Our whiteness discussion at work

Today was the day after our big training session at work about the impact of whiteness and white supremacy. I mentioned in my previous post that the agency where I work is the only black owned county contracted agency for mental health. There are probably more black owned substance abuse agencies, which might be work exploring as an issue. Our agency began very small more than 20 years ago before the issue of whiteness was ever discussed. Some things you would be inclined to ask is whether there is a difference in mental health outcomes between black and white agencies. You would also have to look more closely and see that there is a very diverse group of workers at our agency. And we have the same diversity within our consumer population.

Racism has been an issue and consumers and their families have expressed preferences based upon race but not the way you would think. One of the most interesting cases was a couple of years ago when the very dark skinned family of one of our people said that she preferred a white case manager. Now, all of those adjectives were used for a reason, to help clarify for the reader what was happening. All of the workers in that office, including me, were African-American.

There was nothing we could do, including consulting with the Milwaukee County staff, that convince the family that working with our black workers was a good idea. The consumer ended up being transferred into an agency where I was told the family found all the whiteness their hearts desired.

I may be encountering racism from the other perspective soon. There may be a person who has a similar preference for white people coming our way. Let us see how this encounter turns out. Stay tuned, America.

yin and yang


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