Imagine a parent calling you to set up in-home ABA therapy services. What follows are several great phone and email conversations.
The day comes for you to meet the family, you show up, and immediately notice that split-second change. The "shock" in their eyes. Is it me? Am I not what they pictured, a white female? I feel it immediately, and it’s not something that goes away.
Let’s consider my hair. I’ve adjusted my client schedule to correspond with what I’ve determined to be my next hairstyle. More and more African Americans are embracing their natural/kinky textures. For decades, natural hair has/is seen as less professional, less attractive, and less beautiful. Unfortunately for some, natural hair can be a career liability. I’ve taken the “straight hair for the interview, natural hair once you’re in the door” approach. Now that I have a great job, steady income, I’m able to change my hair frequently (for generalization purposes, of course). This week it is bone-straight. Next week, it’s in an Afro-puff. But, “Afro puff days” are when I need to prepare for parent stares. There have been times where caregivers have treated me as less competent, less seriously than “Becky with the good hair.”
I wouldn’t want to waste calories delivering coaching and training that wasn’t “taken seriously” because of the prejudices of my clients’ families. What am I thinking? I want to point out the irony- I don’t judge your unkempt home, so why would my hair style have any impact on your judgement of my abilities to deliver quality, comprehensive, behaviorally-based, in-home supports?
Unfortunately, these thoughts come to my mind. Thankfully (am I thankful?), most of my families aren't blatantly racist, or at least put on a façade until I leave. It makes my direct work hours tolerable, and consistent. But can I, should I, turn a blind eye to the huge confederate flags on the front lawn, the “ALL LIVES MATTER” advertisements in the yard or the “Don't Tread on Me” bumper stickers? Before I walk through the threshold of a home, I’ve already been slapped with the family’s beliefs about who they think I am, how much they value my life. Where are the ethical codes to support and defend ME?
For a lot of my younger clients, I am the first person of color they ever interact with. When they say kids are color blind, it's true. The ones who notice are more so intrigued. I had a client ask me if my legs were made of Nutella... and at that moment I knew it was all worth it. At least for now.
“Nutella Legs", BCaBA, LABA,
Disclaimer: This is not a “Dear White People” post and this was not written in the font of “Angry Black Female” #staywoke