I decided I would begin my reading assignment into whiteness by reading the book My First White Friend and writing my reactions. The book is about a black woman writer Patricia Raybon who found that she was consumed with hatred of white people. This created very unhealthy stress in her life. I knew nothing about the book before I found it on the shelves in the Milwaukee Public Library. When I saw the title I thought surely she had meant that a person in high school or event elementary school had made a difference in her life.
How is it possible one could live so late into adulthood wrapped up in hatred? When I compare this to my own experience I found that I had a love hate relationship with white people during my early years. I transferred from an all black school to an all white one in the 4th grade. There were white people in my black neighborhood, although none who I would call a friend. There were all-black middle class and even upper class people around us and some of them were my friends. There was a doctor and an electrician among them. However, our safety was threatened by some angry kids who liked to fight and bully. And their parents were thieves. My mother became convinced that for my sake we needed to move away from this mostly black area just a few blocks away into an all white one.
As anyone who grew up in the desegregation area knows, today’s white ally could become tomorrow’s racist. That was the same era, sometimes known as the baby boom generation, where Patricia Raybon was grew up and became an adult. In later observations I will examine the differences and similarities in our struggles.
I have no idea who Helen Callier is and really I don’t need to know. I do know Sandy Pasch from her work as an effective State Representative. And I also know that the Repugnants are accomplishing just what they wanted when they redistricted Wisconsin earlier this year, especially dividing up the Milwaukee area. Pasch, who is a nurse, is a strong advocate for mental health. She has been representing an area that stretched into Whitefish Bay. Apparently these people were receptive to her left-leaning politics. She took on a powerful State Senator Alberta Darling as part of the recall effort launched by Wisconsin Democrats.
Despite her defeat, the recall ultimately resulted in the Democrats winning control of the State Senate. Meanwhile, Helen Callier was sleeping under a log, to which she returned after she dropped out of the state assembly race. Good thing, too, because she’s full of shit. Helen, in your defense, you have the right to remain silent. I suggest that you exercise it.
When I came to Wisconsin I was a professional librarian paid by the State of Wisconsin. However, at the end of my probation, I was not retained. The same thing happened years later when I was a librarian for the city of Milwaukee. I got married, saved money and started feeling secure. Before I knew it, that job was gone, too. And eventually so was the marriage. I entered and left a few other professions before peer support found me. Unfortunately I was very different from many peer supp0rt specialists.
I was never considered disabled, had not been forcibly medicated and lacked history with the county mental health system. All I knew was that I had lost myself and various relationships because of the way that I acted. And I needed to change. Change is often more gradual than any of us could ever imagine. As in more than 7 years after entering this field, I now have a job that offers the kind of pay and benefits that I need. Gradual as in feeling accepted and valued because of my quirks. Gradual as in being listened to and acknowledged and encouraged.
Certified peer support is not Nirvana, however. Not all of the jobs being offered are full time. We have to look closely at the requirements for these positions. A friend called Alternatives in Psychological Consultation and found the job was not to her liking. The agency was very unclear on what it wanted, the pay that it would offer and the duties that would be required. Does that sound like an employer you could trust?
In my interview I found that I was being offered everything that I requested in terms of benefits and pay. Afterwards, I almost wished that I had requested an even higher pay rate. Luckily, I decided that once I proved myself, the money would be no object. But I still have not addressed the idea of being working class. The program Mike and Molly focuses on a couple who are not the type of people you normally see on television, because they are large not slender. And they are working class: she is a school teacher and he is a policeman. They’re public employees, probably belong to unions and have livable wages and benefits. It’s solidly working class.
It’s the lifestyle to which I aspired. All those years I sat in radical political meetings, that’s what I wanted. My belief is that we would be better served by having mental health c9nsumers return to the working class. I wonder how many others share that vision.