Interviewee: S.M. (Solita) Chase
IWY TX 106
Interviewer: Joan Hoff Wilson
Date: November 18-21, 2018
S.M. (Solita) Chase, 29, lived in Houston, Texas and worked for Comprehensive Social Services on case management for the Aid for Dependent Children program. She was a student at Texas Southern University working on a social worker degree. She worked with outreach and counseling capacities for a number of years for Neighborhoods Centers Daycare. Chase, an African-American woman, was pleased to see more black women at the conference than she expected. She attended the conference as part of a school assignment. Interview includes discussion of Chase’s career and her family life, her perspectives on the women’s movement and abortion rights, and how she did not identify as a feminist but supported equal rights.
Joan Hoff Wilson: Segment of tape two ended with me indicating to the women that what they seem to be talking if anything about going on from this conference which was organized around women’s rights into generally then a block movement into human rights which would include all the so called controversial issues but not attempt to rank them in any order so that women would not become fragment or remain as fragment as perhaps they came to this conference over individual issues rather that they would go back and fight on a broad spectrum for human rights that included all these controversial issues and both of them seemed to be in agreement with that particularly position as far as they were concern when going back to New Haven.
S.M. Chase: My name is S.M. Chase and I’m with Comprehensive Social Services and I do case management to AFDC families, that’s Aid for Dependent Children.
JW: Operating out of where?
SMC: Houston. I’m here in Houston.
JW: Houston. Okay.
SMC: I’m here at this conference due to a class assignment. I’m now attending Texas Southern University and I’m trying to get a degree in social work to be a professional social worker, and this was a class assignment for introduction to social welfare, and overall I think it’s a darn good conference. I see a lot of, a lot more blacks females than I had really anticipated seeing. So I think it’s going overall pretty well.
JW: What’s the assignment specifically for the class that you do?
SMC: There’s no specific assignment. We were just supposed to come over and pick up some information and when we go back to class on Tuesday we’ll have a panel discussion on it. You know, “how do you think the conference turned out. Do you think it’s beneficially. What you think will come out of it, if anything?” And if anything happens (unintelligible at 2:12). They were saying the Klu Klux Klan or somebody was supposed to be here. So we’re out here trying to see what’s going on.
JW: Oh yeah. So tell me a little more about yourself in terms of your background because what we’re trying to do on this tapes is find out not only why specifically people are here but what kind of background you come out of and… for example, what got you into school. Things like that. Give me a kind of brief history of yourself. Where are you from originally?
SMC: Why I got into school? I’m from Houston originally. I have one brother and four sisters.
JW: Where are you in that order of children?
SMC: I am next to the oldest.
SMC: Second to the oldest.
JW: And is the first a boy or girl?
JW: You’re the second girl then.
SMC: Yeah, second girl. And I graduated from Cashmere High which is a school here in Houston and I went to John (unintelligible at 3:09). John (unintelligible at 3:11). I was stationed in Charleston, West Virginia. I came back from there and came back to Houston and completed High school and I started working for, I guess you could call them social service agencies.
I started out on council of human relations doing volunteer work and then I moved from there to Hester House which is also a neighborhood social service organization and I worker there, I started out volunteer, and I worked there about a year, and then I started working with Neighborhoods Centers Daycare and they are contracted with the State Department to provide social services for certain geographical areas, and I’ve been there for about eight years. When I started there, I started out as outreach and I sort of climbed the ladder all the way up to councilor.
JW: And you did this all with practical experience.
JW: Before you really went to school to learn to do this.
JW: To learn to do this.
SMC: Yeah. So I’m school…
JW: Learning to do what you know how to do.
SMC: Because it’s the only way to maintain my status because it’s getting to the point where they want you to have the degree. So I have the eight years of experience and two years of college is not enough at this point. So, I’m here now trying to get the required degree. And after thinking about it, I was thinking that maybe I could form my own social service agency for the aging because that’s where my priorities are right now. I think that we have quite a few services but not enough direct services for the aging.
JW: And are you working directly with blacks or with mixed groups?
SMC: Mixed. Because I have a case load with blacks and whites and Chicanos. It’s a mixed case load.
(Unintelligible conversation in the background 4:56-5:13)
JW: You’re here primarily then because of the class. What do you think generally of the women’s movement as you understand it or what do you think about it period. Would you have come without this class assignment?
SMC: Yeah, I would have because I’m a firm believer that you should be able to do anything that you want to do but the fact that you do should be because it’s what you want to do and not because there are a set of rules A B C D saying because you’re in a male or female category. So I firmly go along with this. I think it you decide you don’t want to have a baby, you ought not have one. And if you decide you want to get out there in the railroad and work the tracks like a man you should be able to do that. If this is what you feel you want to do within yourself.
JW: And if you had more trouble would you say, as you look back on your career, and, and now that you’re being in school, what’s been the major problem? The race problem? Or the sex problem? Or a combination so that it’s hard to separate out. If you had to think about it in terms of difficulties facing you as you tried to achieve your own career. Has it been as a woman or as a black or as both black and female? How do you think about discrimination and how it’s affected you? Whatever form it’s in.
SMC: Well, as far as discrimination in this social work field I don’t feel it’s being hit directly on a race situation or male or female, but I think it’s the attitude that people have toward social services. Because a lot of people feel like well anybody can do social services. And if you’re helping anybody that’s all social services so you don’t really need training. We’re not looked up on as professional people. That’s the problem that I can see.
JW: That’s the problem you feel.
SMC: But as far as race. To me I think the guys are the ones really facing the discrimination because there are not that many male social workers. And you just think automatically stereotype think it should be a woman when it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that.
JW: So you’re in a woman dominated field. Where…
SMC: That’s the way I feel. But I think it’s getting much better now. I think it’s getting much better now. But that’s the only problem I can really see. And then being properly qualified because I do plan to get a, I really want a PhD in this, which I doubt I’ll ever get, but I want it anyway.
JW: What about the rest of your family. Did your older family go to school?
SMC: No. They didn’t do to well.
JW: Are you the exception in the family in terms of schooling and stuff?
SMC: I’m the exceptional one. My brother didn’t finish school. … I have one sister that finished school. That’s my baby sister. She finished high school. She’s working now with HISD. Nobody else finished high school and nobody else is going to college.
JW: How do you account for you then.
SMC: Well, I had… Well, in the seventh grade I met this lady. She was my health instructor. Her name is B.B. Adwell. All along through my, whatever you want to call it, she’s been right there. ‘Cause like days I wouldn’t go to school she’d come to my house and say “Hey girl, I like to see you there.” And when I didn’t have lunch money, she’d give me lunch money. She’d give me clothing and she helped me get into the job corp. Even now at twenty-nine, she still supports me. So I think if it had not been for her, I just consider her my fairy godmother. And if it had not been for her today I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.
JW: So the support really came from outside the family?
SMC: It did. It definitely came from outside the family because they had not motivation.
JW: Well what about then your relationships with your family? Are both your parents still alive?
SMC: My fathers deceased and my mother’s still alive.
JW: And with your brothers and sisters now, how do they react to what you’re doing? Are you the oddball?
SMC: Well I am the oddball. And they do consider me Ms. Whitey, whatever you want to call that. I don’t know what being white is supposed to mean.
JW: In that context.
SMC: They have a status for whites and they have one for blacks. So when you don’t act like blacks act then they say you want be white, but all I want to do is to be me. If you share your culture and you share mine then, hey, we’re all here together. That’s how I look at it. There’s no certain thing that belongs to you because you’re white and no certain thing that belongs to me. If you want to eat pork bones and chitlins then that’s a food. You eat it. That doesn’t make you black, that doesn’t make me white. It’s food. That’s how I look at it.
JW: But are they drawing the line on the fact that you’re succeeding in a white world or just succeeding period. Is that…
SMC: I think they’re drawing the line because I don’t do things the way they do. Like I like FM music.
JW: (Laughs) Okay.
SMC: They like to pop-pop-pop sometime. But not all the time I don’t like that. And when I go to the movies I don’t want to go to the corner neighborhood theater. I want to go to the dinner theater where I can relax, or I want to go out to (unintelligible at 10:10) you know, where things are just a little bit better, more kept up as far as maintenance is concerned and service too. So they say that’s wanting to be white.
JW: Well, you’re moving out of the original social economic structures.
SMC: Yeah. That’s what I say. You really shouldn’t want to stay in that. If you were born in that there’s no sense in staying in that and dying in there. You should always want to do better this is what you should do. I think the key thing is whatever really makes you function and happy as an individual.
JW: Then you should go for that.
SMC: Right. If that’s really what you want to do.
JW: What does you mother say? If anything about this?
SMC: Mother doesn’t say very much. She doesn’t say very much. She really doesn’t have that much input. She never had that much input in our lives. I think that she just kind of strung along and did whatever was necessary to keep the family going. So I do not fault here. I’m feeling that she did the best of her ability, and I’m trying to prepare myself so that when my children come along that I can do more for them and give them more direction as a parent.
JW: And she wasn’t able just because of the circumstance probably.
SMC: Yeah. I think so.
JW: In terms then of your friends. Where do they now come from? Are they coming more from your profession? Or are you they coming from where you grew up? Or are you making new ones as you…
SMC: I’m making new ones and they’re coming more from like at school and like outside activities. And most of the friends that I have are older people. I seem to click in more with older people than I do with my own age.
JW: Older blacks? Older whites? Or both?
SMC: Any of them. I just get along better. It seems that, well I’m thirty, and everyone says that I act like I’m maybe about forty. You know, my mind is like three years ahead of me.
JW: Are you married or have you ever been married?
SMC: No. I’ve never been married.
JW: Is that anything that concerns you?
SMC: No, it doesn’t really concern me. It’s just the hang up I’ve had. I’ve had responsibilities since I was eight or nine years old.
JW: With your family, yeah.
SMC: So it kind of makes you, well, kind of hard to get along with and to function on your own. So the guy that I married he’s going to have to be able to do a hell of a lot better than I can do. And I’m not going to be one of those ee, ee, ee, wives as I call it. “Yes, honey, no, honey.” You know that kind of thing. I’m sort of, what do you call it, not overbearing, but dominant.
JW: Dominating. Okay.
SMC: Yes. Very much so.
JW: And you recognize it.
SMC: Yes. I know that. That is a problem I have that problem now with dating.
JW: It’s a problem for who?
SMC: It’s a problem for me because when these factors start coming out they affect my relationship with these guys. There are some that will go along with that and some that don’t because of this whole bag this “I wear the pants” that kind of sh… you know. Well I don’t go along with that. We don’t have roles. We do things together. That’s how I look at it. If you get home before I do and the dishes need washing, you wash those things. Don’t worry about me about who’s supposed to wash them. If the oil needs changing and I could do that, I would do that.
JW: So how common is that in the black community. Are you in the exception there? Is that’s what’s causing whatever social problem you may be having from this attitude. Or is it fairly common among black women if they’d survived as you have. You know on your own.
SMC: I don’t think that… I don’t know because it depends upon how you look at it, how it affects you. Because some women, some blacks I know, it seems they don’t want to keep their own image. They give it away so soon. If they meet this guy and this is the way he wants her to act that’s the way she’ll act. And if it means she has to change then she’ll do that. But as for me I would rather just be myself and try to find someone that’s going to accept me like I am and if not then, hey, it ain’t nothing wrong with here six months and there six months and go right on because I feel like what’s done is done and I’m not going to have the social status that I would like to have anyway because of from whence I came. And that’s how I feel about that. And what I mean by that is…
JW: It’s just impossible for you to figure it out?
SMC: It is at this point. I feel that its because, it’s like being in the big house, you know.
JW: On the hill.
SMC: Yeah. You see, you got to start out of that right. You can’t have any spots, any blemishes, anything. You got to be lily white from the time you start that to the time you want out. And once that there’s a spot or two, you can’t change that.
JW: So you figure even with the degree there’ll be limits on how far you come?
SMC: Oh yeah. There’ll be…
JW: Now are you attributing that to race or to the society in general as its structure. What would attribute that to?
SMC: I’m attributing it to the society.
JW: Yeah. Let me shut this off a minute.
SMC: You know, in a certain way they have stipulations, rules and guidelines. If you act this way this puts you in category A. If you act this way it puts you in category B, and if you don’t meet any of those you’re just considered an outcast. So even if I became a millionaire tomorrow or got a PhD or got whatever, what it all comes boiled down to is that I’d still be that reject from society.
JW: And why?
SMC: Because I never met the…
JW: The right people at the right time?
SMC: The categories before I got to where I am now. Like being married at a certain age. You know, being a virgin until you’re married. Never getting involved with this kind of thing or this or that, like that.
JW: But do you think the society is changing? Maybe not changing rapidly enough for you. But changing so that a woman like you, let’s say, in the next ten or twenty years make it as far as she wanted to make it given everything you’ve just said now?
SMC: Yeah, I think you’re going to be able to make it. And I think that. … I don’t think that society will have changing as much as they are, well I guess accepting would be a change, but that they are accepting and permitting than they did not once upon a time. But some people’s mind is still, they still going to be looking at you like, “Okay race is a very good…”
JW: Yeah, easy thing to look at.
SMC: Yeah. Okay. There are young people who never think about black or white and you go on. But you got these people who are ninety-nine or sixty-five years old, and he’s up in this big office with all this power and in his sixty year old mind he still has the same frame of mind about races. Therefore things are changing but it’s not…
JW: Yeah. It’s going to take a while.
SMC: It’s really going to take a while.
JW: Do you consider yourself a feminist in any sense? Any way you want to define that term? You know, you’re saying some very strong things about yourself and how you’re living. And you are fighting some of the cultural trends not only for blacks but for white women as well. Do you go around saying “I’m a feminist”?
SMC: No, I sure don’t.
JW: Okay. Do you ever think you’re a feminist? Now that I’ve asked you, what do you think?
JW: The term is sort of a dirty word some places.
SMC: No. I really don’t. I really don’t. …
JW: How would you describe yourself then?
SMC: Well, most of the time I just consider myself, right now, as being a very lost person.
JW: A very what?
JW: A very lost person.
SMC: Very lost person. I’m really just searching.
JW: For a group, a place? Or a …
SMC: No. I know what direction I want to go but I’m having such a hard time trying to stay within that frame and get myself started on that track. It’s like, the things I really want to do, I really can’t do that. The way I like to be I can’t be that because I’ve come to far.
SMC: Because I didn’t do the things that I was talking about before.
JW: The marriage, the children, okay.
SMC: Right. Right. All this in line. So that couldn’t be. So now, I can find another (unintelligible at 18:15).
JW: Okay. So why, let’s say, you get the degree and you continue with profession, why at that point couldn’t you pick up with this other stuff, assuming that you met the guy that would accept you as you are. Why couldn’t you maybe begin at this point to do what maybe your friend did in their late teens and early twenties. Why couldn’t you pick up on that life cycle at that point?
SMC: I don’t know if I can do that. I may mean to do it…
JW: Or is it that you don’t want to do it? I mean, you know, I’m not, whatever. I don’t …
SMC: I don’t know. I don’t know if I could do that or not. Maybe I could. I never really thought about it like that. I’m thinking that each, to me, cycles are things that have to be done in sequence then they lose their significance and they lose their educational value that you’re supposed to do. It’s like building foundations.
JW: Crawl before you walk?
SMC: Right. So I skipped how many. Too many of them. So even if I went back and did, they would not bring me to where I want to be. These things that you have to do in sequence have to prepare you to get off into the certain category that you want to be in. But if you never get through those sequences and you go past them then you already passed where you’re actually supposed to be. (Laughs)
JW: Now some people are arguing and, I’m not saying it’s a true theory, is that you can go back if you miss something and pick it up.
SMC: Okay, what I’m saying is, it’s like this. Say you’re a whore, a prostitute.
JW: Right. Okay.
SMC: Now I don’t care if you stop prostituting on the streets and you decide “Well I’m going to go to church everyday and I’m going to go to school and I’m going to clean up my life.” Well there’s still going to be somebody back there, I don’t care what you do, you still going to be remembered as that prostitute. That’s like a blemish on your steps.
JW: It’s something that you can never get rid of.
SMC: I can’t get rid of that. That’s just done.
JW: Okay, I see what you’re saying.
SMC: And if you didn’t come up from the house on the big hill, and you didn’t get married at, not the right time, but your range, and you’re not working at the right job and your families not this and all that affects you. No matter what I become now all that’s still there.
JW: Do you think that affects you more as a black than it would me as a white? Given what I just told you about my background. Because I don’t feel those same limitations. That of age, in terms of age you can’t have kids after a certain age. So some things you do miss if you don’t have them at the right time. But I don’t feel the overall limitation even though my career like your has not been a normal traditional thing.
SMC: What I’m saying is you still may be able to. It’s how you feel about yourself. I still may be able to do all of those things back there that I wanted to do. But I wouldn’t… I know what I have done and I know what my past is and I know that it wouldn’t be as clear or clean as I’d want it to be. So it would be a mental, you know…
JW: Block on your part.
SMC: On my part.
JW: Okay. I see what you’re saying. So what about then the woman’s movement, however you perceive that, or how you’re perceiving some of the things going on at the conference. Is there anyway that that is going to what, give you support? Help you?
SMC: Help me in which way?
JW: Or ever give you a sense of… you’re saying you’re looking for a group. Or looking for something.
SMC: Oh yeah. No. Not really.
JW: Not really.
SMC: I don’t think it really would because I go along with some of these issues but not all of them.
JW: How do you perceive as what you see as the issues that are being raised here?
SMC: Because I still feel like there’s nothing wrong with choosing the kind of job you want, the number of children you want if you want.
JW: So on the abortion issue, you’re what?
SMC: I’m for that because I feel you should be able to choose because in the kind of work I’m doing I run up on a lot of families who people who just do not want their children, and the children become battered and misused and then they have to be taken away from the family when all of that could have been avoided in the first place if the person did not want the child.
JW: What are some of the other issues that you agree with or don’t agree with as far as this movement or this conference is concerned?
SMC: Well, the jobs. I think that you should be able to choose your job. And I think the salary should be the same if you can do the work. As far as sex is concerned, I feel that’s your body and whatever you want to do with it is your business as long as you aren’t trying to infringe your rights on anybody else. If I want to go with a woman then that’s my business as long as you’re not hurting anybody else I don’t see anything wrong with that.
JW: So you’re going along with all the major resolutions.
SMC: Yeah. That’s how I feel about it. As long as you don’t try to impose your rights upon anybody else.
JW: As long as it’s a choice.
SMC: Right. You choose what you need to do.
JW: Well, where do you deviate or disagree with the major questions that the movement has raised and that the conference is discussing?
SMC: Well, I still think that the man should have a place in your life. I still feel like…
JW: Well, that would be part of this choice wouldn’t it? To allow them.
SMC: Yeah. There has to be choice. I still agree that he should be there if you want him to be there and that he should not be blotted out and because you do these thing, you know, chose your job, have your children when you want to, that you still should be able to have a man in your life. He still should be able to understand some of those things. I don’t understand why it should cause a conflict where you have to resort to…
JW: So you’re saying, at least in your mind, that the movement is saying that there maybe shouldn’t be a man in your life.
SMC: That’s the impression that I get.
SMC: That they’re saying that you’re not really needed and that we can just go on.
JW: Okay. So if you’re thinking anything is sort of negative about the movement that’s it maybe. This whole thing of where men fit into it.
SMC: Yeah. ‘Cause I think that they get the wrong impression because they think that we want to be men. We don’t want to be men.
SMC: We just want a few equal rights.
JW: And to be able to do as you’ve done and what you think is right for you and still have a man around if that’s in the cards.
SMC: Right. That’s your choice.
SMC: I think that men are still are needed and we still love them and they still have their place and they’ll still be around whether we’re working on the same job side as them. We’re still trying to do it together and it’s for us. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think it’s the ego trip on the man. That’s what I think.
SMC: I think that people should think that people should listening closely to this movement and get all the details, and not just get the tail end of it and keep going. And the tail end of it is that women are trying to be men which it’s really not the fact at hand. And I think they should take a serious look at it. And then we, as a part of this movement, should place more emphasis on this. That we’re not trying to vanish, abolish the man. That’s we’re not trying to take his place. That we’re trying to find a better way to work together as two and make a whole success.
JW: And you’re think that the movement is somewhat misleading in terms of giving that impression.
SMC: Yeah. Because when you said the movement I told my old man, that’s what I call him, I told him I was going down there. “Oh you’re going down there with all those lesbians.” I said, “Baby, there not all lesbians down there now. You know that isn’t. I said now wait. I’m going there. You calling me a lesbian?” (Laughs) He said, “No, I’m not.” Well, this is a thing you have to watch, you see.
JW: Yeah, yeah.
SMC: That’s not true. I said that they got some folks down there (unintelligible at 25:44) and some (unintelligible at 25:46) too but you don’t know that because they’ve never approached you. I said, so every woman who’s there is not going to be there looking for another woman and she’s not going to be trying to change her sex patterns…
JW: When you go back you can tell him also what your experiences are. That should help some.
SMC: Yeah. I’m going to let him read some of this stuff too. (Laughs) Well, it was nice…
JW: Thank you…
End of Interview