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Race in Senior Living

hsymonds's picture

This summer, my family temporarily moved my grandfather into a senior living facility. While visiting him, I noticed that most of the staff, especially the CNAs and Med Techs, were black, while most of the residents (including my grandfather) were white. The overwhelming racial difference between those who served and those who were served made me uncomfortable in the way that it evoked the relationships between blacks and whites that have existed throughout the history of this country, from slavery to sharecropping to "the help" to our current prison system and even other services besides senior care. I (as a white person) was especially uncomfortable whenever I had to call or tell my grandfather to call for someone to come help him. I tried to examine my discomfort, to figure out why I was uncomfortable or if I even should be uncomfortable. After all, everyone who worked there had chosen to work there, and in calling for help, I was not asking them to perform anything outside of their duties. I believe part of the reason I was uncomfortable was that I did not know why there was such a difference in the races of the staff and the residents. Of course the staff had all chosen to work there, but why were the majority of them black? Why were the majority of residents white? Also, the staff members who were white usually seemed to have positions of higher rank. I'm honestly not sure where I'm going with this; I suppose my conclusion from my observations is that the staff and resident demographics at this particular senior living facility exemplify the inequality of opportunity that results from institutional racism, but that seems really meaningless and impersonal. So perhaps this is nothing more than an example of one of the times that I was made aware of my white privilege and didn't know what to do with it. I'd like to think I learned something from it, but I couldn't say what.


Sunshine's picture

This is very interesting and complex! There are so many questions like this that I have all the time. Thank you for sharing!