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“You Signed Up for It…”

July 15, 2009

by Guest Columnist Stephanie Knight

Tonight at work there was a physical altercation between two men. Each of them easily a foot taller than me, yet it was my job to “redirect” as they like to call it in the social worker realm. What this means is, do my damnedest to get two grown men who are wielding chairs and fists to stop.

When my friend Jeff heard of it, his response was “You signed up for it”.

What I signed up for was to advocate, organize and agitate around social justice issues.

What I signed up for was to make change in the lives of people who are disenfranchised, marginalized, warehoused, and kicked to the curb – literally, sleeping in the curb.

The people I work with are mentally ill, chemically addicted, developmentally delayed, previously incarcerated, and resilient.

I work with people who have been abused, beat up and neglected.

I work with women who sell their vaginas because they’ve been molested so damn many times that they’d rather sell what they have of value than continuously have it taken from them. In order to get through this dehumanizing event repeatedly, they stay high.

Yes, I call them women – you probably call them crack whores.

I work with men who have been taught at age 10 that they have to “take care of their momma” because the man she’s getting high with is beating her up. How does a 10-year-old make money to cover the electric bill? Not legally. Nor does he have time to attend school. His “choices” were taken away from him a long time ago.

Yes, I call him a man, you call him a dope dealer or a pimp.

So, yes, I signed up for this.

What is the responsibility of the rest of you who didn’t sign up for this?

Sable Verity has been writing about NIMBY. “Not In My Back Yard” You know, don’t put that shelter, public housing, work release, recovery center, jail or half-way house in my backyard. So, if you’re so good that it shouldn’t be in your neighborhood, who – in your estimation – is unworthy enough to have it in THEIR backyard? Because it’s going somewhere. There are people who through no fault of their own have diminished chances of ever working, supporting themselves or leading a “normal” life.

Yes, there are others who are assholes, that’s not the topic of this….diatribe.

Yes, I signed up for this fight.

But you’re responsible as well.

You may choose to watch TV, or drink, or shop your ills away.

You may choose to ignore the homeless person, the mentally ill person, you may go to hire someone and find out they’re a felon and turn them away, you may see that prostitute and disparage her, but all these folks are still your responsibility.

You live with them.

“They” are part of our community just like “we” are part of the community.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. heather barr permalink
    July 16, 2009 12:30 am

    Thanks for writing this, Stephanie, and thanks for “signing up for it”. People forget that “those people” could easily be their sons, daughters, lovers, or themselves.

  2. July 18, 2009 11:19 am

    Well said, Stephanie. When I think of my Christianity I think of how Christ selflessly helped those that had backs turned on them. These are the lessons we are supposed to learn from. This is why I agree. These are people that need our help.


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