Captain Save-a-Ho: Social Work is No Ally to Marginalized People

The toxicity of the social work culture is ridiculous. The bottom line is difference is not tolerated in social work. So why do we trust these people to work with the most marginalized and vulnerable in society? We shouldn’t.

Before you go off on me in the comments, yes I know there are “good” social workers so save me the “not all social workers” bullshit. I’m not negating that there are “nice” people who do social work. What I’m saying is that intention isn’t enough. Especially when those intentions are deeply entrenched in racist, misogynistic and whorephobic rhetoric about how marginalized folks need to be saved by skinny blonde cis white women with designer jeans and mommy and daddy to pay their way through an MSW. You bitches will never be equipped to help people on the margins. Ever. So shove that degree right back up ur ass.

My first social work job, I was fired after I was outed by a trusted coworker as being an addict in recovery. Forget that the majority of our clients use drugs and/or struggle with addiction cause deep down we really believe our clients are lowly pieces of shit, so we could never tolerate a social worker who mirrored our clients struggles. Eye roll. Last year, I was fired from my job as an advocate to trafficking victims after a coworker again outed me as being a sex worker.

The bottom line is people with marginalized identities- sex workers, Trans folx, people of color will never be fully given a seat at the table, even in a practice that touts “social justice” as their aim. I have heard other social workers refer to clients using racial epithets or laugh at their suffering. Social workers feel they are okay working with clients because there is an established power hierarchy: The client will NEVER be able to exert agency in the inherently exploitative savior/victim dichotomy. This is the problem when one persons’ role is as the “expert.”

Peer based models exist wherein people who use drugs are empowered to effect change in their own communities, sex workers are empowered to effect change in their own communities and so on. Make no mistake, these are the models that traditional social work needs to aspire to. Not merely because a peer has a unique knowledge set that someone outside a given community does not but simply because when peers help peers, there is no hierarchy. As long as this hierarchy exists between two people, it will never be a relationship of two completely equal human beings and maltreatment and abuse of power will continue to proliferate.

The practice of social work is inherently racist, sexist, transphobic and heteronormative. The proof is in the pudding. Difference is not tolerated. Having come from the communities we work with is looked down upon as being a deficit that we as social workers need to make up for by becoming more educated, more refined, more bourgeois, more white. Social work does not value social justice, it values social hierarchy. As long as people who are not from community are given the power to make decisions for and about us, there will be no justice.