- We all have many individual identities (personality, hobbies, etc.) and group identities (race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religious/political affiliations). Please reflect on a part of your identity that you are seeing or feeling in a different light.
I believe I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but one of the reasons I chose to intern in Macomb County is because the demographic makeup is vastly different than Ann Arbor. Macomb County, which is where I was born, raised, and for 18 years (before moving into Oxford Housing my freshman year at U of M) called my only home, is filled with a lot of working class and lower-middle class citizens. Macomb County, as demonstrated via the 2016 election, is a relatively conservative county where education is not always considered a top priority. I was privileged enough to go to a high school where the norm is to go to a really good college after graduating, but this is not the case for everyone within the county. To summarize, the socio-economic makeup as well as the educational status of a lot of Macomb is significantly different from what I have grown accustomed to in Ann Arbor. As such, I thought that it would be super important for me to do my internship in Macomb. As someone who wants to work with the general public as a therapist, I thought it was pertinent to get out of the “Liberal Bubble” that can be Ann Arbor, and work with (quotation marks are being used here to show that I’m not quite being serious, and I’m overgeneralizing quite a bit) “The Normal Working Class American”.
With all of this background information, I can finally get to the actual prompt. An identity that I am constantly aware of at U of M is my socioeconomic status. I’ve become painfully aware that my parents don’t make as much as the “average” family whose kids attend Michigan. Oppositely, I don’t notice education level a whole lot while I’m at Michigan. Everyone around me is a college student, and the “adults” who are around me have received doctorates in their respective fields, and have had literal decades of schooling. Both of these identities of mine have kind of flipped on their heads throughout my internship. Instead of SES being one of my marginalized identities, within the communities that CARE serves, I’ve noticed that my parents are doing okay financially. They’ve always managed to provide me with good food, new clothes, and provide extra assistance (like giving me money to go to the movies when I was a good, or giving me money to buy things like Pizza House occasionally as a college student). While I may be significantly below the “norm” in Ann Arbor, this is not the case within the communities I am interacting with. Additionally, education status, something I have grown to ignore and not acknowledge in Ann Arbor, has become something I am painfully aware of. I’ve realized that education, despite me being the first person in my family to go to college, and despite me recognizing I’m privileged to be getting a good education, is not an identity of mine that I consider regularly. I forget that I’m super fortunate to go to such a good school. Working with people who never graduated high school, or working with kids who think of college as something unattainable, has made me look at education in a complete new light.
To conclude, I think of myself as someone who is constantly assessing their privilege and marginalization (yay for being a Women’s Studies major?). That being said, as weird and perhaps silly as this may sound, I think this experience has allowed me to recognize that the “Ann Arbor normal” isn’t necessarily (or remotely) the norm for the entire state of Michigan.