Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab: And I Found All the Racism

So, apparently the white racial frame and the pressures exhorted on Asian Americans to assimilate (including the damage done to the psychological welfare of those trying to gain whiteness) is apparent in the micro-interactions of a small residential addiction treatment facility in North Georgia. The space is overwhelmingly white, upper middle class and male. The second of two, an Asian American resident was repeatedly subjected to the pressure of the white racial frame described in Chapter 5 of The Myth of the Model Minority during my time there (Chou and Feagin 2015).

Chou and Feagin (2015:142) write that individuals of color are repeatedly made to bear ridicule, humiliation and exclusion. I met J***d my third week in addiction treatment. His mother and father brought him and they looked about as worn out and scared as every other loved one who brings their child, parent, sibling or friend to rehab. Certainly no white savior/white knighting was necessary from me, but after seeing the way the only Black resident was treated during my first two weeks there, I guess I was apprehensive on this new client’s behalf.

J***, the nickname provided to him by his white, male counterparts in treatment who seemed to have “trouble” pronouncing his name began attempting to find his place in this closed community after about two days. The name problem was a persistent obstacle to his assimilation and an unacknowledged tool to remind him he was excluded. Referencing Sue (2007), Jennifer Gonzales (2014) writes about the lasting impact repeated mispronunciation could have on students of color…or anyone of any age who has a name not classified as “white”. While white America has no problem with names like Galifianakis, somehow a man’s name with five letters is too difficult for credentialed professionals at a mental health facility to pronounce. Gonzales (2014) has a category for both the professionals and the clients who gave J***D his nickname in this instance-“arrogant manglers” who continue on with their mispronunciations after repeated corrections and “nicknamers” who just don’t care enough about another human being (because that person is seen as less than human) to say their name correctly. Both of these categories were evident as J***d’s name was repeatedly corrupted for at least the first week he was there.

J***d attempted on multiple occasions to gain entry to this overtly white space. He “excelled” at rehab (a condition ironically named “making an A in rehab”) by never missing meetings or groups, giving out cigarettes to anyone who asked, playing corn-hole with anyone who would team up with him and making conversation with his most ardent attackers. When overt racism was apparent, he laughed it off. This is explain by Lara in the reading, “ignoring the issues and always just trying to be better than the people around me so…they didn’t have anything over me” (Chou and Feagin 2015:145). It’s impossible for me to know if his attempts were propelled by a need to be a model minority in a facility that attract so many from the low end of social acceptability or he was just trying to survive that experience or both, but the outcome was the same.

Of course, outward humiliation and degredation were present as well. During large group meetings it was common for clients to respond to roll call with silly or inappropriate outbursts, rather than “here” or “present”. Several young, white men began to respond with “Allah Akbar”—nevermind that none of these men knew J***d’s religious beliefs or had recognized that he is not Middle Eastern (which is assumed to be the reason they did this. I am not sure they understood the vastness of the Islamic population worldwide or that, as a near Asian descendent it was just as likely that J***d is Hindu or Christian.) This outburst was followed by some garbled version of another Arabic phrase turned into a bludgeon to associate Brown persons from Persia, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, etc. with terrorism. “Rocking the boat” was not an option for J***d (Chou and Feagin 2015:169). In a closed environment where these same men were his roommates, small group therapy-mates and his cohorts in games, outings and social smoking activities, speaking up was not available. At least, not if he expected to get through the program. At one point he or someone else did complain. The talk in the rumor mill began immediately. Someone was “offended” and “they were just joking”. While the responses to roll call stopped, the same phrases continued, even escalated during smoking times or free times. These spaces were even more important than the roll call situation because this is where clients create relationships. Close relationships with at least one or two other people in treatment are considered especially important to successful completion. In other words, exclusion can literally prevent a person from maintaining sobriety and gaining the tools to finish the program. This is another example of how racism can impact health care outcomes.

Lastly, in the same way that Coates (2015) discusses at length the ways in which Black Americans have little to no rights over their own bodies, J***d was repeatedly humiliated either in secret or in person for his dietary needs-his autonomy over his own person. This is another example of exclusion, othering, unrealistic expectations and humiliation (Chou and Feagin 2015:142). Clients and staff believed that J***d should be expected to put his faith-based dietary needs on hold in order to accommodate the facility. If he did not meet this expectation, he could assume some backlash. On a Saturday while an outdoor activity was being held outside, I read on the couch in the common space. A man from admissions was speaking loudly to the nursing staff. He was complaining about religion and having to respect the beliefs of others. “Just because you being in some Big Sky Fairy shouldn’t mean that we have to accommodate your food!” There was only one resident who required dietary accommodations for religious reasons. When I mentioned that he was being very loud and others, including clients, would be able to hear him, the response was one of categorical disinterest. A moment later after a short discussion on appropriateness of professional behavior, I was told that I was “taking this too seriously.” A later conversation with the head of the clinical team ended with an instance of rescuing whites (of which I am quite possibly a part given my minimal attempt to do anything) since this admissions professional didn’t “mean to offend me” (Bracey 2011). It seemed to go over his head that I wasn’t the person who needed to be assuaged or apologized to, another occurrence of whiteness being the important factor. I was talked to, humored, and placated rather than any meaningful conversation about race and its intersection with religion and bodily autonomy in a facility touted as a spiritually grounded program.

The instances of racism in my time at residential treatment were many. Beginning with the fact that I only saw four people of color my entire time there. The only other Asian client was a Vietnamese woman who suffered much of the same racism J***d did, but dealt with it differently, by utilizing her woman-ness to create connections with other women and separate herself from younger clients. Still, slurs like “slant eyes” were heard during her tenure as well. It was suggested that it would be helpful to have people on staff with a more broad understanding of inequality and social factors that intersect with addiction, but these were, as most suggestions, brushed aside in favor of a “what have you done to escalate conflict” approach. This was an eye-opening experience in a number of ways. A disheartening example of how racism still works in medical and mental health institutions, an example of how this treatment may do more harm than good for those not of the upper-middle class, white, male populations.

 

 

Bibliography

Bracey, Glenn. 2011. “Rescuing Whites: White Privileging Discourse in Race Critical Scholarship” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, NV, Aug 19. http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p506887_index.html Retrieved January 11, 2017.

Chou, Rosalind and Joe R. Feagin. 2015. The Myth of the Model Minority. New York: Routledge.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau

Gonzales, Jennifer. 2014. “How We Pronounce Student Names, and Why it Matters.” Cult of Personality. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/gift-of-pronunciation/ Retrieved April 6, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:20 pm

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and I Finally Said Yes: A Series

I don’t know how to start a description of deciding to go into rehab. I’d had years of meth use behind me…working on my second decade of being clean. I couldn’t stop drinking and eventually I found myself handcuffed on the side of the interstate with my 10 year old precious boy in my car.

Seemed like I should get my shit together.  This was clearly beyond acceptability.

You should see my admission photo. I look like Bambi met a MACK truck on a dark Smoky Mountain road and truly had no idea which way was left.

So, I went right.

I’m not a wallflower. I’m anything but. But you couldn’t force me to talk that first day, though force me they did.

I was frantic to find anyone who seemed like me. On the inside. I was determined to take this for all it was worth and force myself to ignore whatever bullshit I heard.

And heard it I did.

Racist, sexist, ableist, queerphobic, antitheistic, antiatheist bullshit.

It was horrific and traumatic and beautiful and freeing and stifling and one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I stopped having panic attacks. I leaned on people very different from me. I learned just how deep my racial and class and educational privilege is and how far that shit would carry me at the expense of others.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with myself.

 

These are my experiences. These are my analyses. These are my words.

 

Hold on.  I think I’m back, Bitches.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:08 pm

CFPs: Digital + Sociology + Inequalities

Written by thelittlepecan

November 3, 2015 at 7:47 am

Posted in Sociology

Allyship…or How to Try and Not F**k Up

Author’s Note: These are my thoughts on how to construct a roundtable I’m working on for this weekend.  Please, any constructive feedback is welcome.

I’m white. I grew up in a middle class family and according to the Census Bureau I am clearly middle class now.  I have an advanced education.  I am very privileged.  Let’s just start with that.  My experiences with oppression are minimal compared to others, though I do deal with the misogyny and those struggles with being a member of alternative/queer community.

What is an ally?

Well, Funk and Wagnalls tells us this about allies as a noun.  “An ally is a state or ruler leagued with another by treaty; an associate; a kinsman (kinsperson).”

Dr. Frances Kendall  tells us that an ally is someone who “work(s) continuously to develop an understanding of the personal and institutional experiences of the person or people with whom they are aligning themselves.” 

Both of these definitions require the acknowledgement of privilege.  Most of us in the community to which I plan to speak understand what privilege means.  That it is not something we gained or earned, it is not something to feel guilt about, but it is integral to understand that we have it and others do not.  It is something to be checked and checked continuously.

What does allyship mean?

For me, allyship means several things:

1. Aligning oneself with those who do not have privileges that I enjoy.

2. Attempt to focus one’s attention on acknowledging this privilege.

3. Take steps to focus society towards making these privileges as rights that all people enjoy.

4. Call out microaggressive behavior when one is in the presence of it and acknowledge when one has been the perpetrator of it.

 

Can anyone just be an ally?

Well, no.  Ally is a term given.  It is earned. Just like other terms of integrity and honor, allyship is something that is something one must continually strive to achieve.  For instance, Tim Wise is one of many white allies who acknowledge white supremacist misogynistic society and yet, often winds up speaking over those with marginalized experiences rather than shutting up and listening.  In other words, don’t speak to hear yourself talk about how awesome you are. (Yes, I get the irony of my post here and my calling out of Wise.)  I have (hopefully) learned that I can be racist, I can be homophobic, I can be misogynistic even as I strive to be an ally..

Which brings us to microaggressions…

Dr. Sue at Fordham University is one of the foremost experts on microaggressions.  You can read about his work here.  I’d like to use this roundtable to discuss what microaggressions are and listen to the experiences of those of us who have been both perpetrators and victims.

What happens when I’m a perpetrator?

1. Acknowledge this has happened.  Do not get defensive when someone expresses their offense.  This is not the fucking political correctness police, this is a person…a human giving you an opportunity to give love, understanding and education.

2. Apologize. It’s okay to say your sorry.  “Love means never having to say your sorry…” No. Love means saying you’re sorry when you are wrong because of love.

3. Listen. Hear the person you have been aggressive towards.  Really take a moment to understand that you have hurt them and why they feel hurt.

4. Make a pledge to do better.  Love is about change.  Love is not stagnant.  Love is working to be a better you.  I have done it.  You have done it.  We are not perfect.  We can say, “I fucked up.  I am sorry.  I will be mindful  and try my best to do better going forward.”  The basis of scientific knowledge is admitting we don’t know.  That’s okay.  When you know better, you do better. 
 
Just make sure you do.
 
5. Lastly, forgive yourself.  Intent matters, but positive intent does not equal positive outcomes.  Do your community a favor and leave the white/male/privileged guilt at the door.  It is not helpful to make it about you.  It is helpful to make it about serving others.
 
Open for questions and discussion.
 
Okay, go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by thelittlepecan

June 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Posted in atheism

Haiku

Shitty compassion
Sleeping on the couch: sad face
Being wrong the pits

Written by thelittlepecan

May 31, 2014 at 12:57 am

Posted in atheism

Haiku

Compassion firefly
Give yourself over to it
Or fuck it up, sigh

Written by thelittlepecan

May 31, 2014 at 12:52 am

Posted in atheism

#effyourbeautystandards

I’ve been in a running slump. Since December…but if I’m honest with myself it’s been a slump since last summer. Didn’t train for my marathon, really after Peachtree, it was a hot mess.

Well, fortunately, I have friends. AND I have a new friend who can’t run right now and is living a little bit vicariously through other people who care for her.

I promised her I would run.

Promises matter.

I’ve always tried to remember that there are those of us who love to run, but we can’t always do it.

So I should, when I can. Which, so far, is all the time.

I’m a lazy ass.

 

 

I was looking for a place to wear it. Gorgeous new bikini. Part of my plan to love my body more and give fewer fucks about other people.

So, I ran (I ran so far awaaayyy). Then I came to the pool. I showered and put on my new Sorella bikini. Slipped on my cork heeled sandals…and found a place to put my lounge chair, book and cooler.

So I’m here…spotting the other beautiful fat women and men. Considering the courage it takes all of us just to share in this little spec of summer fun.

And I’m feelin’ good. (Cue Nina.)

Adult swim comes and I set down my autobiography, tuck my beverage under my beach chair…and I stroll.

I don’t walk quickly or run. I’m not ducking.

My head is held high.

I’m prepared to tell any fat-shaming ass to go fuck himorherself, but I’m really not expecting it.

I’m making the assumption that I’m beautiful.  I’m sexy and everyone else here thinks so, too.

Or they aren’t paying attention…and that’s just fine.

Today is a win in my journey to body love.

Don’t like it, well, that’s probably real sad for you.

Written by thelittlepecan

May 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Posted in equality, Running

Tagged with , ,