Musings of a Social Worker

Musings of a Social Worker

By: Thandeka Heather Dube*

“Where do you get these children from”, the secretary asks. “Silvertown”, I say to her.
“Where is that?” she continues to ask.

I was shocked! The secretary who had lived in Queenstown for 25 years did not know Silvertown or where it was located. Silvertown, the squatter camp is literally a five minute drive from town, in Queenstown. “I hardly go to the black areas”, she went on to tell me. “Maybe I should get the car and kids, and go see this place” she tells me.

I was slightly annoyed I must admit. She made it sound like Silvertown is a zoo or something of that nature – a spectacle to be viewed by explorers. I have always thought our secretary at work is a tad insensitive at times. I am always shocked for instance at the way she casually sprays air freshener in the reception when clients are sitting there, a tacit indication to them that “you stink” and are not welcome here.

It dawned on me however though that we are no different: the secretary and I. Every time I go on home visits to Silvertown, I insist on standing outside because I just can’t stand the putrid odours inside. If I do happen to go inside, I stand by the door salvaging what I can of the fresh air from the outside. I insist on standing even though am sometimes offered a chair, it might be flea-ridden I always think to myself.

It is almost always easier to take the moral high ground when someone else’s prejudicial tendencies come to the fore, but we are quick to deflect from our own. That’s why I got annoyed at the secretary; I was deflecting my own deep-seated prejudices.

We need to be brutally honest with ourselves, admitting to oneself that you not as progressive in actions and open minded as you think. It is not easy but it is the first step in effectively staring down our prejudicial attitudes and behaviours.

The experience with the secretary has been the proverbial “cast out the beam in my own eyes before I can cast out the mote in her’s”. And this is what I take away from 2012, the ability to own up to my own prejudices in the hope of becoming a better person.

*Thandeka Heather Dube is a post-graduate student at University of Fort Hare and works as a Social Worker in Queenstown, South Africa. 

Guest Author

I am a guest contributor but also an avid reader of this blog.

3 Responses to Musings of a Social Worker

  1. Thank you for writing this and being so honest Thandeka. Indeed, when you’re on the ‘outside’ looking in, it is always easy to judge, without examining one’s own prejudices. I’m glad you were self reflective enough to confront your OWN bias and prejudice, I think that’s a step in the right direction. Goodluck with your postgrad life and working adventures in the next year(s) – continue confronting the self as you aim to be the best person you can possibly be. :)

  2. Thandeka, you have indeed learned a powerful lesson for the year. We are all prejudiced beings,recognising this, allows us to begin living an “examined life” in which despite and inspite of our flaws, we can all strive for a better future together.

  3. I love this. We got great cultural compentency training at my medical school and the first half of the series was about examining how we see ourselves and our own prejudices. Our instructor said that if we didn’t know those aspects of ourselves we couldnt effectively sensitively provide health care to others. I would say the next step is to see how people may have treated you because of some difference that you have (how that felt to you and what you would have liked they do differently), and then work from there to see how you may be more effective at meeting people where they are. Its a huge work in process but given that you figured out the most important step on your own I am confident that you will figure it all out and be able to really be happier in your very important work. Kudos to you for being a social worker. It is by far one of the hardest jobs out there and having it as a career says a lot about your dedication to community. Good luck with your journey!

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