background, and current social identity. After discussing my social location and background, next I will discuss my subordinate and dominate groups to better understand the mechanisms of oppression. Understanding that I can be both oppressed and an oppressor will help me to understand where I can fight against social injustice, as well as how I can begin with myself so I am not oppressive to others. After discussing my dominate and subordinate groups, I will discuss my cultural immersion with four different groups; the homeless population, the Latin population, the transcomunnity, and sex trafficked victims and my experiences with these groups. I will close out this portfolio with a social action plan as an ally and future social worker.
An African American woman who was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Identifies as an African American woman, which was shaped by my parents who identify as an African American woman and African American man. A cultural identity as an African American woman shaped an individual through family culture, social location, and social class. Raised by a single mother in a lower middle-class position taught me many lessons about discrimination. Despite facing many experiences with racism as a child, my mother instilled many values in me that shaped my identity with African American culture. My mother also motivated me to be very confident as a child due to being teased for having darker skin than my siblings as well as my classmates. Outside of my position as an African American child in a predominately white school, I also learned at a young age how I could be discriminated as being female. Also raised by certain Christian values that helped shaped my identity as a girl growing into a woman. Grandmother was very influential in raising me to value myself as a “lady”, or as stated in Christian religion, a “woman of virtue”. Growing up a Christian also shaped an identity to be the weaker sex underneath males.
As I became an adult, I became a member of the military that provided a stable career with benefits yet was still considered middle-class. Maintained the same social class and position throughout her childhood and adulthood living above the poverty line. Current desire is to move up into a higher social class through my next career as a counselor, an author, and an entrepreneur. The reasoning for seeking a higher social class is to secure a future for the next generation in my family to have more benefits that I often didn’t have in my childhood. Many of the experiences that shaped my identity also motivated self-interests in social movements against social injustices. Have a passion to help people, and always wanted to do some sort of mentoring or counseling. Due to the racism I experienced as a child and throughout my life, was once very active in social movements against racism. After facing years of sexism, also became familiar with sexism and feminist movements, to include the black feminist movement and literature. While in the military, decided my next career would be to find a way to support vulnerable groups, especially other African American women. My passion to fight for injustices of African American women was fueled by my sister’s murder and the lack of justice. My personal interest in culture also motivates me to become culturally competent in other cultures so I can understand the oppression of other vulnerable groups outside of myself. I intend to use my personal knowledge, experiences, and current education to propel me into becoming a successful social worker, counselor, entrepreneur, and author.
Dominate and Subordinate
“Many of us are both dominant and subordinate” (Adams et al, 2016, pg. 9) and can reside at intersections that makes us both oppressed and oppressive. The relationship between the dominant and subordinate groups can cause many to believe they are only oppressed, or only oppressive. My subordinate groups are being woman, black, and a middle class American citizen. The dominant groups will be being an adult, being a veteran, and heterosexual. As a woman, may feel unheard especially when expressing anger towards pain, mistreatment, and discrimination. African American women are often stereotyped as “angry black women”, or “bitter black women”, when expressing such grievances. “Stereotyping involves making a simple generalization about a group and claiming that all members of the group conforms to it” (Adams et al, 2016, pg. 13). The same could be said as being an African American and can often feel undervalued for hard work and labor, as African Americans are considered expected to perform such labor unrecognized, and stereotyped as “lazy”, or “unproductive” if they are not constantly working. Those in the lower, and middle class share this same dilemma, and are often blamed for being in a lower class compared to the upper class, for not “exerting” themselves fully in their daily life to climb the social ladder.
The dominant groups I am apart of include adult, veterans, and heterosexual; and the group subordinate to these groups are children, citizens, and LGBTQIA, respectively. Adults have power over children and makes decisions that affects children and future generations often without their input. Adults are viewed as having more knowledge and experience than children and are given the power to make decisions that impacts the lives of children and can benefit the adult more than the child. Such examples can be in the Board of Education where the board, teachers, staff, parents, and adults in that local community make most of the decisions that impacts the children in public school systems. These same adults may also make decisions through voting that can negatively impact the elderly who are often poor, and not members of the institutions where policies are created due to age requirements. Veterans also have certain privileges over the common citizen. They are often rewarded healthcare, housing benefits, and educational benefits that targets veterans only. Though the common citizen may have access to similar programs, the Veteran also receives discounts that the common citizen may not. These rewards may be warranted, but it does put the veteran in a powerful position in society. As a heterosexual female, there is a powerful position over those who are considered LGBTQIA, where heterosexuality is considered the societal norm. “Heterosexism is the institutionalization of a heterosexual norm or standard, which establishes and perpetuates the notion that all people are or should be heterosexual, thereby privileging heterosexuals and heterosexuality, and excluding the needs, concerns, cultures, and life experiences of lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexual, intersex, and trans*people” (Adams et al, 2016, pg. 343). As a heterosexual female, can have privileges in such institutions such as judicial, churches, educational institutions, and the military compared to the LGBTQIA. For all dominant groups, the institutions that exert this power are local governments, state governments, federal governments, public school systems, religious institutions, and social agencies where they enact policies that oppress children, citizens, and LBGTQIA. However, for these subordinate groups, usually the oppression starts within their families, and communities.
The metropolitan Atlanta area is a city filled with cultural diversity. This paper will talk about four different diverse groups with a large presence within the city. The homeless population has a large population within the area, and after discussing with one homeless woman, much information was discovered about being homeless in Atlanta. Despite efforts to control immigration from the American government, the Latin American Association helps immigrants within the Atlanta Area to become citizens. An interview with a Hispanic woman who works for the organization will help shed light on the difficulties for immigrants to adjust to the lifestyle in the United States. LGBT has high visibility within the Atlanta area. An interview with a trans*masculine individual will help open the platform to discuss the lives of trans*individuals within the city. Volunteering with Out of Darkness gives insight about the sex-trafficked victims in Atlanta.
Regina provided the experience of elder black women who experience homelessness which is not only prevalent within the local area, but in America in general. Her experiences entail the experience of homeless black women in Atlanta, their oppression in America, and how the resources available to them can make their experience a bit easier despite its struggles. Ana spoke both on her personal experience as well as the experience of her clients who desire to integrate into American society. With immigration being a hot topic within America it is fair to say that understanding the experience of immigrants is important. The trans*population is very prevalent in Atlanta, and Avery provided a great analysis on his experience as a trans*masculine living in Atlanta. Volunteering with Out of Darkness gives great insight on the life of sex-trafficked victims, and how important it is to outreach to these victims so they can have a safer environment around them. These experiences helped gain insight on the many differences of experiences residing here in Atlanta. What was learned is that Atlanta is one city full of diversity, and the result is a desire for change, so all individuals can live freely without resistance and oppression.
To create a successful action plan, it will also be important to understand the mechanisms of oppression and discrimination when working with diverse cultures. Exploitation targets specific groups for unfair labor to benefit the dominant group and their systems (Adam et al, pg. 51). Marginalization expels groups from participation in the larger society from activities that can benefit them (Adams et al, pg. 53). The subordination of a specific group(s) from the dominant group keeps the subordinate group powerless to properly defend themselves and become self-sufficient. Cultural imperialism enforces the dominant group’s cultural as a societal norm and standard, keeping the subordinate group from effectively practicing their own cultural practices. Many dominant groups also use different methods of violence to keep their target group subordinate to their rules, norms, and standards. Many diverse groups are discriminated against by those in power and as a culturally competent social worker it will be imperative to understand these mechanisms of oppressions to create a social plan that will combat against the systems of oppression to assist client’s goals.
Creating a social action plan that will be successful will require more time and dedication to the social work program alongside personal research to obtain the knowledge needed to become more culturally competent. The overall goals that are created by this social action plan will benefit many groups that have been identified and will promote an improved social welfare for oppressed groups. Oppressed groups are targeted through various mechanisms of oppressions, but with this social action plan these systems can be combated against. Applying the ethical standards for cultural competency can create an effective social worker and create more opportunities for vulnerable groups. These goals written in this assignment will be achieved, and once successful there will hopefully be a larger social change within the society around us, and oppressed groups will be able to exercise more freedoms from oppression.
Adams, Blumenfeld, et al (2016). Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (4th Ed) New York, NY: Routledge.