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Critical Self-Examination Paper

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2843
  • Category: Sociology

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This paper is a work of self-examination to find out what influenced my development from birth to this my 56th year. I will delve into my past and try to honestly and without judgment describe what events and actions led me to become the person I am today. I will look at the way in which the culture and family I grew up in build the frame-work of the person I have evolved into.

I am a white woman who just turned fifty-six years old. I have been married to my husband for twelve years. He is a white man and we both work in office jobs that have placed us in the middle to upper-middle class range financially. I have two grown children from a previous marriage. My sons are twenty-nine and twenty-seven. Chad, the oldest is in the Navy and has not lived in New Mexico for ten years. Clint, my youngest son lives in Kirtland in one of our homes. We have been blessed with the opportunities that have allowed us to live a very financially stable life-style. I found out about five years ago that I have ADHD and take medication to control my ability to focus and complete tasks. This disability has directly contributed to my lack of self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness that I have struggled with my whole life. In school I was the student that could not sit still. I talked too much, I did not pay attention and I just could not stop myself from answering all the questions before the other students could.

I was reading before I started school so I was always racing a head of the class if they were reading page nine, I was already on page eighteen the teachers could not keep my interest. The only thing that kept me from having a terrible experience in my school years was my personality. Most teachers loved me so I could get away with my distractive behaviors. I also have lived much of my live with an eating disorder that has left me with numerous physical problems. The most painful outcome from my bulimic life-style is that my body has lost the ability to metabolize food efficiently. Even eating less than a thin person I gain weight. In the ten years that I have been fighting toward my recovery I have gained one hundred pounds. This huge weight gain has put my health, self-esteem and outward appearance at such a low point that some days I feel overwhelmed and out of control. The extra weight has also become a disability for me I cannot walk up stairs without getting short of breath. My knees are both damaged so badly that I have problems getting up and down. I sometimes feel older than my age and worry about my strength. I have been decimated against by my own insurance company who told me I was too fat to be worth insuring, people look at me and think she must be a really lazy person.

And every time I get ready to board a plane I have to worry if the seat belt will fit around me or if I have to embarrass myself by asking the flight attendant for a seatbelt extension. Then after that I begin to worry about the person setting next to me. Will they be mad or discussed because they have to sit by someone who takes up too much room. A whole group of people are being treated this way. We are being marginalized because we do not fit into the norm for body size. Just as it is stated in our text book, “Marginalization is perhaps the most dangerous form of oppression. A whole category of people is expelled from useful participation in social life” (Sisneros, Stakeman Joyner, Schmitz, 2008). These are just a few ways my life as a fat woman in our society has affected me. I grew up in a traditional and very dysfunctional middle class family in Michigan. I was born the youngest of five children. From my birth until I was five we lived on my grandmother’s family farm. My father was not a farmer he was going to college on the GI bill to become an electrician. His uncle let us live in a small house that was a part of the Beldon farm.

After my father finished his schooling he found work in a small town close to the farm. Because of his increased income we were able to move to town and live in a rented house close to his parents’ home. For as long as I remember I my father’s parents treated my mother like trash. They always felt that my father married beneath his social class. So because we moved so close to them the disrespect they dished out to mother became a daily ritual. I now realize that the stress of this problem led to my parents yelling, fighting and violent behaviors that ruled our house. I was only five so this is the first house that I really remember from my childhood. The strongest memories I have from that time is the way my sister would grab me and run with me to the next door neighbor’s house when my parents would start their yelling and hurting each other. The neighbor man was a police office in our town and he would take us into his house, clam us down and then go over to stop my parents from beating each other up.

No one ever pressed charges; my dad never left the house. My mother would laugh it off it was like they were trapped in a vicious cycle that could not be broken. Later we would go home and pretend that everything was ok even though every dish in the house was laying shatter and broken on the floor. Society told us it was ok, because this kind of behavior was going on all around us and no one said it was wrong or bad it was just the way things were. When I married the first time I found myself in the same cycle of domestic violence that I had witnessed my whole childhood. But I did not leave or ask for help because I had learned that this was how a family operated. The small town I lived in until I was seven had no cultural diversity everyone I met or knew was white, protestant, traditional people. When I was going into the second grade my father got a job in the city so we moved from the small town to the big city. I still remember my first day in second grade the class was about 70 % African American, 5% Latino, and 25% white.

I was so shocked by the dark color of the students skin that I would not let go of my mother’s skirt. I am so embarrassed to admit this but I still remember saying to my mom that I could not stay in that class because all the kids and even the teacher were so dirty. I looked at the color of their skin and saw dirt and not people of different races. The teacher was the smartest, kindest person I have ever met; instead of taking my ignorance personally she took me under her wing and taught me that all people were the same under the skin. She showed me great love and understanding and I attribute my sense of equality for all people to her teachings. I was given the best type of education she modeled the behaviors that wanted us to adopt. She helped me to develop into the person I have grown up to be. As I wrote this part of my paper I was struck by how lucky I have been in my life. I have had people who cared enough to teach me the tools I need to succeed as a social worker after I graduate. Starting with my amazing big sister who pulled me out of the fighting the policeman next door who stopped the violence.

And finally to my first outstanding teacher who loved me even when I was hurtful and said mean things about her skin color. I have had lots of positive influences that have shaped my life. Even after I moved to the city I still was raised pretty isolated from diversity. I went to school with children from different races but they did not live in my neighborhood. Every house on my block held white, protestant, middle-class, two parent families. I did not know that I had white privilege, just like in Peggy McIntosh states in her article, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, “I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege” (McIntosh, 1988). We did not see the hardships and oppression that was going on in our own backyards. Sure I went to school with black children but I remember that the black teacher I loved would ask my parents if I could spend time with her and her family and they always said no. My parents were very open about different cultures and I grew up believing that all people were equal but we did not mix with them. No one that I knew every dated outside of their race. I cannot remember ever hearing either of my parents saw anything bad about people of other races but it was more of an unspoken belief that we would not date outside our race.

The only racial slur I heard a lot was “that family is white trash”. To this day I struggle with stopping myself from using this terrible racial slur. Like Will Kitts writes “I often catch myself making judgment about people based solely on race, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or age” (Kitts, 2006). After doing the exercise in class on how often we judge others I have become so aware of my overactive judgment gene I think I got it from my mother. I have spent my life listening to her make judgments about the people around her and I now see that I picked up that trait by watching her. Then, I think back to my grandmother and low and behold my mom learned it form her. We are a family shaped by generational judgmental attitudes. The worst thing about being judgmental is that I realize that I am not as nice or evolved as I thought I was. I talk the talk but I do not always walk the walk. The most painful way I felt different happen as I was going into adolescence and I developed huge breasts, because they grew so large so fast I began to think I was fat. It did not help my body image that I was short or that I had an older sister who was very small chested and always called the thin Gibson girl.

My mother was also thin with small breast and she always told me too bad you look like grandma. My grandmother had ten sisters and her and every one of them was obese. I was told from an early age that I was a true Beldon and I looked just like my grandmother. My brother who was just a year older than me reinforced this by always telling me I was “short and squatty all ass and no body”, I looked in the mirror and saw just what he was telling me. By the time I was thirteen I was already bulimic. If I ate, I threw up so the calories would not go to my butt. I ran every day I walked or rode my bike and still I could not feel ok about my body. Because I felt fat I believed everyone saw me as fat so when things went wrong I blamed my problems on my weight. For over forty years I have held myself back because I believed that I did not fit the mold. Instead of relishing my youth I feel like I wasted it worrying about the shape of body instead of the quality of my soul. I did not pick my differences but I perpetuated the myths I learned from society and let myself be marginalized, devalued and oppressed in the process. Today I am proud to say that I am growing and developing into the kind of person I want to be.

I know that my body is not want society sees as beautiful, but finally the images I see in magazines and on the television do not rule the way I feel about myself. I work to be the best person I can be, I try to put aside my judgmental thoughts and feeling and see the good in people and in life. I strive daily to grow and learn. I stop myself when I begin to judge others. In the last four years I have taken back my life by first completing my Associate of Arts degree at San Juan College and then by entering New Mexico Highlands University to complete my BSW. Every day I learn new ideas and because I am open to and embrace diversity I have found new and better ways to look at the world. The education I have received has not only opened and expanded my mind it has also lifted the veil from my eyes. I went through my days feeling depressed and unhappy always blaming my fate on others. Crying “poor me, why is my life so hard.” Then I saw whole groups of people who did not have my wealth or privilege.

My problems were not so important in a world that holds people back just because of the color of their skin. I now know that I am in control of my own destiny and if I am willing to put out the energy to make the world a better place it will happen. Like so many white people I did not see the privilege that being born white afforded me. Until I was ready to look around and see true oppression I could not see beyond my own selfish needs. I now see the many benefits that I have been given just because of the ethnic group I was born into. (McIntosh, 1988). Daily in my job, practicum, and classes I see other people who feel the same way I feel. We are looking for ways to help others. There is no room for any of the five faces of oppression in our world (Sisneros, 2008). As a group we will fight to bring equality to all people no matter what they look like, how they worship the color of their skin, or the amount of money they make. Working on this paper was very hard but important for me. By looking at my past I had to face the many mistakes I have made along the way.

But because I put those mistakes behind me I was now free to let go of them. I saw my childhood and could now be happy for the good and the bad because everything in my life has led me to become the person I am today. I felt old pain that had been hidden deep down in my heart and I cried but as I released the tears my heart grew stronger. I remembered the people who taught me through love and kindness that the world can be a good place. This brought me joy and feelings of gratefulness that warmed my soul. I felt anger for the little girl who I never stood up for. But the anger faded and I found peace with my brother because I realized that he learned to belittle me because he was a victim of bullying himself.

As with all oppressed people when put in a position of power you complete the cycle by oppressing and hurting others (Sisneros, 2008). This exercise made me look at myself; I was able to see myself clearly. By writing this paper I was able to confront many issues that I had let lay dormant and unresolved. I faced many things that may come up with future clients. Because I uncovered the problems I will be better able to help my clients who face similar issues. By working through my unresolved issues I will be ready to empathize with my clients without losing control or becoming lost in my own pain. Because I have had so many experiences that are considered to be dysfunctional I feel I will be better equipped to help the clients I will be serving.


Sisneros, J., Stakeman, C., Joyner, M., Schmitz, C. Critical multicultural social work. Chicago, ILL: Lyceum Books, 2008. New Mexico Highlands University e-reserves: SW485 – Human Diversity and Multicultural Theory (Fall 2011) – Santa-Maria, Sisneros Growing Up White in Albuquerque

So purely white
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

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