How do you experience privilege and power as a social worker?
How important is culture in the field/profession of social work?
How important are indigenous voices and practices in social work?
These were very interesting readings to absorb. I couldn’t help but think about the struggles I faced during my undergraduate studies. In our classes we always talked about topics like biases, oppression and the disenfranchised.
In the profession we choose, we also absorbs the boundaries and guidelines of the code of ethics. These ethics are the principles that make us Social Workers. Yet, at times we tend to lose sight of that because of our privileges, social status or ignorance.
The code of ethics itself is what got me into social work, it is what has validated my professional choice and it is the reason I continue and pursue the profession. One example of this is when I first got int this profession a Master Gardener (I was an Agriculture Student) told me that I am really good at gardening and farming…but have I thought of being a social worker? I sat and pondered about this for weeks until I told my counselor I was interested in this, not realizing my counselor was an LCSW. She told me to read the code of ethics, if I could agree to all of these principles; then pursue social work. So I did.
Another example is taking [social work : human sexuality]. They wanted to take me out of my comfort zone and insisted on having me attend a transgender drag show. It did not help that I was going through the DSM5 studying “gender dysphoria”. My privilege in being experienced in working in austere environments focusing on community development and social disparities , had nothing on the interpersonal relations with transgender individuals. I had no experience with it, that it made me look like I had a bias, in reality; I just had no experience.
This then leads to competency. As a social worker you can literally go into an environment with the biggest heart and try to affect change, and ruin everything your intentions aspired to do and ruin it because you didn’t know anything about your client population.
This also wraps around cultural competency. Being able to understand the limitations and restrictions as an outsider of a culture that you are trying to assist with. I personally have experienced this in multiple situations where cultural competency saved peoples lives. As an example; in the military I had a job to meet with local nationals ad war lords, in these meetings they have a lot of demands and I have to be able to broker these deals with the coalition forces and local nationals. Establishing rapport is a leading way to gain the trust of the people and nothing is more important than interpersonal relationships and respect for their culture. I gained their rapport by understanding and speaking the native language and practicing their cultural greeting practices. This is what gave me the edge as an operator in the service.
In my time working on social disparities in the Philippines I found myself trying to come up with ideas, programs and schemes to aid in lifting up the spirits of the homeless population in Baseco, Philippines. In doing so I felt like I was coming up with military strategy rather than a social work perspective. So I went into the city and spoke with the people. Listening to the indigenous people, rather then the YouTube videos and people that “heard” about the homeless in Baseco. Seeing Baseco first hand and meeting people from there; I was able to better understand the systemic issues that are affecting Baseco from the social, economic and political aspect.
I think oral history and first hand accounts from the indigenous people are more valuable and it is the truth from the eyes that see it; day in and day out.