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NASW-NYC Joins Our Nation in Mourning the Collective Loss of Lives and Calls for Solidarity
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July 18, 2016

 

Candida Brooks-Harrison, President

Robert Schachter, Executive Director

NASW-NYC Executive Committee

NASW-NYC Coalition on Race, Diversity & Intersectionality (CRDI)

 
NASW-NYC Joins Our Nation in Mourning

the Collective Loss of Lives

and Calls for Solidarity

 

The National Association of Social Workers - NYC Chapter offers our deepest condolences and joins our Nation in mourning the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas police officers: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson.

 

These senseless deaths are part of a larger societal context that is both historical and current, steeped in the insidious nature of institutionalized racism and oppression.

 

Our Nation and our world are at a precipice where we have an opportunity to move toward unity or dive deeper into divisiveness, tension and more violence. If we dare, we can begin to honestly and openly engage in difficult conversations that can lead to positive change and outcomes for all.

 

It is often easier to dichotomize situations into being all good or all bad, villains or good guys, for or against. When we do this, we acquiesce to the perspective that positions must be in total opposition and mutually exclusive. This leaves us no room to grow together.

 

Escalating events and rhetoric that criminalize and demonize segments of our population require us to call upon social workers to clearly take a stance to create bridges to collectively heal and take actions to eradicate structural racism.

 

Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

 

NASW-NYC joins in solidarity with national movements, which aim to hold systems accountable to ALL people.

 

The #BlackLivesMatter movement does not negate that all lives matter; to the contrary, it makes those lives that are invisible visible. Our Nation bares witness to why so many have to shout, "Black lives matter!"...never to forget or to allow for invisibility to continue.

 

Consistent with our priority on race equity and social justice, NASW-NYC calls on the profession to pause, listen and reflect on the national cry. We know that all lives matter. However, as social workers we need to awaken to a very harsh reality. In our nation across structures, systems, policies and institutions, black lives have not mattered and we need to do the necessary work to ensure that they do.

 

Solidarity with Police

 

NASW-NYC joins in mourning the deaths of the Dallas police officers that dedicated their lives to protect and serve. These officers, ironically, died while protecting and engaging with peaceful protesters.

 

While some may find it difficult to support both the police and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we need to see past the divide and into our humanity that experiences the very real loss of lives through violence.

 

We also acknowledge the complexity of navigating intersections of identities for officers who are also persons of color. We hold space for the truth that oppression targets lives differently and as long as systemic racism exists, we all lose.

 

National Trauma

 

The impact of systemic racism and oppression is a national problem and the root causes of disparities within our systems. In addition to the associated higher mortality rates for people of color, racism is a public health issue linked to collective, historical and vicarious trauma. We understand the trauma of racism as persistent, multisystemic assaults on the minds and bodies of groups of people in our society.

 

Most recently, with the repeated loss of lives, in the most horrific manner, significant segments of our society are experiencing trauma reactions. The manifestations are both psychological and physical symptoms that range from numbness, anxiety, fear, anger and lack of focus to headaches, sleep disturbances, muscle tension and pain, as well as flare-ups of chronic conditions such as asthma, hypertension and stomach distress.

 

Immediately following these deaths, so many of us found it difficult to return and assume our lives as usual. NASW-NYC responded to requests to support and help organize forums where participants spoke openly and honestly. Several hundred people, across race, diversities and intersecting identities attended two meetings. Voices were lent toward understanding the complexity of our current reality at the individual, community and societal levels. We are currently organizing with Fordham Graduate School of Social Services to host another opportunity for us to come together (more information will be forthcoming).

 

Gun Control

 

Interrelated with the violence associated with systemic racism and oppression, hate and fear, our Nation has a significant problem with guns and gun violence. NASW-NYC continues to rally behind ending gun violence. We assert that as social workers we have a responsibility to support effective and enforceable legislation reform. (See NASW's statement on ending gun violence: https://www.socialworkers.org/pressroom/2000/042100.asp

 

Call to Action

 

NASW-NYC calls on social workers to think, communicate and build together outside of the box and beyond the divisions that keep us separate. We are encouraging social workers to help bridge the divide by joining alongside all communities, in particular those we may not have in the past. This requires us to be open, honest and reflective as we take the risk to have the difficult conversations that lead to collective action. It requires us to resist the defensive impulses to deny, change the narrative or explain away what has become undeniable. Racism and oppression are real. Racism and oppression separate us. Racism and oppression strip away our humanity. Racism and oppression dehumanizes and demonizes. Racism causes us to become ill. Racism kills.

 

Postscript

 

As this document was finalized, there has been another fatal shooting incident unfolding in Baton Rouge, LA. Our Nation has lost three police officers, three are wounded and the suspect that carried out this attack is dead. Our hearts go out to the families, to our communities and to our Nation.
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