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News & Press: Updates for Members

Social Workers Cannot Be Silent: Statement & Call to Action Against Racism & Race-Based Violence

Monday, June 1, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
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To our members and fellow social workers,


We chose social work instead of another helping profession because of our professional value of social justice. Racial justice should be at the heart of social work practice. Racism is America's defining social problem. By not acknowledging and addressing this, social workers are ignoring their ethical obligation. Now is the time to let our voices be heard, we cannot sit idly by as acts of racism, hatred, violence, and murder are repeatedly targeted toward black and brown people in our society. Silence is not an option and expressions of outrage and dismay are not enough.


We should not be shocked to learn of the brutal murder of George Floyd, a black man who was suffocated to death by the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis one week ago. We should not be shocked that Breonna Taylor, a black woman in Kentucky, was shot to death by police in her own home in March. We should not be shocked that Ahmaud Arbery, a black man out for a jog in a predominantly white neighborhood in Georgia, was hunted down like an animal by two white men and shot to death in February while their friend and co-conspirator videotaped the incident. 


We should not be shocked because racism is so deeply ingrained in our country's systems, policies, people, and within our own profession. We must also acknowledge that these incidents are just the ones picked up by the news media. Acts of racism, violence, oppression, and discrimination against non-white individuals happen every minute in every part of our nation. We must use this realization to not just talk about these recent atrocities, but take action. 


Because the United States is rooted in a culture of white supremacy, this means that through systemic exploitation and oppression of non-white people, our society often reinforces and prioritizes the wealth, power, and privilege of white people. This system is supported and perpetuated through culture, beliefs, ideas, policies, laws, and institutions that make these unearned and unfair advantages appear rational and ethical. 


We must acknowledge that the social work profession is over 70% white. This means that not only do we as a profession function in a system of white supremacy, we also, largely and collectively, benefit from white privilege.


What should social workers be doing to combat institutional racism and white supremacy?


First, individual social workers have the responsibility to recognize that structural racism plays out in their personal and professional lives. Then we must use that awareness to eradicate its influence in all aspects of social work practice, inclusive of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Silence and inaction is not an option


We all have hidden and implicit biases that, without intention or conscious thought, affect our understanding, actions, and decisions. Through education, determination, and practice we can all become more aware of what our personal biases are and work to counteract the ones that reinforce white supremacy or cause undue harm to non-white people.  


As social workers, we must commit to becoming educated and advocate for Racial Justice. Racial Justice is the creation and proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or the community in which they live. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."


At NASW-NC, we are committed to advocating for policies and legislation that advance racial justice. We are committed to creating educational opportunities for social workers related to race and racism. We are committed to learning, growing, and leaning in, even when it is hard or uncomfortable.


The NASW-NC Equity and Inclusion Workgroup scheduled conversation about "Racial Disparities in COVID-19" on June 2 is now dedicated to acknowledging the tragic death of George Floyd and the continuing national unrest, discussing racism and social workers' response, hearing from social workers and outlining next steps. This conversation is full at 100 people but we WILL make intentional efforts to include your voice with more opportunities to come together. We want everyone to be heard.


Members and not yet members, we welcome your voice now and always. Please email Valerie Arendt your thoughts on how NASW-NC should take the lead, resources and ways you would like to contribute to this critical effort.


In social work solidarity,


The Staff and Board of Directors of NASW-NC


*Photo by NASW-NC member Chris Budnick, May 30, 2020 Protest in Raleigh


For social workers committed to joining us in this fight, the following resources can help:


Resources and Trainings:


Taking Action:

Becoming Educated:

Thank you to NASW Massachusetts for their words and resources.

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