Let’s Hope It’s Not Genetic. (The racism part, not the successful career part.)
I warn you in advance, this post is less funny, more ranty. I swear it will not become a habit. I’m not a fan of soapboxes, unless they store old pornographic magazines. Or soap.
The other day I was able to score a potential gig at a non-profit, supported living organization. I would work as an at-home companion to the severely disabled, making sure that they’re taken care of, fed, dressed, not eating cigarette butts off of the street, and so on. My companion and I would go to the park or to the zoo or just stay in the house and I would just basically play the role of a careful friend while getting a paycheck to do so. There would be paid time to sleep involved.
I am feeling pretty on the fence about taking the job for many reasons, and I found myself playing some serious handball up in my headspace over it.
When things get rough for me I often call on my dad for guidance. I do this for several reasons. For one, he’s very different than I am, opposite in fact, (a man of science, not of letters) and therefore will give me unique advice that can quickly be dismissed if I don‘t want to hear it. Also, he knew what he wanted to do with his life at the age of nineteen so sometimes I hope that, through inconsistent emailing, my sense of misdirection will be molded into a compass pointing towards some job with health insurance and a 401K plan. But mainly I write him because he’s always brutally honest. Emphasis on the brutal. That warm-n-fuzzy television brand of parenting? Not his. Then again, I’m not exactly the sitcom child.
Here is an excerpt from our last email exchange. It has not been edited.
“Ainsley: Let’s be up front and honest. Home health aides are black uneducated individuals. What in the world are you doing with your life to even entertain the possibility of doing such a job? Your past history has always been taking a job out of desperation. Look what has happened in that situation. It is time to change this mode of behavior. I really think it is about time you get a grip and start making a long range plan and commitment towards achieving a goal.”
For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of knowing me face-to-face, I am white. I am college educated, and have been accepted to graduate school several times, each time reneging on the ability to go because of my desire to write and my lack of desire for debt.
I am what I consider to be a child of privilege. Yes, at this point in my life I have no money, only enough to live off of for the next four weeks or so, six weeks if I sell my bicycle. No, my father does not send me any sort of assistance whatsoever, nor will he, in part because of my pride. I don’t want any handouts. I figure that the ability to go through high-school without needing to help put food on my parents’ respective tables was a gift enough.
And although I love him to smithereens I have to say that I think the only struggle my dad had to deal with recently was whether to choose the forest green Lexus Hybrid SUV or the black one. I don’t know if he’s ever had to pawn anything in order to be able to pay his cellphone bill. I doubt it.
I also believe that this sort of myopia, and not just the racist nonsense but the entire enchilada of ignorance, comes from a state of contentment that works against any real, positive progression. My father works with people. He is an eye doctor. The last time I checked the majority of his patients were old, non-white, and on Medicare. If any of you are reading this near your grandparents, read that paragraph that he wrote aloud. Now ask them who has trouble seeing.
It’s likely that I’m not taking the job, not because of my elite education, not because of my skin color, not because of my apparently stellar breeding, but because I am scared. I am desperate but I’m not willing to take care of someone else when I can barely take care of myself. My friend who works as an aid (also white, also educated) is extraordinarily patient and thick-skinned. I, admittedly, am not. I cry when I can’t open a jar of pickles. I curse, loudly, in coffee shops when I can’t find my wallet in my bag. I’m known to get bruises and not know where they came from. I have never successfully babysat. I shouldn’t be taking care of an adult who cannot bathe themselves.