Week two of Diversity, Marginalization and Oppression has turned out to be a heavy one. The classroom is set up in a semi-circle with desks but our professor encouraged us to put our chairs on the other side of the desk. Funny, sitting in a circle with each other without the desks in front of us really made the environment feel intimate. A seminar presentation group discussed the weeks readings, a few articles and a chapter on feminism and the experience of being a black woman in academia. What followed afterwards was a completely unique experience. We talked about the reading and offered our reflections of what we read. Students were encouraged to share their backgrounds or life stories in relation to the material. Now, I consider myself to be a very diversity savvy person. In saying that, I recognize "differences" between myself and others, try to respect or at least consider how my interaction with that person may be affected by my social position (being a caucasian, middle class, educated, male) and am sensitive to those issues. However, today I was opened up to a completely new interpretation of what it means to be "different".
At first I had a really hard time hearing it, I am not a racist and I do not hold ideals that are racist in any way but yet without doing any of those I can make people feel marginalized. Take for example an adolescent black male who I am working with, I know who I am and how I see my client but he may interpret me differently and attribute negative views to me. I may be seen as a person of privilege whom there are assumptions about. Even though I see the role of being a social worker as helping it could still be seen as a position of power, that could be exerted as a form of control and therefore oppression.
It's been an enlightening day,