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Take a Stand Against the Structures that Perpetuate and Tolerate Killings of Black Americans

"We must move past indecision to action...If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Social Work Community,

In the past few days, as we listened the news we felt appalled at the at the knee-choke-hold that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, while the nation was still reeling from the brazen murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the killings of Breonna Taylor and Sean Reed.  And all of this in the midst of the racial disparities of the COVID pandemic, in which Black and Latino Americans are killed disproportionately due to effects of underlying social inequality in income, in nutrition and in health care. 

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, Sidney Arrington, MSW student, raised concerns clearly, painfully and with an acknowledgement that our social work community can and should do more. Her courageous efforts inspired students, faculty and staff. We apologize to Sidney that it was she and not us who spoke first.

We admire the collective spirit of our community that compels and validates the importance of action, leadership and solutions. We are grateful for the supportive responses and the calls for action.

We are working diligently on the School's call to action. These include: 

  • a town hall in the memory of George Floyd, scheduled for Tuesday, June 2 at 5 PM.
  • a message from the Associate Dean and MSW Program Director to faculty about the importance of discussing and addressing in class the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other acts of racial violence. 
  • a workshop for faculty and field instructors is being developed with Continuing Education.
  • a group of faculty teaching this summer have already begun to discuss these events with their classes.

Yes, we have been an academically remote program for several months. However, offering classes  remotely is not a justification for emotional insensitivity or a lack of action. Not now. Not ever. Our School, the University of Michigan School of Social Work, must take a strong stance protesting these unjust deaths.

We encourage our community — students, staff, alumni and faculty — to provide suggestions for  actions we should take now and in the future. We call on the leadership group of students, faculty and staff to construct a clear and visible strategy to be responsive and sensitive. We will work to activate every member of our community to take a stand against the structures that perpetuate and tolerate killings of Black Americans. And Asian Americans.  And Latinx Americans.

This is our work as social workers. Students, thank you for calling us to action.

In Solidarity,

Lynn Videka, Dean
Tim Colenback, Assistant Dean for Student Services
Larry M. Gant, Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program
Lorraine M. Gutiérrez, Associate Dean for Educational Programs

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