864. I am into numbers. I am the American dream. Born in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York, in one of the greatest countries in the world where a handshake on someone’s word use to mean something. Not so much anymore. I am educated, ivy all over with several advanced degrees, ethics being one, interested and passionately invested in making life better for all in biomedical/social research and practice, internationally and in my home country as well. Not interested in talks about disruption or diversity or resilience in the ways some folks speak about them partly because I’ve seen the terms largely overused for politically expediency, sound bites and photo ops and the illusion of caring and concern. I am interested in the real. Since, I can’t be sure what exactly that means for me or for anyone else I tune out ambiguous definitions.
I work with populations of disenfranchised, mistreated, marginalized and lied to persons, some like myself, who imagine the dream is real for them or for their children only to be despised and at turns condemned for loving who they want, knowing what they know, being who they are and sporting the favor of their dark skin with pride. I am union. Collective bargaining runs through my veins, the lifeblood of my family the root that made my choices possible. I love my family and few friends and thank God they love me because people in high places with jealous eyes and a hard on about my talent and self assuredness decided to cure my “uppity” by reneging on a salary letter and pay me what they THOUGHT I should have. I too have felt the sting of broken promises in public health, had my salary slashed nearly 36% or $27k per year for the past 3 years by administrators playing games and who are inherently insenstitve and socially unjust.
I am a social worker, often overlooked because by the uninformed the MSW does not hold the same esteem as an ESQ or an MD when it should. Perhaps even more. For we work across the broad spectrum of humanity and the lifespan even as we understand it is thankless work and a misunderstood profession. I like my work. It is a calling, much like a religious one, unexplainable and every bit as compelling.
I work for the Department of Health in a department for first time low income mothers, some newly arrived immigrants, some young and black surprisingly strong and somewhat aware that the care they receive during this brief period may just be all the help they will see in their lifetime. I take 8 trains a day, 4 going and 4 coming, walk 2 blocks, past mentally ill persons on the street shouting at imaginary friends or enemies, drooling and peeing, past the McDonalds with numerous police officers propped up against walls waiting on school to let out loud teens who are pulled aside and frisked without the consent of parents and under the wary gaze of onlookers, past the scene where in one week there were 2 slashings, a kicked teen and a group of rowdy teens feeling frisky.
I cry when I think of their psychic pain caused by all social interactions, as much as I cry for my own battles within my work environment that uses catchy phrases about alleviating racism and social injustice but struggles with its own short comings. I have watched my co-workers particularly Blacks and latinos mostly female, heads of houses, fellow civil servants that have gone through the correct process of city wide testing, rise and fall before others who have not and who look down on them, forced into taking positions just to be able to eat and barley keep a roof over their heads. I have heard the private discussions, participated in some, witnessed the frustration of overt situations with racial overtones, and seen the cues in persons experiencing a lost of dignity just like the populations that I serve. Yes, I too know the sting of broken promises in public health both personally and professionally.
I take 8 trains a day, pay $31 weekly for transportation, work 70 hours every 2 weeks, 1 hour a day for lunch. 864? The net 2 week pay for my civil service and my excoriation.