Saturday, October 4, 2014

Joking About Low Social Worker Pay

While perusing the internet for social work news, I found an old video of a Vice President Joe Biden speech.  In this speech, where he addresses an Urban League conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Biden jokes that he wishes he had a “Republican kid to go out and make money.”  This is so he could get a "window view" when placed in a nursing home.  Biden then states, "But my daughter’s a social worker.. Graduate school at Penn and runs an at risk program — at risk youth program — for kids getting out of prison and young men getting out of prison.”

You can watch the video here: Joe Biden: I wish I had a ‘Republican kid to go out and make money’ 

When I first entered graduate school, my classmates and professors frequently joked about how we were entering a field where we would make no money.  In one lecture, my a professor joked that we ever wanted an Escalade and a house in a gated community, social work was the wrong field.  As years passed, I've lost count of the number of people who've joked that "I hope you marry someone rich" upon hearing what I do for a living.

It's not funny.  Really, it isn't.

It's a safe bet to say that many social workers cringe when they hear racial/cultural jokes or jokes about disabilities.  Why?  These jokes are mean, tasteless, and reinforce stereotypes about particular groups.  When people make jokes about social workers being poorly compensated, "do-gooder baby snatchers", it not only perpetuates falsehoods about our profession, but normalizes our poor wages, poor reputation, and stressful working conditions.  While I understand that social workers joke about their wages to relieve frustration over getting paid so little, such humor also seems to imply an acceptance that this is what it means to be a social worker.  Sorry, I became a social worker to help the poor and disenfranchised, not to become part of them.

So shame on you, Vice President Biden. Instead of focusing on the good your daughter is doing and advocating for the social work profession, you make a cheap joke about her wages as if it's okay.  Because the world would be such a better place if there were more Republican sons focused on making money...