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Dominate and Subordinate Reflection: Mini Assignment A Charlie Vaughn Georgia State University

Author Note This paper was prepared for Social Work 3000, Communications and Cultural Diversity, taught by Karen Watkins, PhD, LMSW


Abstract As I grow and develop into becoming a successful social worker, I am in the process of learning the importance of cultural awareness. As taught to me and encouraged by my professors it is not only important to be culturally aware of those around me and those who I will serve, but also of great importance to be culturally aware of self. Through this paper I will address the various cultural memberships that I belong to both dominant and subordinate. I will provide examples of the different membership groups I belong as well as the feelings I possess in relation to each group.


Dominant and Subordinate Reflection: Mini Assignment A People all across this nation have a comfortable place where they feel power and control, and fit into the culturally diverse America. They also find themselves struggling; fighting for acceptance, and feeling powerless because of their group memberships and being a minority. Through the journeys I have experienced in this class I am becoming more aware of the groups I am a member of both dominant and subordinate. The dominant groups as I will discuss in this paper will demonstrate the areas in my life where I am privileged and hold power. I will also be discussing the subordinate group memberships that I belong where I experience struggle and powerlessness. Because self-discovery and learning of my own self biases is such a crucial step for me to better prepare for being a social worker, this paper will also demonstrate the many areas which I have developed empathy which is necessary to be a culturally responsive social worker (Bender, Fowler, Furman, Nalini, & Prickett, 2010). Dominant Group Memberships White American A dominant group that I am a member of whom holds much power and control in the American society is being a White American. Throughout the history of America, White Americans have always had a grasp on power and control. White Americans have always had a higher employment rate, higher earnings rate, and have never suffered from slavery in this country. In an article by K. Case (2012), he states in that White Americans have always been invisible to their dominant group membership because they have had the luxury of not having to apply race to themselves. I have experienced employment with companies where there were no minorities employed. I have attended schooling where teachers were more attentive to me as White American. Growing up I always could see the racially divided America and witnessed that the White Americans suffered less and had more in their lives. Being a White American I have been able to avoid much discrimination and prejudice that so many minorities experience. Being raised and spending much of my childhood in a southern country town, I was able to see firsthand the racism and discrimination that the African Americans and other minority groups such as Latinos experience. Minorities in my communities experienced extremely low wages, very physical labor, and had lived in extremely poor conditions and neighborhoods. Although I benefited from being a White American throughout my life, I have also been offended that the rewards and opportunities that I have received have been based on the color of my skin and heritage. I have built many good relationships with people from groups other than my own and have seen the way they are treated as unacceptable and ignorant. I have realized through these experiences that in America the opportunities that are given such as quality education and job placement are not always provided based on the skills and abilities a person has but rather the color of their skin. As a social worker I will use this experience and knowledge to better advocate for the people who are unequally treated based these observations.


Male Group Membership According to Wikipedia (2013), male privilege is an unearned status which grants men rights or privileges based exclusively on their sex. Being a male I have experienced various privileges and rights which made me part of the overall dominant group of men in American society. I have also had more expectations placed on my life based solely based on my sex. Males in the United States have been viewed as leaders and the head of the households. I am the youngest of two children in my family, the oldest being my sister. Being a male always given me more privilege and rights as a child. My family viewed me as a strong person who should not express much emotional feelings but rather learn how to provide and be a leader as my father had. I was taught the man is the foundation of the family and he should provide and protect. I also see in America that men are a very privileged and powerful group in terms of controlling the government, leaders of the religious communities, and also more dominant in holding public positions. The majority of the American government is male; the majority of entrepreneurs and CEOs in America are male, and all the presidents of the United States of America have been male. Although I agree with the teachings that a man should be strong and the foundation for a family, I also see many conflicts and struggles which a child could face because of these assumptions and beliefs. As a child I had many conflicts on learning how to express my feelings and emotions which I would struggle with later in my adult life. I feel that it is important to teach male children that verbally expressing the issues that they are faced with, the emotional conflicts that they are dealing with is not a sign of weakness but a healthy way to grow and mature. Married Parents I was a very blessed individual to have grown up with married parents. Being from a background where marriage was a very sacred act taught me many values and also provided me with privileges and opportunities which others from single parent families do not experience. Being from a family where my mother and father are still married and in a healthy relationship provided me with much more support on issues such as personal development, education, and conflict resolution. As marriage has decreased in American, divorce has risen, and more and more children are being raised from a single parent household, I viewed myself as very privileged individual. As an adult and looking back at my past and the experiences I had coming from a household where my parents were married, I see many areas where I was privileged and was provided a healthier lifestyle. Both of my parents worked fulltime jobs which enabled them to provide our family with shelter, food, safety, clothing, and education. I see many single mothers and fathers today struggling to make ends meet and struggling with the stresses and uncertainty of providing for their kids. My parents were always there for me emotionally and physically and both were very engaged in the activities such as team sports, extracurricular activities, and also


aware of the friendships I had with my peers. Having this support gave me the feelings of being safe, cared for and loved. Subordinate Group Memberships Spirituality (Being an Agnostic) Being an agnostic as a child and through my adolescence caused me to have many negative emotions and created a lot of confusion in my life. Throughout my childhood I never fully accepted the teachings of the Bible nor did I ever fully understand them. Questioning the teachings that I received from my parents and the church caused me to be punished, unaccepted by others, and threatened by being told that I was going to hell if I did not accept the Christian beliefs. These experiences were extremely difficult for me and eventually led me to believe that something was wrong with me as a child. I remember becoming angry as a child not understanding why I could not accept or why I did not have a spiritual connection as my parents had. I remember rebelling from my parents because of the feelings of guilt, shame, and loneliness when it came to spirituality. I realize now that these situations and dilemmas of spirituality and religion are faced by many individuals. I am also aware of the pressure and stress that religious communities place on individuals which make it difficult for one to admit to their non-beliefs. Because religious organizations are so widespread and powerful all over the world, I have realized that those who are affiliated with religious organizations view non-believers as outsiders, lost souls, or possibly as evil ones. Social Class Being a member of the middle class group throughout my life I have felt much powerlessness and stress. As a child my family shielded me from the poor working class and attempted to isolate my socialization to peers that were either from similar or higher socioeconomic backgrounds to my own. My family had me attend private schooling in elementary in hopes of getting me the best education, but because of the expense I was unable to continue. My short time at the private school I felt pressured and stressed in my ability to compete and keep up with the higher social class of my peers. I experienced upward classism which gave me the sense that I was less than compared to those around me and also made me envious of the lives of my peers. Due to the financial cost and distance private school was from where I lived, I eventually had to return to public schooling. My parents were unable to continue my private schooling due to cost, and also because both of my parents worked there was no means of transportation for me to go. Compared to the private school I had attended before, the public school seemed very chaotic, uncontrolled, and overpopulated. I noticed a racially divided population and extremely high dropout rate. Even though my parents worked extremely hard to provide for our family we were always faced with struggles and shortcomings.


Substance Abuse Being an alcoholic and drug addict has been the biggest challenge of my life. Because of the stigma which is present in the American culture of addicts and alcoholics, learning to express feelings, concerns, and difficulties did not become a part of my life until I was able to achieve sobriety and embrace recovery. At a young age I knew something was different about the way I felt, thought, and handled stress and life. As a teenager I began using drugs heavily and was well on my way to becoming a drug addict and alcoholic. As people labeled me as being weak, evil, stupid, and immature, I was unable to break away from my addictions and pain. I continued to struggle and continued to enter substance abuse rehabilitation centers and eventually got sober on August 31, 2009. Because addiction and alcoholism is such a progressive and fatal disease it is imperative that those who suffer get professional help. In the United States the cost for professional counseling and rehabilitation centers is not affordable to the vast majority who needs treatment which leaves many families and individuals left not knowing what to do. In an article by J. Rehm (2011) the risks associated with alcoholism were examined and concluded that there needs to be more efforts in providing prevention methods which could reduce the cost and also deal with the pain and suffering that is a result from alcoholism. This article also describes alcoholism as a disease which not only affects the drinker but also creates many health issues and social harm (Rehm, 2011). As I struggled with my addictions and poor health, I also witnessed the struggle of my parents as they could not afford the treatment which I so desperately needed. I felt feelings of fear, hopelessness, and abandonment by society because the means to get help were not easily available. Because of my membership to the groups of addicts and alcoholics, I also experienced many barriers and negative forces which would hold me back from succeeding. I was taught while seeking help that I must call myself an alcoholic and also admit I was powerless over my addictions. These negative labels which were placed on me neither gave me the sense that I was not capable of overcoming my illness nor would be accepted by society. Being sober 4 years now has given me a tremendous appreciation for the social work field and also a strong desire to help the people in need. Because of my experiences I have developed a passion for advocating for substance abuse and mental health reform and a strong interest in developing ways to make treatment more easily assessable and affordable. Conclusion This assignment clearly showed to me that regardless of race, culture, and socioeconomic status, we all belong to groups which are dominant and subordinate. These groups of which I belong impact the perspective I hold on society and my world view of diversity. I have learned that being culturally aware is the awareness and understanding of ones own cultural self, and also the awareness of all diverse cultures that are present in American society (Lum, 2011). This


assignment exposed to me the many issues which I will face as a social worker. It provided me with an overview of some of the issues I faced growing up along with some of the misconceptions and stereotypes I was taught at a young age. This assignment was very important and educational to me in not only helping me be aware of self, but also to me aware of the world. As the country becomes more divided socially, economically, and racially; as a social worker I will use these experiences to advocate for change and justice for all.


References Bender,K., Fowler, D., Furman, R., Nalini J. Negi ,N., Prickett ,J.,(2010). Enhancing Self Awareness: A Practical Strategy to Train Culturally Responsive Social Work Students. Advances in Social Work Vol. 11 No. 2 (Fall 2010), 223-234 Case, K. A. (2012). Discovering the Privilege of Whiteness: White Women's Reflections on Anti-racist Identity and Ally Behavior. Journal Of Social Issues, 68(1), 78-96. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01737.x Lum, D. (2011). Culturally Competent Practice: A framework for understanding diverse groups and justice issues. (4th Ed) Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. ISBN: 978-08400-3443-4. Male privilege. (2013, November 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:56, November 9, 2013, from Rehm, J. (2011). The Risks Associated With Alcohol Use and Alcoholism. Alcohol Research & Health, 34(2), 135-143.