From my time at Ryerson University so far I have learned the meaning of social location and have reflected on mine as one of a young, lower-class, Canadian-born Chinese, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied female university student who lives in the large metropolitan Toronto. By reflecting on Clare (2003) and my social location, I have also reflected on my subject position that encompasses the privileges and oppressions I have experienced.
Clare (2003) explains how privileges are luxuries for many but to the privileged they are seen as “natural” human rights. I can see this perception how I experience my privileges. Even though I am from a lower-class family, I recognize that because I have the privilege of continuing to live with both of my parents who support me as my role models and caregivers. Hence, I received an university education paid by them, I have never lived a day hungry, never experienced a cut on the utilities because my household was unable to pay for the bills, and never in a precarious living situation as my parents were able to purchase a home and quickly pay off the mortgage. My privilege is also visible in how I often forget and even take for granted the support and sacrifices made by my parents for my physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and economic wellbeing. It is also visible in the fact that I can live comfortably in our heteronormative, cisnormative, ablest society relative to members of these minorities as I am able to fit into the normative categories accepted by dominant society. In addition, I hold privilege in my happy childhood as I grew up in a “sheltered” and predominantly Chinese neighbourhood with low crime rates and a view on structural inequalities as nearly nonexistent. Hence, I am privileged to have been ignorant to many severe social and political issues for most of my childhood and not even experienced fear from travelling home at night, even though this fear affects many women in our society.
As I did not recognize the structural inequalities induced by whiteness and white privilege that run our Canadian society. It is not until I moved to a predominantly white town that I first recognized my privilege growing up in a diverse city like Toronto when I first encountered racism when I was told to “go back to China” even though I am born and raised in Canada. Even though some people did not appreciate my presence in this town, some of my classmates loved it as I was “born smart” since I am an Asian so I will be able to help tutor some of my classmates. I viewed this as a compliment at the time but now this experience has helped me realized how deeply rooted racism is in Canada, the “peacekeeper” of the world. Now that I am a student at Ryerson University, I have gathered that my identity as an Asian, especially as an Asian female will put me at a disadvantage in my career opportunities. My desire to give birth to children in the future can also affect my career due to the current gender inequality issue in the public and private realms.
This critical reflection will inform my reflective process in this course and my anti-oppressive social work practice, my awareness of my own social location and subject position as well as their ability to contributes to my views/biases can influence my practice. Also, Clare (2003) states that we tend to be more conscious of the ways in which we are oppressed rather than the ways in which we are privileged. This informs my practice with an awareness of the importance of understanding both my privileges and oppressions in order to practice AOP more effectively. This understanding also helps me recognize how everyone’s experiences of privilege and oppression are unique and hold different senses of power and powerlessness. I need to take advantage of the power I hold, like I do in my privileges, in a way that benefits those who are experiencing a lack of power in a certain sense. At the same time, I need to recognize how people are empowered and how this may be able to be used to help them through their struggles. Finally, this reflection reminds me of how the process of learning and critical reflexivity are ongoing and need to constantly be utilized in order to prevent myself from losing sight of the role of social workers to work alongside service users for their benefit and self-determination.