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Ethnic & Cultural Autobiography

Deion Greene
SWK 245-800 Human Diversity & Populations-at-Risk
Dr. Rebekah Hazlett-Knudsen
February 17, 2017
All the way through a person’s life, they open discovery into who they are. They

initiate investigating what kind of person they identify themselves as, anything they

would or would not interest them, and what ideologies they relate to, believe in and

choose to live by. In short, the individual activates the development of an individuality

that separates them from the rest of the social order. However, the characteristics

comprise of values and beliefs, but also classic identity indicators. Individualities such

as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, and ethnicity instantly come to

thought. It is because of these individualities, either directly or indirectly, that we begin

to cultivate conventions about ourselves and those around us, and those conventions

subsequently have impact on our lives and everyday experiences.

Knowing Your “Position”

In my case, I was born into a typical Christian family, with a very astute mother

who still is in church every time the doors open and a father who went only for worship. I

was raised as a God-fearing child that was to obey their parents and elders, to love

everyone (except to them it only meant same race), and to do your best. As I grew up in

a predominantly black neighborhood, all I ever heard was about only befriending people

of the same ethnicity as myself from all of my family. I was raised to be tough and

athletic, as that would be ticket out of this town.

When it came to social status, I was in the lower middle area. My mother and

father taught us the value of work. Neither of my parents had been to college, and they

wanted that for me and my siblings. My mother, after many years of raising children,

has just recently gone to a community college to help her prepare for a higher level of

work. My family was far from being rich and having cash to throw around, but we could
take care of ourselves and live at ease. Due to this status, I was always taught to never

be wasteful, and to save money. My parents always found the way to help me in

academics as well as sports. I was blessed with an able body that could perform when I

needed it to in many areas. Again, because I had something of significance, in this

case my body, I was shown to take care of it, and to stay fit. To this day, I am glad I

work at a place where I can still participate in activities and help others learn what I

have in skill.

As I grew up I went down a different path than my family wanted, and strayed as

most teenagers do by experimenting with different areas of interest, hanging out with

others of the same ethnicity, and getting into trouble. Soon after graduation, I found

myself a soon to be father, mixed up in things I wouldn’t want my child to know. I began

to try to better myself, for the sake of my kids. I started by getting a job as a teaching

assistant, thanks to my parent’s connections. I cleaned myself up and found myself

leaving the past behind and moving into friendships and relationships that made me feel

better about myself and my choices. Through these friendships I found myself learning

to better myself through work and pursuing an education when not at work. I learned

that I could make my life better.

I have learned much of other cultures through my occupation, as I deal with a

variety of students from different social classes, different home environments, different

beliefs, and far more troubled than I ever was. Through my experience and job, I have

come to realize that oppression is in the eye of the beholder, but the one true

oppression that hits children more than anything is poverty. I strive to help others that
are less fortunate than me to become better than the lives they have been through,

whether it is through a gentle word, an item of food, or a piece of clothing.

In my occupation, I have found myself as a guide, mentor, and a leader to many

young youth who remind me in many ways of my old self. I find myself wanting to help

them in many different ways, but legally cannot do much to change them. I find myself

wanting to go into a way to help others and thus find myself taking classes to be a social

worker.

Americanization

I only know my family back as far as a few generations, mainly because our

family never kept track of each other as they moved away and we didn’t do family

reunions. Some people moved on and away, others departed due to differences, and

others further just lost touch. I don’t know where my family originated, whether they

were slaves or came after, but I do know that for 3 generations we have all been born in

the United States. I feel that my culture, as I know it and have grown up in, has not

changed. But I do feel that the culture of most of the same ethnicity, is roughly

influenced and changed by many other things within this country than ethnicity.

According to Lum (2011), incidents from childhood are building blocks that shape

later beliefs and attitudes. I feel that this is so true, as when I was a child I was part of a

youth football league. I made many a friend through the sport, but the one that I look

back and remember was when I went to the birthday party for a teammate and was the

only African-American at the party. I was not treated any differently, but rather felt like I

belonged. Another time is when I went to school dance in sixth grade. I saw a

Caucasian girl sitting by herself and I went over and asked her to dance. I got ridiculed
for it by all different kinds of people, but the truth is it made me happy to see her smile.

At that time, I decided that the color of a person’s skin didn’t matter to me, but getting to

know them did. As I got older, I dated and hung out with all kinds of people, and as I

reflect I stayed out of trouble more when I hung out with Caucasian people than with

those of the same ethnicity. As stated by Hall (2005), “regardless of the fact that race is

increasingly irrelevant, Americans continually adhere to it and are at a severe

disadvantage.” I strongly belief that the more we focus on color, the more problems that

we have. In order to be Americans, we truly must let go of trying to find reasons and

recognition for our differences and rather focus on teaching unity and cohesion.

Exploration of Cultural Self

According to Melville (2012), many students are multicultural. Melville states

(2012) “Not only do they come from a range of backgrounds, but each of them belongs

to a range of cultural contexts, from their neighborhoods and families to their schools,

churches and peer groups.” I feel the same as Melville’s students, which I grew up in a

predominantly Caucasian/African American sectioned area with a few Hispanics or

other ethnicities, but now the area is even more diverse than it was then. My culture I

learned from my parents, church members, and the neighborhood. But just because I

learned that culture does not mean that I chose it for myself. I have chosen to go

against family beliefs of marriage, I live with a woman who is the mother of my children,

but that I am not married to. I have chosen to live in a neighborhood, which while

primarily African American, is better than the “hood” type neighborhood I grew up in and

around. I have chosen to forego only socialization with African Americans to accept and
be friends with those of very different ethnicities. I have found myself teaching my

children to accept others beyond the color of their skin.

Exploration of Cultural Other

According to Bender, et al. (2010), “Ethnic and racial self-awareness is also

imperative for ethnic/racial minority social workers.” Thus I feel that is imperative that I

learn more about other cultures beliefs and become more sensitive to them and their

practices. I don’t feel that my path is the right path nor that any other is any better. I

have learned to use tolerance and be less judgmental. This is not to say that I believe

and follow anything from other cultures, but if I do find things about a culture that I like

then I might try to assimilate it into my own life.

Within my own life and job, I find myself in contact with many different ethnicities,

cultural backgrounds, and different social status than myself. I try to not to pass

judgement or give advice, but rather listen, embrace, and learn from others. I find myself

very exposed to differences that many just don’t know or understand as I interact with

other teachers as well. It is interesting to get to know many people and their differences.

I socialize my kids with those of many other races and teach them not to have hatred for

color of skin but rather for actions. I believe in finding out facts before speaking my mind

on a topic and love to really delve into the truth behind matters.

Many of our population of students are foster children, not by choice but mostly

due to parents in jail for a variety of reasons or dead for any of a number of reasons. My

heart goes out to these students, because some of them really have not had a culture

background to learn or embrace ideas or values and would rather relate to the music

videos they see about guns, drugs, and violence. Some of them flip flop from different
environments into others that have cultures different from their own and no way to

express or understand how they can get along with the foster parents. Some are hell

bent on making sure things don’t work out, and I don’t understand if they think it will get

them back or help them, but they just don’t realize how much they are hurting others or

themselves.

Intersectionalities

I feel that I have not met or interacted with nearly half the people that I will during

my lifespan. In terms of my lifespan, I feel I am still very young and that many people

will come and go from my life at various stages of life. My ethnicity to me is African

American, but most of the time I want to make this just American, because we put too

much emphasis on the color of our skin or where we came from. My language is

English. I am male and identify as male only. My social class is middle lower class. I am

not disabled. I am of average height and weight with an athletic build. I dress

appropriately as a man, unlike the stereotypical image I have to fight with my students

about, I do not wear sagging pants. My dress is professional and clean in appearance. \

My culture is mixed in many beliefs, I hold my kids as very important to me, even

more so than their mother. My sexual orientation is straight. My education is high school

graduate, working towards a bachelor’s degree in social work. My current career is as a

teaching assistant within a school, but my goal is to be a social worker/mentor for young

men. As I spoke of above, my family consisted of my father, mother, me and another

sibling. I do have a partner, which I have had for almost 6 years, but I am not married to

them. We both do not feel that we need to be married to be together. We share bills and

work together in our home. Lately, while I have been in school she has done more than
I have around the house. At this time my religion is Christian, but I struggle with this

sometimes as through my education and learning about other religions I have begun to

question and seek out a religion that I really can identify with.

Use of Self

I have seen that I have only looked at Muslims in terms of our society rules, and

while I may disagree with them in some things, it is not my place to voice that out at my

job. Nor will I force my opinions on others. I do not feel that a religion in the United

States should be discriminated against, but I do feel that the government has the right

not to allow practices that go against federal laws. But as movements go, these laws

may not withstand some of the jurisprudence being forth against them, and then at that

time it is the governments right to protect the people from harm.

I understand, as Lum (2011) states that “honest, sensitive, and reflective

conversation between worker and client about self and others is the essence of dialogic

self.” It is not about me explaining and exploring, but rather me being able to listen and

nondiscriminantly discuss with the client many aspects of themselves and learn about

them in ways that I couldn’t if I judge them. I might hear many things, and I have to

recognize and accept how those items relate and help me understand the individual so

as to be able to help them in other ways.


Bibliography
Bender, K. N. (2010). Exploring the Relationship between Self-Awareness and Student Commitment and
Understanding of Culturally Responsive Social Work Practice. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural
Diversity in Social Work, 19(1), 34-53. doi:http://doi.org/10.1080/15313200903531990

Hall, R. (2005, September). The Euro-Americanization of Race: Alien Perspective of African Americans
vis-á-vis Trivialization of Skin Color. Journal of Black Studies, 36(1), 116-128. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/40027325

Lum, D. (2011). Culturally Competent Practice (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

Melville, K. (2012, July 24). Culture: A View of the Self. Retrieved from Teaching Intolerance:
http://www.tolerance.org/blog/culture-view-self