Until my pre-shift butterflies go away. Today will mark the end of my first week off of orientation. I still start every shift feeling like I want to vomit and proceed from there. By and large, things haven’t sucked and no one has died (*knocks on wood*), so I have that much going for me.
It’s hard going from never being responsible to being the person who has to make all sorts of shit happen, sometimes ASAP, because the well-being of another person is totally in your hands. And I haven’t even begun to get into coworker related BS.
I suppose what matters is that at the end of the day, I enjoy it enough to keep going back. All I can do is focus on one day at a time and move from there. But it’s hard, and scary, and I’m afraid just a little bit.
It’s hard too, because I’m not quite getting everything I need done all of the time. I get the big stuff like meds, vitals, and assessments. But there’s other charting (our system totally works against the nurses) that I know I’ve missed; this is to say nothing of accidentally charting an assessment under another person’s name.
Also I put a suppository in the wrong orifice yesterday and had to retrieve it and replace it. I know what you’re thinking, how could anyone miss? I can’t tell you exactly, other than my angle of approach made the patient’s anatomy slightly more ambiguous than one might expect. It’s still a profoundly dumb move, but this is the life of a new nurse.
[Note: This article appeared in the Baltimore Sun newspaper and was written by a Caucasian professor of journalism at the U of Texas. A followup piece can be found here. ]
Here’s what white privilege sounds like: I’m sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support. The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that being white has advantages in the United States. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege.
So, if we live in a world of white privilege – unearned white privilege - how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I asked. He paused for a moment and said, “That really doesn’t matter.” That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: The privilege to acknowledge that you have unearned privilege but to ignore what it means. That exchange led me to rethink the way I talk about race and racism with students. It drove home the importance of confronting the dirty secret that we white people carry around with us every day: in a world of white privilege, some of what we have is unearned. I think much of both the fear and anger that comes up around discussions of affirmative action has its roots in that secret. So these days, my goal is to talk open and honestly about white supremacy and white privilege.
White privilege, like any social phenomenon, is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves. There are general patterns, but such privilege plays out differently depending on context and other aspects of one’s identity (in my case, being male gives me other kinds of privilege). Rather than try to tell others how white privilege has played out in their lives, I talk about how it has affected me.
I am as white as white gets in this country. I am of northern European heritage and I was raised in North Dakota, one of the whitest states in the country. I grew up in a virtually all-white world surrounded by racism, both personal and institutional. Because I didn’t live near a reservation, I didn’t even have exposure to the state’s only numerically significant nonwhite population, American Indians.
I have struggled to resist that racist training and the racism of my culture. I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But no matter how much I “fix” myself, one thing never changes - I walk through the world with white privilege.
What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly, when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don’t look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating me look like me they are white. They see in me a reflection of themselves - and in a racist world, that is an advantage. I smile. I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I’m white.
My flaws also are more easily forgiven because I am white. Some complain that affirmative action has meant the university is saddled with mediocre minority professors. I have no doubt there are minority faculty who are mediocre, though I don’t know very many. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. once pointed out, if affirmative action policies were in place for the next hundred years, it’s possible that at the end of that time the university could have as many mediocre minority professors as it has mediocre white professors. That isn’t meant as an insult to anyone, but it’s a simple observation that white privilege has meant that scores of second-rate white professors have slid through the system because their flaws were overlooked out of solidarity based on race, as well as on gender, class and ideology.
Some people resist the assertions that the United States is still a bitterly racist society and that the racism has real effects on real people. But white folks have long cut other white folks a break. I know, because I am one of them. I am not a genius - as I like to say, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have been teaching full time for six years and I’ve published a reasonable amount of scholarship. Some of it is the unexceptional stuff one churns out to get tenure, and some of it, I would argue, is worth reading. I worked hard, and I like to think that I’m a fairly decent teacher. Every once in a while, I leave my office at the end of the day feeling like I really accomplished something. When I cash my pay check, I don’t feel guilty. But, all that said, I know I did not get where I am by merit alone. I benefited from among other things, white privilege. That doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve my job, or that if I weren’t white I would never have gotten the job. It means simply that all through my life, I have soaked up benefits for being white.
All my life I have been hired for jobs by white people. I was accepted for graduate school by white people. And I was hired for a teaching position by the predominantly white University of Texas, headed by a white president, in a college headed by a white dean and in a department with a white chairman that at the time had one nonwhite tenured professor. I have worked hard to get where I am, and I work hard to stay there. But to feel good about myself, and my work, I do not have to believe that “merit” as defined by white people in a white country, alone got me here. I can acknowledge that in addition to all that hard work, I got a significant boost from white privilege. At one time in my life, I would not have been able to say that, because I needed to believe that my success in life was due solely to my individual talent and effort. I saw myself as the heroic American, the rugged individualist. I was so deeply seduced by the culture’s mythology that I couldn’t see the fear that was binding me to those myths.
Like all white Americans, I was living with the fear that maybe I didn’t really deserve my success, that maybe luck and privilege had more to do with it than brains and hard work. I was afraid I wasn’t heroic or rugged, that I wasn’t special. I let go of some of that fear when I realized that, indeed, I wasn’t special, but that I was still me. What I do well, I still can take pride in, even when I know that the rules under which I work in are stacked to my benefit. Until we let go of the fiction that people have complete control over their fate - that we can will ourselves to be anything we choose - then we will live with that fear.
White privilege is not something I get to decide whether I want to keep. Every time I walk into a store at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege. There is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays out in our daily lives, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased from this society.
I think this is a good explanation for those who get riled up when I mention white privilege. Emphasis mine
“Other work shows that elementary school age children believe obese children are ugly, selfish, lazy, stupid, have few friends, lie and get teased, whereas average weight targets are considered clever, healthy, attractive, kind, happy, have more friends, and are a desirable playmate (31). Perhaps most commonly cited is research where school children have ranked obese children last among children with crutches, in a wheelchair, with an amputated hand, and with a facial disfigurement in terms of who they would most like for a friend (32).”—Puhl, R.M., & Brownell, K.D. (2003). Psychosocial origins of obesity stigma: toward changing a powerful and pervasive bias. Obesity Reviews, 4, 213-227.
and I hate it. Let me please just get this over with, so I can enjoy a modicum of summer. Of course, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s still summer if you work full-time. Seriously, how am I going to pass time when I no longer have school to bitch about.
In a haunted world of heroin and hurt and heartless hustles, located between a dusty brickyard and rusty railroad tracks along the border of Chicago and blue-collar Cicero, Steve Kamenicky is the go-to guy. Longtime addicts and novice users seek out Mr. Kamenicky, known as Pony Tail Steve, sometimes in the middle of the day, other times deep into the night. They go to him, usually in a panic, desperate for an injection for a fallen buddy or lover of what some call a miracle drug. They hurry over the paving bricks that Mr. Kamenicky neatly laid to lead the way to his tent, pitched among the tall weeds and trees in one of a string of small encampments of the homeless on the edge of the brickyard. Mr. Kamenicky, 52, is not a dealer. His own heroin addiction is much too strong. He shoots every $10 bag of heroin he can. But his fellow addicts consider Mr. Kamenicky a savior.
“I’ve saved more people than the paramedics,” he boasted the other evening as he sat in a Cicero parking lot, his long, salt-and-pepper ponytail snaking down his back. The drug he administers to fellow heroin users is called Naloxone or Narcan, its brand name. Mr. Kamenicky estimated that in the last few years he had brought back from the deadly depths of heroin overdose at least 35 addicts — in abandoned buildings, crack houses and around kitchen tables. Naloxone, which is injected, reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. A drug that was a few years ago given by doctors and paramedics, Naloxone is now directly dispensed to drug users like Mr. Kamenicky, who are trained by the Chicago Recovery Alliance and receive Naloxone through a doctor-supervised program. The effort is part of an up-from-the bottom movement in the struggle to rescue those addicted to heroin and other opiates.
“It saves lives,” said Dr. Virgilio Arenas, who leads the addiction division at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Naloxone is an effective antidote. It works within minutes once administered.” Mr. Kamenicky receives Naloxone free, as do drug users across the city, from the alliance, a nonprofit needle-exchange and H.I.V.-prevention program. The alliance also dispenses fresh syringes, condoms and other paraphernalia to users in the hope that they will stay alive long enough to make “any positive change,” the group’s mantra.
“You can insult us all you want about television ratings, Mr. O’Reilly, and you’ll be right that yours are bigger for now and maybe forever. You are the undisputed champion. But even if no one watches us at all, except for my mom and my girlfriend and people who forgot to turn off the TV after Keith, you are still wrong on what really matters and that would be the facts, your highness.”—
“When Laurie-Ellen Shumaker, 59, was laid off from her job as a lawyer for a shopping center in January of 2009, she assumed she would be hired again in no time. In addition to her impressive resume, which includes a degree from a top-tier law school and 23 years of legal experience, she has always been actively recruited for positions. But in the past year-and-a-half, Shumaker says she has applied to over a thousand jobs — everything from secretary to file clerk to daycare worker — and she has yet to be called for an interview.”—