Update from NASW-NYC on Social Justice Advocacy
NASW-NYC seeks to address on an ongoing basis the realities and intersection of poverty, diversity, multiculturalism, and oppression in New York City. Over the past few months NASW-NYC has been confronting institutional racism by inviting and promoting discussion of specific local and national events, including the debate in New York City around the police tactic of “stop-and-frisk” and the death in Florida of Trayvon Martin, a teenager whose killing was ostensibly justified under that state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
In this section you will find three important social justice statements released by NASW-NYC in Summer 2013 with regard to these issues and events. We are pleased to be able to add, parenthetically, that on August 12, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk practice is unconstitutional and that it had violated the rights of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
We welcome responses from our members on any and all of these issues and we look forward to engaging you in further discussions.
*Institutional racism is defined as “the social, economic, educational, and political forces or policies that operate to foster discriminatory outcomes or give preferences to members of one group over others.” Institutional Racism and the Social Work Profession: A Call to Action, p. 4.
NASW-NYC Statement on Stop and Frisk
NASW-NYC stands in opposition to the policy of Stop and Frisk. As the profession that carries within its vision and charge a mandate for social justice, equity, and equality, we support continued organizing, advocacy, and political action to end what is inherently a racist policy.
NASW-NYC represents over 9,000 social workers citywide. Social workers wrestle with the impact of Stop and Frisk on a daily basis and see the consequences on the entire family and community.
Our profession is as diverse as this nation and represents its promise, hope, and future. Social workers interact with society’s marginalized, neglected and oppressed, engaging in a fierce battle to help them reclaim their inherent dignity and to challenge the systems that rob community members of their value, agency, and human rights. It is out of this experience that NASW-NYC and the members of the social work profession equate social work with social justice.
There are seven reasons that social workers should oppose Stop and Frisk:
- Stop & Frisk is discriminatory and racist. 90% of persons stopped are Black or Latino, even though 89% of those stopped (nearly 4 million between 2002-2012) are totally innocent. The vast majority of those stopped are also young and of limited means. Even in neighborhoods that are predominantly white, New Yorkers of color face the disproportionate brunt of Stop and Frisk. For example, Black and Latino New Yorkers make up 24% of the population of Park Slope, Brooklyn, but 79% of stops. This is the definition of discriminatory.
- Stop and Frisk targets economically challenged communities and communities of color, where distrust of the police and other authority figures is already high. Stop and Frisk has exacerbated this and has seriously damaged the public image of the NYPD and the relationship between the police force and the communities it purports to serve. This corrosion of trust between police and communities actually makes everyone LESS safe.
- Stop and Frisk violates the civil rights of those stopped. Those who’ve been stopped (which includes a significant number of honor students, athletes, collegians, and young professionals) state that they found the experience intrusive, violating, humiliating, and disempowering.
- Even if Stop and Frisk were effective in keeping people safer, it would be morally wrong, however, research shows that it is NOT effective. Since 2002, only 11% of stops have resulted in arrests, and the vast majority of these were for possession of small amounts of marijuana and other very minor, non-violent offenses.
- Stop and Frisk does NOT “get guns off the streets”. Guns are found in less than .2 percent of stops.
- The policy is wasteful and fiscally irresponsible. The resources being used for Stop and Frisk, with its poor outcomes, would be much better spent on programs and services to address the multiple challenges faced by higher crime communities, which in turn would REDUCE the crime rate.
- NASW-NYC supports equality, dignity, communication, and understanding among all peoples. We endorse the rights of individuals to pursue their goals freely without fear of being harassed and humiliated by those who are supposed to protect them. We believe that all people should be treated equally and fairly, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, social class, age, sexual orientation, disability, or physical appearance. For these reasons, we oppose and call for an end to the policy of Stop and Frisk in New York City.
Commitment to Racial Equity
The New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC) recognizes that racism exists in society. Beyond individual prejudice, racism is both historic and structural in nature.
We recognize that racism affects communities served by human services organizations. This includes the inequitable distribution of resources that are the result of economic and politically determined policies in our society. Racism has a wide ranging impact on the lives of people, including individuals, families, and organizations, and affects relationships within, among, and across diverse groups.
Given the disproportionally high number of people of color served by social workers and human service organizations, it is especially important to understand how racism affects communities being served by providers. It is also essential to acknowledge and understand that staff and governance bodies within human services organizations are affected and influenced by racism in society.
NASW-NYC further recognizes that, fundamentally, racism reflects a complex set of factors that are usually not acknowledged or addressed within the broader social work or human services provider community and that education and training are essential in order to understand how it is occurring, as well as to take steps to remedy it, where possible.
To this end, NASW-NYC has an educational role to play, with its members as well as with the social work and human services community in general, starting with educating its own Board and staff. Social work and human service leaders and providers are able to improve their services when they understand the impact of racism and learn ways to change their systems to promote equity and support the healing and strength of the people we serve.
NASW-NYC also has a significant role to play in addressing racism though advocacy and collaborations with other organizations whose central purpose is to address the needs of all communities.
Passed unanimously by the NASW-NYC Board of Directors at its June 19, 2013 meeting.
Statement of NASW-NYC Upon the Verdict in the Trayvon Martin Murder Trial
NASW-NYC joins with hundreds of thousands of Americans who have expressed outrage and grief in the wake of George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict on July 13, 2013. NASW-NYC represents thousands of professional social workers throughout the five boroughs working in public and non-profit organizations and in private practice.
The senseless killing of Trayvon Martin is spurring a significant national dialogue about structural racism. It is an issue that deeply affects us as social workers and the clients and communities with whom we work. Our Chapter seeks to make clear the following points:
We mourn for the family of Trayvon Martin, who has suffered an unfathomable loss.
We recognize that this is not an isolated incident, but a manifestation of the structural racism embedded in the systems and institutions we encounter in our work.
Every day, our professionals and our clients confront the painful realities of structural racism in interactions across all systems, including public education, health and mental health care, criminal justice, child welfare, employment and unemployment, and elder care.
Structural racism, more than individual acts of hatred and bigotry, destroys the collective humanity of all Americans. It engenders fear and stifles potential—furthermore, it harms the mental health of our nation. It causes ongoing trauma in communities of color and is damaging to the white community.
Social workers are uniquely positioned to take organized, collective action to undo structural racism through community building, facilitation of meaningful cross-racial dialogues, advocating for changes to discriminatory laws, and encouraging our clients to empower themselves in order to lead or join all of these efforts.
We stand in solidarity with the communities we serve in order to create a future of equity, justice, and hope, as our professional values and ethics demand.
We welcome letters and comments.
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