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Race Journal - a summer of service

swati's picture

tw: domestic violence

i spent 10 weeks of my summer living in batten house, doing a program with 9 other students + my own internship. it often felt like a co-op - we were all students of color doing some kind of service-based internship. a lot of us were either international students or people who didn't come from the US. i interned at a domestic violence organization in bryn mawr that did hotline counselling and court advocacy work. the former required me to actively overcome my anxiety of talking to strangers on the phone and gather everything i had learned about emergency hotline counselling. the latter required me to forget my personal barriers and actively engage to survivors of domestic abuse. 

i've thought a lot about the power dynamics that NGOs produce and reproduce. all my supervisors were older and visibly upper-class white women. my time at the bryn mawr office didn't involve much interpersonal contact, but those who came in to the norristown office were predominately Black and Latinx. i thought about the superiority complexes that are reinforced through this work; at the level of running an NGO, there should be more done to uplift the voices of others. in brainstorming concrete ways in which that can be done, the one that stuck out to me was - hire more women of color! train more women of color to be counsellors! especially when you know/can predict the demographic in a target area, that should be a no-brainer. this doesn't just become a question of representation, but rather how we "teach" or "help" people who have undergone situations we haven't and therefore have a limited understanding of. 


Sunshine's picture

It's almost comical how hard people make things like this, but you're so right. I think people are just too stuck in "but this white lady is super qualified too!" But it's like, that's not the point!