The Privilege of Being Able-Bodied

Privilege is something that is talked about a lot within the school of social work. I believe privileges certainly do exist and need to be talked about. One privilege that gets discussed is the the privilege of being able-bodied, but it does not get the attention of some other privileges, such as white and male privilege. Being able-bodied is something I took for granted until I started working at the Friendship Circle a couple years back. At the Friendship Circle, I worked with children and teens with special needs. Its the simple things you take for granted like tying your shoes or expressing your feelings. But then you realize that these things do not come so easy to everyone; not everyone is so fortunate. Many individuals I work with are unable to verbalize how they feel. One story I have while working at the friendship circle involved a non-verbal girl. We were trying to get her to eat her turkey sandwich  for lunch, but she was not having it. She kept yelling and throwing away the sandwich. When her mom picked her up, we found out that dad packed the lunch and made a mistake as the child does not like turkey. I began to think about the whole situation and quickly realized the child acted that way because it was her way of telling us she did not like it. Imagine you could not speak. What would you do to get your message across?

The thing that these kids and teens taught me the most was to be happy. Although these individuals go through struggles every day and have it way harder than I do, they walk into the Friendship Circle with a smile on their face, excited for the day, and just happy to be alive. It really makes you think if they can be happy and smile every day why can’t I? And thats what I try to do. I try to smile every day, make the best out of every situation, and be happy to have friends, family and health.

Social Media as a Social Justice Tool

I am a strong believer in the use of the social media as a social justice tool. I think it can be a great way to spread your message if done properly. Many social justice campaigns have successfully used social media to spread their message across the country and even the world. A few examples of movements that utilized social media successfully are #BlackLivesMatter, #DefendDACA, and #TakeaKnee. All of these movements were able t successfully use social media to get their message to millions of people.

There are many positives and negatives for using social media. With social media anyone can post whatever they want. This can be a good thing but can also be a very bad thing. With social media you may be able to produce information that the media giants are not willing to show. That being said many people post “fake news” on their social media outlets. Social media is not like writing an academic essay, you do not have to provide sources or citation. Therefore, you never really know if what you saw on social media is true or not. It is up to the individual to research what they saw on social media and confirm it is true. You cannot believe everything you see on social media. I would even argue that a majority of what is on social media is not the complete truth, so you need be very careful about what you believe. Another positive of social media is that you can get your message to millions and millions of people around the country without even leaving your home. The one problem with this is you cannot really choose who sees your message. So anyone can comment or share your message, even if they are not the type of people you want associated with your movement.

I am a big fan of using social media to promote and to get my message out. While working at a non-profit I used Facebook a lot to promote events and to fundraise. When I first started working at the non-profit I made a new Facebook that I used just for work purposes. I believe it is important to not use your personal social media for work purposes. I think it is important to keep it separate because you do not want your work life and personal life to intertwine. Facebook was a great tool to promote my events to raise money for my organization. The one problem I ran into was that parents would contact me on the Facebook about personal problems which is not what I attended the page to be used for.

As I continue my journey as a social worker, I will continue to use social media as a social justice tool. I think it is so amazing how many people you can connect with just from your computer. Social media can be a huge asset to your movement, but you must make sure you use it correctly and that what you post is the truth.

A Nazi is Coming to my School

For those that know me, know I am a die hard Michigan fan. My parents attended the University of Michigan, my older brother and sister attended U of M, and I followed in their footsteps. I have always been proud to be a wolverine, I had always defended and had this schools back. However, I am no longer a proud wolverine, I am an embarrassed one. On November 22, the University of Michigan announced it would allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus. For those who do not know, Richard Spencer is a white nationalist and a leader of the white supremacy movement. I am extremely disappointed in the university’s decision. Especially considering, Michigan State University, Penn State University and Ohio State University all refused to let Spencer speak and would rather deal with a lawsuit than have him come spread hate on their campuses. I was hoping U of M would be as courageous as these other schools but I guess football isn’t the only thing those school has us beat at. The University of Michigan has a duty to keep their students safe. I am baffled by how the university thinks it can keep its students safe while allowing this man to come to campus. Spencer recently spoke at University of Florida and violence and riots broke out everywhere. He also led a rally in Charlottesville which ended in violence. See video here:  

As Jewish American, I am scared for him to come to my university and I know I am not the only student to feel this way. That being said it is important that we come together as a university to spread love. We must not let hate win. To end on somewhat of a happy note, here is Richard Spencer being punched in the face.

Being an Ally

Being an Ally is something I have been working on ever sense I started the Social Work program here at the University of Michigan. That being said, it is something I have certainly been struggling with. I come from a very white and privileged community. I grew up in a bubble where I thought everyone had good lives and were happy. Obviously, this is not the case. As I went on to undergraduate school I soon realized that there was a lot of hate in the world. That hate was especially directed to those of People of Color. Unfortunately, I was not even trying to be an ally when in undergrad. I am not sure if I was because I was afraid of what my friends may think or if it was because I just did not know how to be one. Now that I am in Social Work school I am learning what it means to be an ally and learning what I can do to be a positive ally. I most use the privilege I have been so fortunate to have and use it to help those that are oppressed just because of the color of their skin, sexual identity, and etc.

In the video, they talk about how being an ally is an investment. I believe this is true, to be an ally you will have to use your time and resources to help. As mentioned in the video, you may have to “sacrifice your privilege”. I think this is what I struggled with the most in undergrad. I was so used to the life I had I was nervous to do anything that would affect the privileged life I was given. At this point in my life, I am ready to sacrifice that privilege if it means being a supportive ally.

There were a few things mentioned in the video that I think are very important to being a strong ally. The first is that it states that “you must be willing to hang in there when it gets sticky and socially dangerous.” Unfortunately, in this country many people are not allies and are not going to understand me being an ally. They may start directing hate towards me and that is something I must be willing to take. Another thing mentioned in the video was “you must be willing to act as a spokesperson on the issue in the marginalized persons absence.” It is important to be an ally all the time, even when the person oppressed may not be there. Lastly, it was said in the video that it is important to “collaborate with other community organizers.” It is difficult to bring change by yourself, but when you bring people together and work as a team it is certainly possible.

One example of when I was an ally was when I decided to sit for the National Anthem to show support to my classmates of color and to show I am against the injustices that happen in this country every day. Unfortunately, there are many instances over the period of my life where I was not an ally. One example that sticks out to me is in undergrad I was in a fraternity. A lot of times while in the frat, I would hear people say racist remarks as a joke to get a quick laugh. I would stay quiet even though I knew what they said was wrong and hateful. I must do better job of being an ally. I cannot be afraid to stand up and help create change.

I want to end with talking very briefly about white privilege. It was mentioned in the video and is something that is being talked about in our country. As a white man, I can tell you white privilege definitely exists. Being born white gives you these underserved advantages that people of color do not get. Here is a link to a video that shows you what it is like to be born white in this country:

A Weekend of Firsts

I had a couple of firsts for me this weekend. During the Michigan vs Michigan State football game I decided to sit for the national anthem to show that I am against the injustices that have been going on in our country. I also decided to sit to show support for my people of color classmates.  I was bit surprised by what happen when I sat. I was yelled at and different objects rained down on me, including an empty water bottle, a piece of pizza crust and other items of garbage.  At first, I was a bit surprised by the actions of other students at this university.  Unfortunately, I came to the realization that hate and racism exist everywhere. You may be able to run from it but you certainly cannot hide from it. I believe I have been running from it my whole life, and I am tired of running. It is time I step up and act against injustices. I will not allow others to dictate what I think is right. I must do what I believe in based on my values and morals.

Another first for me this weekend occurred when I was walking home from dinner Sunday night. I was walking down the sidewalk when I noticed something odd across the street. There was man lying motionless on the sidewalk. I saw people walk by him without stopping to see what was wrong. I decided to cross the street and see what was going on with the man. As I got closer I could tell that this man was clearly homeless. I could also tell that he was in some sort of trouble. I crotched down next to him and tried to talk to him but he was unresponsive. It seemed to me that he was overdosing. I called the police and waited for them to arrive. When police arrived they told me to leave and that an ambulance was on the way. I over-heard one of the officers say they knew the man so I am assuming he has had run-ins with the law before. After leaving the scene, I began to think about how people could just walk by a man on the ground that needed help. It upset me, but I came to terms with the fact that I cannot control what others do, I can only control what I do. This was also the first time I called 911 and I was bit surprised by what the operator asked me. He asked me if the man was white or black, he was white. I am sure it is protocol to ask that question, but I began to wonder why he asked me that. Honestly, I have been thinking about it a lot and I still do not think I have come up with an answer.