Last night one of my residents told me that she couldn't live with her roommate because her roommate is white and "smells different." I told her I would be happy to address any hygeine issues with her roommate (because I'm plenty experienced with that), and she said, "it's not that. It's not that I'm racist, because I'm not. It's just that white people smell different."
(Thank you. That would be my expensive 'eau de social work.')
I pointed out to her how that was a fairly racist sentiment, and challenged her by saying that sometimes we grow up with certain prejudices or ideas about others that it's healthy to grow out of as we learn more about the world.
(Please, God, help me not to point out how much she stinks.)
Then she said, "They smell like wet dog and spoiled milk."
(Then I said, "You are a brat. You should get over thinking that you are better than everyone else, and to do that, I'm going to move to you a suite of All White People until you smell just like them." To myself.)
I nearly ended it there by saying that I didn't think I should continue the conversation in the interest of maintaining a shred of professionalism. (I have that.) But the good Lord was with me, and so instead I asked if she realized what she had just said.
"Oh, but Ms. Karen, I don't think of you as a white person."
At this point, all I could do was stare at the hand in front of me, and wonder what color she thinks it is. So I beg the question: if you can't tell by looking, how do you know if you're white? Here's the evidence against me:
EXHIBIT A: Last week, one of the minors was describing where her neighbor lives. "It look like a white person house," she said. Everyone laughed, and all the heads in the room swiveled toward me.
EXHIBIT B: People are surprised when I tell them I'm from Africa. They say, "I didn't know white people came from Africa."
EXHIBIT C: As a teenager in Cameroon, men frequently asked me to make metisse babies with them.
In less snarky news, I have another resident who wears a t-shirt that says "Worldwide Pants Incorporated." Maybe when I'm too burnt out to social work, I'll get a job in Worldwide Pants.