Black girls, like everybody else, want esteem and authority. They are unprepared to do anything else, so they work as aides and I think they are ashamed of it. Couple that with their eagerness to tell the rest of the world how to behave, and you have a problem. My guess is that with most clients, a black aide flares a couple times and the client becomes silent and subservient. Not me. I do not back down when pushed into confrontation.
My friend who has Medicaid aides is currently working with a young woman who worked—albeit briefly—for me. She is black and she does not have attitude. She also cannot read, cannot write cursive, and doesn’t know how to double ¼. In other words, she cannot cook from a recipe or make up a grocery list. She does not own an alarm clock or a watch and, therefore, never showed up for work on time. This was a problem for me because I actually have a life and make time commitments with other people. My friend is still in thrall to the medical industry and is, therefore, sick all the time and always at home whenever the aide gets around to showing up.
I only see two ways out of this problem. The first is that aides absolutely need to be paid more. They are providing the most basic, necessary services; they are essential. Hamburgers at Burger King are not a necessity; cleaning the black mold out of my toilet is. Taking care of other people should not be a minimum wage job. If all the doctors and all the aides went on strike, who would you miss first and the most? How long has it been since the pay rate for Medicaid aides has been raised? PAY AIDES WHAT THE JOB IS WORTH!
Second, I would make it mandatory to link aides to education. Reconfigure aide work as the first step, not the last step. The medical industry provides a clear ladder from Certified Nurse’s Aide to Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner. Link aide work to education. Let the agency pay for the education on the condition that the employee will continue to work as an aide for a period of time. When employees can see that superior performance on a menial job is their way up to a better job, I would expect it to be reflected in a change of attitude.
Finally, I would ask for compassion for the clients. By and large, we are old white women. There comes a time in our lives when we should no longer be challenged to change to accommodate the culture of young black women with whom we have nothing in common. At this times in our lives—old, and too sick to take care of ourselves—we should be allowed to rest in the comfort of the known and familiar. Can you please get me an aide who looks like me?