Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Confronting my Prejudice

I recently learned something very valuable about myself and I’m not proud of it.

I came to realize I have a deeply ingrained prejudice against a certain group of people. I assumed that all these people were evil beyond redemption. I spent significant energy avoiding them and warning others to avoid these sinister creatures, too. I fantasized about them all disappearing from the face of the earth.

I’m referring to social workers. It’s a cripple thing. I imagine a lot of cripples have the same prejudice. It’s not our fault. When social workers enter our lives, it usually ain’t good. Social workers make us run through mazes and do backflips just to get a simple thing and then they tell us no in the end. Social workers from the state vocational rehab agency tell us that the agency won’t pay for our education unless we major in something that will make us realistically employable, like social work. Social workers work at the Social Security office. Social workers check us into nursing homes.

There were a lot of social workers at the state–operated boarding school for cripples where I was an inmate as a teenager, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). The place was lousy with social workers I tell ya!

Well okay, there was one social worker at SHIT who was cool. Real cool. His name was Frank. If I wanted to spend my sessions with Frank just shooting the shit about baseball or babes or whatever, that was fine with him. He even let me smoke cigarettes in his office, which was cool because inmates weren't allowed to smoke. If anyone knocked on the door he pretended like it was his cigarette. Frank had all-male group “rap” sessions, which everybody signed up for because they were basically poker games where a bunch of inmates gave each other shit. It’s a good thing nobody knocked on the door or Frank would have had to pretend he was smoking five cigarettes. I don’t think Frank even smoked.

But I rationalized Frank’s behavior away as an aberration. He was the exception to the rule. He was “one of the good ones.” This is how people have maintained their prejudices for thousands of years when threatened by evidence to the contrary right before their eyes.

And sometimes the social workers who have put me through their evil social worker rituals have been other cripples. They’re the most depraved ones of all—bitter little weakling apologists!

But over the last few years, two of my friends obtained MSWs. (One of them was studying for her state certification exam and I wanted to ask her what was in the section about how to most effectively torture cripples. But I’m sure she wouldn’t tell me. That’s gotta be a trade secret.) I kept associating with these friends anyway. They’re both smart, empathetic women who went into social work because they wanted to make other people’s lives more comfortable. And that’s what they’re doing. One helps homeless people find and maintain housing and the other runs a group therapy session at a hospital in a poor neighborhood.

So okay, maybe it’s not just Frank after all. I guess I’ll have to admit to myself that it’s possible to be a decent human and a social worker at the same time.

Letting go of prejudices is very hard to do because they’re so damn comforting. Maybe I should talk to someone about this ugly prejudice of mine. But it won’t be a social worker. I won’t go that far.

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