Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's Revisit An Earlier Conversation: "Why Black Women Should Save Their OWN Lives By Leaving The Helping Professions"

After prayer, the idea came to me that now would be a good time to revisit a couple of our earlier conversations that reviewed the MANY reasons why any African-American woman who wants to have a good life needs to leave the helping professions:

http://muslimbushido.blogspot.com/2009/04/case-study-of-why-black-women-should.html

http://muslimbushido.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-black-women-should-leave-helping.html

17 comments:

Enigma said...

For a while I romanticized working with the public. I worked as a library assistant in a public library for a while and I enjoyed it. The kids could sometimes be difficult, but all in all it was a great experience. With these fond memories in mind, I went to volunteer at my old job and after just a day of service, I have not returned. My old manager looks as though she cannot wait to leave, there have been threats by gangs etc. Her staff are not friendly, they look despondent and are clearly unhappy. I have not gone back. I will not go back. I will have to beg off of this volunteer opportunity because I refuse to put myself in danger or work in such a depressing place.

Before I went to volunteer, my current manager, who is also a librarian, told me when I informed her that I would be going to school to complete my bachelor's and go for my MLIS, to make SURE that I worked either in a law library (currently do so), medical, or a specialized library. I scoffed at that idea then but my mind has definitely changed since the volunteering experience. I am also looking at other careers that I may enter with that degree as well as more advanced degree programs.

As I open up my mind and delve into other fields, it is occuring to me how very limiting my thinking was when it came to careers and how suffocating my purpose in working in different venues. I am realizing how that kind of thinking has seeped into my life in so many other areas and that I must address those areas as well. BW as a whole are conditioned to live small, think small, think a little happiness - a little joy is enough even if it is not their joy, their happiness. I now understand that I deserve better.

Ladies, you do not write and post in vain. IT all starts with a mustard seed, just getting the person to look at one area in their life and to say that is true, that needs to change, I deserve better than that and that one change.. that one change can change a persons entire life. Just that one little idea sparks a different kind of hope, a different kind of dream. You do not labor in vain. That little mustard seed, will grow and germinate other ideas and hopes. Trust me. Again, from me and the other lurkers etc. who read and gain valuable insight thank you.

Khadija said...

Enigma,

You said, "As I open up my mind and delve into other fields, it is occuring to me how very limiting my thinking was when it came to careers and how suffocating my purpose in working in different venues. I am realizing how that kind of thinking has seeped into my life in so many other areas and that I must address those areas as well. BW as a whole are conditioned to live small, think small, think a little happiness - a little joy is enough even if it is not their joy, their happiness. I now understand that I deserve better."-

YES! YES! YES! {raised fist salute}

It's one thing if AAW are seriously choosing the options that track their interests and bliss after careful reflection on the topic. But that's NOT what the vast majority of us are doing. We're allowing ourselves to be funnelled and steered into a narrow slice of what's available---the "helping" versions of various fields.

I was blessed to have parents who actively questioned and challenged my professional choices. They did NOT want me to involve myself in serving the poor. [Or as my mother put it so elegantly, "Why in the world would you involve yourself in those tacky, tawdry, sordid types of cases?"]

So, I was challenged to seriously think about what I was doing. This questioning pushed me to make an INFORMED choice about my professional life at that time. What I went into is actually what I wanted to do at the time. I'm currently exhausted and burnt out with it; but the area I chose was my sincere and considered choice at that time.

My issue is that most AA women are NOT making considered, informed choices about their work lives.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have that sort of questioning that I got from our families and friends. Many of us are the first ones in our families to go to college; and therefore the people around us are unduly impressed with whatever work we choose.

Also, most AAs think that it is only fitting and natural for AA women to steer themselves into "helping" sorts of fields.

I'm saying NO! I'm saying that there's a big world of other things to do---things to do where one is more likely to find satisfaction and appreciation for one's efforts than the "helping" fields.

You said, "Ladies, you do not write and post in vain. IT all starts with a mustard seed, just getting the person to look at one area in their life and to say that is true, that needs to change, I deserve better than that and that one change.. that one change can change a persons entire life."-

It's always good to hear confirmation that one's efforts are having some effect. THANK YOU!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

rainebeaux said...

Khadija: I can't thank you enough for making me (and numerous other bw) think harder. I've been sifting through the archives since Monday.

I read both these posts and wondered if college admissions (or the call center segment thereof) is included in this category. I find it disheartening that I'm temping at this job when I'm not even in school myself!

Keep up the great (and very necessary!) work--i don't know about other bw trapped in the hood, but I'm listening/reading. Thanks again.

cool_splash1 said...

You seem to assume that BW are not going into these careers to actually help people. Black folks in major cities are still unrepresented in teaching, so if there is some mass exodus of black teachers white surbanites will have no problem taking these secure jobs, especially since the financial services industry continues to struggle. There are only 2 secure industries right now health care and education. Not everyone is going own their own business."


Well this isn't totally true. You aren't mentioning the white people that went in to help got burnt out and are leaving innercity schools in droves. I have to find the article, but many don't stay long. How is it job security/stable job if your life is in danger?

sistrunkqueen said...

Some very interesting commentary.
@enigma Hello from a fellow librarian. girl i can tell you some war stories, but I digress. The point is to use your skills to divest from the hood/urban areas. I am slowly but surely trying to get out of my current innercity librarian job.There are professional institutes that one can attend. I just returned from Nashville a few weeks ago where I was a fellow @Vanderbilt. If u are interested I can send u some links.
Also I have noticed that alot of the job ads are requiring more technical skills. You may want to get a post graduate certificate in digital libraries. This is the hot new area that needs skilled people like us and you know most of the librarians are white and male in this area. There is a need for more people of color to work in our field.
@coolsplash I was chatting with a student last night about getting a degree in early childhood and I wanted to say no girl don't do it!! I was professional and listened anyway. I found out that Spelman and CAU closed there Education departments. I was floored. Morris Brown is closed so where are the black teachers coming from?? CAU closed the library school here too. Where are the black librarians coming from? Another colleague said that the whites will live in the city. It has gotten too expensive to live here now. High taxes and no good paying jobs so what are black professionals to do?? It is scary out here ladies. We have got to be on point.

Truth prevails said...

Hi Kadijah,I'd like to thank you and all your blogger affiliates for the message of empowerment and the enlightment of truth.For years it has been preached and taught to black people that if we were to survive in this country the black "community" would need to be interdependent.Sadly the only/vast majority of black people that bought into this were black women.Black women have sacrificed and sacrificed so that others could have the right to survive thrive and be happy.Everyone around us is exercising this right yet those of us who are unattached i.e have no children no debt are EXPECTED to carry other people's burdens who could care less about our happiness and survival.The worst thing is that this expectation is also being placed on us who are "attached" to carry many extra burdens that we simply can't.In doing so much black women are literally killing themselves.Some of us become so stressed and depressed that we self medicate with food and with the company of our biggest opressors DBRBM's.We find comfort in food and through momentary acceptance/validation/sweet nothings through sexual relations that never lead to marriage with DBRBM's.We do all this to ourselves yet many of us will claim we're Christians and muslims and don't believe in SUICIDE.I think some of us are blind to this SUICIDE because it's not an all out bullet to the head kill.It's a very slow paced kill but nevertheless deadly and actually worse than the bullet to the head as it is a slow torture that leads to death.For those of us that claim to believe in the bible it clearly states "save YOURSELF from this UNTOWARD GENERATION" and "come out from among them and be YE seperate".Peace and blessings to you and your affiliates

Khadija said...

Rainebeaux,

You're welcome; and THANK YOU for your kind words and encouragement. I truly appreciate it.
_______________________

TruthPrevails,

Thank you for your kind words; I truly appreciate it.

You said, "I think some of us are blind to this SUICIDE because it's not an all out bullet to the head kill.It's a very slow paced kill but nevertheless deadly and actually worse than the bullet to the head as it is a slow torture that leads to death."-

Yes, much of this behavior is suicide on the installment plan.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

jeanne said...

Although I am working on moving out of the helping professions, I have a couple of questions.

Would you also advise against entering helping professions where one serves the solidly middle class to affluent? Is teaching at an elementary school in Beverly Hills as detrimental to a black woman as teaching in an under-resourced inner city school? Is using one's LCSW to provide short term therapy at an HMO as detrimental as using it to work for child protective services?

Personally, I hated teaching the children of the affluent. However, the year I spent teaching kindergarten in a middle class neighborhood where the educated, (mostly white and Asian) stay at home moms helped in the classroom was the easiest year of my work life.

While browsing author Po Bronson's website, I stumbled upon a recommendation for Beat of a Different Drum.

Publisher's Weekly says this book presents brief accounts of 30 people who have made careers "outside of the boundaries that seemed so stringently set for blacks living in America."

http://www.amazon.com/Beat-Different-Drum-Stories-Americans/dp/1401307841

The author is a teacher. But most of the people profiled are not in helping professions. So far I've read about a zoo curator, oceanographer, ringmaster, and guitar maker.

Khadija said...

Jeanne,

You asked,"Would you also advise against entering helping professions where one serves the solidly middle class to affluent? Is teaching at an elementary school in Beverly Hills as detrimental to a black woman as teaching in an under-resourced inner city school? Is using one's LCSW to provide short term therapy at an HMO as detrimental as using it to work for child protective services?"-

ANSWER: Here's my starting point with every issue: I believe that AA women deserve to have rewarding lives in safe environments where their talents and efforts are appreciated and valued. THIS is what I'm calling to for AA women across the board. Full-spectrum rewarding and fulfilling lives. In their personal and work lives.

The problem isn't so much the "helping" part. The problem is all of the physical danger, stress, ingratitude, disrespect, and emotional abuse that is an INHERENT part of the so-called "helping" professions. Many of these professions have a history of being mistreated because these tend to be female-populated professions.

Historically female-populated "helping" professions are disrespected and mistreated in ways that would NEVER happen with historically male-dominated fields.

Let me give an example: This whole, absurd notion of local community councils having actual authority over neighborhood public schools. It's INSANE to give laypeople command and control authority over trained educators. THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO DOCTORS OR LAWYERS. Nobody would even dream of trying to put laypeople over doctors' and lawyers' exercise of professional judgment. Because that's obviously crazy.

Laypeople's opinions are NOT consulted when it comes to the day-to-day running of hospitals, law firms, or the courts. But somehow people perceive it as okay to do this to public school teachers. I believe that this attitude exists only because of sexism.

If you're going to help, make sure you do so as an EMPOWERED helper who has a measure of CONTROL over your work environment and your clientele. Control versus a total lack of control over one's work environment is what makes all the difference between rewarding work and a gravedigger career.

So, to specifically answer your question: If you have found a "helping" career environment where you are physically SAFE, treated with RESPECT, and adequately REWARDED for your efforts, then go for it. However, be aware that this type of situation is NOT the norm for the "helping" fields.

Because this sort of healthy, rewarding environment is not the norm in these fields, I strongly urge and advise Black women to STAY AWAY from the helping fields. It's NOT worth it. Not at all. There are better and more rewarding ways to spend one's work life. Black women deserve safe work environments where their talents and efforts are appreciated and valued.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

This whole, absurd notion of local community councils having actual authority over neighborhood public schools. It's INSANE to give laypeople command and control authority over trained educators. THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO DOCTORS OR LAWYERS. Nobody would even dream of trying to put laypeople over doctors' and lawyers' exercise of professional judgment. Because that's obviously crazy.

This is not directly on topic, but I wanted to point out that it is very clear in the elite private school world that parents are purchasing a service. If people don't like the service, they take their money elsewhere. Similarly, laypeople have control over which doctor or lawyer they pay their money to. So, yes, laypeople do have power over the exercise of judgement in those professions.

More school choice will solve this problem. People should be exercising control over their own children's education by choosing the best school for them, instead of feeling like they need to fight everyone else in the district to get what they want out of their local school. If some people want social promotion, let them have it. If other people want academics at three, let them have that. Educators will have more congenial employment options; everyone will be happier.

Khadija said...

Anonymous,

You said, "Similarly, laypeople have control over which doctor or lawyer they pay their money to. So, yes, laypeople do have power over the exercise of judgement in those professions."-

No, I disagree. Laypeople have the power to take their business elsewhere. That's all. Laypeople do NOT get to micro-manage the practice of law or medicine the way they are allowed to micro-manage public education.

Laypeople can take their business elsewhere; they DON'T get to tell doctors which instruments to use while performing a surgery or lawyers how to write the motions they file. Laypeople DON'T get to decide the day-to-day operations of the courts.
-

Another thing is that people forget that the public schools are FORCED to take everybody. From the mentally deranged children to the child soldiers/criminals. Many of these children are going to fail wherever they go, and under any type of educational regime.

At which point, the "grassroots" will clamor to force feed these failing children into any succeeding schools that remain. And if these schools are forced to accept these types of children, then their achievement statistics will go down.

The bottom line is that the "grassroots" and their champions will destroy every setting that lets them in. And everything in their path. The reason for this is that they "grassroots" reject the very things that lead to success and progress---such as holding people (including children) accountable for their choices. Choices such as the choice to refuse to pay attention in school. The choice to not do any homework. The choice to misbehave. And so on.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Enigma said...

Khadijah,
I am the first person in my family to pursue a career and not just a job. This is totally new to me & my folks. My folks are very encouraging though, so every bit of news that they get from their 30+ daughter and her educational goals are very much supported. ;)

Sistrunkenqueen,
Any info about the library field would be most appreciated. I have worked consistently in the filed for the last 14 years and still have no idea as to all the avenues I can take with it. Please forward any info you have to me & thanks. I will check your blog out and send you my e-mail address. Thanks so much.

Khadija said...

Enigma,

Oh yes, that sort of enthusiastic support is great on one level. The downside is when people just don't have the exposure to be able to accurately critique some of the career choices we make.

There were still gaps in my parents' knowledge base about all of this. They had assumed that providing their children with the financial support to zoom straight from high school through professional school would prevent any and all career "speed bumps."

They assumed that their earlier difficulties stemmed solely from having to work their way through advanced degrees as married, working parents. Umm...nope. They and my brother and I discovered that there are other sorts of traps and tricks.

...There are tricks to everything...there's always something...As a people, most AAs just don't have enough "advance scouts" in various positions to spot the ambushes and traps in advance.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Enigma said...

Sistrunkqueen-
Please forward the info to kitadiva1 at yahoo.com. I just noticed that your blog is by invite only. Thank you for your info and support.

LaShelle said...

Most of the money for financial aid is given to teachers who agree to teach in inner city schools for at least 5 years. Cool is right, white teachers leave these schools in droves. The number of black teachers is public schools are and has been decreasing rapidly for years.

Most of my professor or basically all of my professors are white former high school teachers who quit after two years and went back to get their PhD to teach at the University level. They couldn't take it. Too much stress.

There was an article in the New York Times about how in a few year the majority of teachers will be white and female and they live the profession within 5 years. Most people who are career changers are going into the medical field or public administration.

Tam said...

Enigma and Sistrunkqueen, I was also in a thankless helper job. I was a librarian. Like you, Enigma, I was a paraprofessional as well. I loved being around all the knowledge. I read so many books (continue to do so) but working in a library was not for me.

I have seen and heard firsthand some heinous stuff in the libraries. You want to talk about unsafe situations, how about adult men looking at pornography in the open. We used to make them close it down. Luckily, for us people in our communities do not read. Therefore, they did not know it was their right to view the material. Kids fighting. Damaged and defaced materials and equipment. The mentally ill people who needed to be escorted off the property.

Then there were the people we were there to help. The patrons, borrowers. However, no one wanted to read. No one wanted to learn. I know the new media is obviously, digital, but the people we serviced only wanted to check out social networking sites or read trash. Khadija alluded to this ghetto literary phenomenon in a previous post.

I hosted a monthly book club so that I could introduce the people to something new. There would rarely be a turn out. However, on the months when I would read something that was popular i.e. the ghetto lit, I would get a decent turn out. BTW, I would not try to read anything like Toni Morrison or James Baldwin. I would try to find controversial authors or people that may pique their interests. Or people to make their lives better. No takers.

I knew after helping my inner city people for seven years in a thankless, sometimes unsafe job (we had a police officer on duty) where people want to come to socialize, braid each other’s hair and look for their baby daddies on the prison website, that tomfoolery was enough for me.

I had to find something that would help me grow professionally. I had to look at my degree and do some serious analysis of the situation. That’s why I went into HR. HR can be challenging, but it is the best decision I ever made. HR is more about managing a situation. Whereas, working in an urban library is almost about staying status quo. I could not stay in a place where people don’t want to grow mentally.

Khadija said...

LaShelle,

You said, "There was an article in the New York Times about how in a few year the majority of teachers will be white and female and they live the profession within 5 years."-

Yep. Soon, "urban" Black folks will have the teachers they deserve and earn with their behavior: A revolving door of WW who work among them for only a couple of years until they get married and become stay at home mommies.
_____________________

Tam,

You said, "You want to talk about unsafe situations, how about adult men looking at pornography in the open. We used to make them close it down...Kids fighting. Damaged and defaced materials and equipment. The mentally ill people who needed to be escorted off the property.

...However, no one wanted to read. No one wanted to learn. I know the new media is obviously, digital, but the people we serviced only wanted to check out social networking sites or read trash.

...I knew after helping my inner city people for seven years in a thankless, sometimes unsafe job (we had a police officer on duty) where people want to come to socialize, braid each other’s hair and look for their baby daddies on the prison website, that tomfoolery was enough for me."
-

OMG. Go to the public library to "braid each other's hair"?! WTH?!! I find this reality check example of how "our people" actually behave to be as offensive as the public porn surfers. That's just so disrespectful to the purpose of the library. Sheniquas need to braid their hair at home. Presumably, in front of the tv. FAR away from people who actually want to do something productive.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.