Photo Courtesy of Kate Wells & Michigan Radio
Dear Social Work Colleagues,
Racial discrimination and inequality remain ongoing and pervasive aspects of our society brought again vividly to light by the recent grand jury decision not to indict in Eric Garner’s death. In combination with the National Association of Social Workers and the schools of social work across the country, many of whom have issued statements following the recent refusal to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner in New York, we need to draw together as a school and a profession on an agenda that can lead to the fundamental changes necessary to address racism in the U.S.
In the weeks after the shooting death in Ferguson, one of my colleagues teaching in St. Louis wrote, “People have asked if they can help. My advice is to look at yourself and your community. There are so many communities like Ferguson and so many places where something similar can happen. Also, work with your legislators. Our governor is forming a Ferguson Commission to make suggestions for change. No real change will happen unless our Legislature is involved.”
How can we make change? We need to start with ourselves.
As one example, we can engage more specifically with our criminal justice system, towards the goals listed by NASW.
Along with others in the social work community, we must remain committed to addressing and remedying the pain and trauma caused by these events and by the myriad of other, less publicized events, now and in the future. We must also work towards the fundamental changes that will attack the racial inequities that stunt our society. I hope that we may come together as a community to address these tasks that we face in the weeks, months, and years to come. We must also put this commitment into both words and actions, drawing strength and inspiration from what we can each contribute.
Dean and Katherine Reebel Collegiate Professor of Social Work
University of Michigan
Thanks to Assistant Dean Tim Colenback, Assistant Professor Desmond Patton and Associate Dean Mike Spencer for collaborating with this statement.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106