“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
― Martin Luther King Jr
As you know, Dear Readers, today is the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of the brightest lights of the Civil Rights Movement and he has done great work up until his last day in this world. Yes, he was a human being who made mistakes; I hate to say it, People, but Dr. King was accused of being both sexist, homophobic, adulterous and loved fire arms *shrug*. However, these character defects do not erase the fact that he fought for the betterment of African-American men and women such as myself.
I now know what your brain is saying: this post is going to be yet another ode to MLK, Jr. I’ve seen how many of these? C’mon now. Dayum! But that is not the case. If anything, I see this Civil Rights Activist turning in his grave seeing how his people are still being treated and how we are treating ourselves–especially those who have been traumatized.
Let me explain.
The 80s was a period in history when President Ronald Reagan pretty much annihilated any kind of Social Services Programs utilized by people of color–African-Americans especially. Known as the Reaganomics Era, Social Services agencies and organizations depending on government funding were basically targeted–losing to the Cold War, corporations and the 1%. Meanwhile, Reagan coined the phrase “Welfare Queen” that was used against single African-American mothers. In the mind of Reagan, Black mothers just sat on their couches, collecting welfare checks while “popping out” child after child to generate more of the “government’s income.” Of course, many people–both Caucasians and people of color–bought into this propaganda, which resulted in millions of dollars being snatched from Social Services in the inner city. This could not happen at the worst of times, for the crack epidemic spread quickly throughout the inner city areas in regions like New York City.
Fast forward to 2012 and, as a Social Work student, I see very little has changed. Reaganomics still plays a significant role in how Social Services–and the people of color utilizing such services–are treated. While the facilities in the suburbs are pretty much in the clear (due to receiving their funding from private insurance companies), Social Services in cities hang by a thread because the majority of the clientele are poor, young, a person of color depending on Medicaid to pay for their medication, doctors’ appointments and/or therapy sessions. And that is if they even attend therapy! Many people of color do not trust therapists–let alone talk to them–because the therapist doesn’t resemble the client. The therapist is usually White, college educated, and has no idea what it is like to be a person of color. Furthermore, Social Workers and therapists have a negative reputation among ethnic communities because those people break up families, are “siddity White folks,” and don’t care about helping anyone but about getting a paycheck.
As a result, many survivors of color walk around untreated, believing that no one knows what races through their minds. Many even rely heavily on spirituality and faith to endure the hard days. Though the two are vital to one’s recovery, going to church every Sunday and studying the Bible is not the overall solution. The anger, depression and feelings of hopelessness still stirs within the untreated. So when he or she refuses to release their emotions in a healthy manner, they either harm themselves or loved ones. Gosselin (2005) reports “that African-American children had the highest rate of victimization (25.2 per 1,000), followed by Hispanics (12.6 per 1,000), whites (10.6 per 1,000), and Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.4 per 1,000) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001, pg. 178). Yes, the stats are old, but I only use them to paint a picture of what happens when people of color don’t receive the support needed.
I can go on and on about the injustice people of color still face in the Social Services arena, but I think I’ve said enough about it. As I stated previously, this is 2012–which indicates that people can help change this status quo. I am doing my part by becoming a Therapist for Sex Abuse victims and I will be able to provide services for those residing in the inner city. I myself have been in therapy since I was 18 and I can count on one hand how many therapists of color I poured my words out to. That’s unacceptable to me. Also, I support Planned Parenthood and I want to do everything I can to help them maintain their funding for the Rape Crisis Services. This organization is vital for sexual assault victims; It not only provide Rape Crisis Counselors for victims but pay for the rape kit for those who have been assaulted and wish to report their crime. Then there is SisterSong, a wonderful organization that provides services and support for women of color. I only hope to work with and for this organization.
So when I think about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I don’t think about a day off but the fact I have an opportunity to add to this world–if not change it. In 2012, I and others have the right and privilege to help Social Services be more for the people and not for the government. By doing so, there is more likely an assurance that those utilizing those services won’t be marginalized, but treated as human beings and children of Creator.
I hope to do my part in making this a reality.
Gosselin, D.K. (2005). Heavy Hands: An Introduction to the Crimes of Family Violence (3rd Ed). Upper Saddle River, N J: Pearson Education, Inc.