Following is an op ed and statement I have written as President of GWSCSW.
I imagine that you are as outraged as I am and likely even more, if you are black or brown. To see another black man stolen from his family by a police officer breaks my heart. It makes me sad and it makes me angry. As social workers, we have been educated in the history of systemic racism in our country. We hear about it from our clients. If we are black or brown, we experience it ourselves. Seeing it play out before our eyes is tragic. And this is not an isolated incident. There have been so many tragedies, for so many years. It is time to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Thousands and thousands of people have taken to the streets, day after day to non-violently, and loudly, and angrily protest George Floyd’s death and previous deaths of black and brown men and women at the hands of police: demanding a 1st degree murder charge; demanding the arrest and charge of the other three officers; demanding the eradication of systemic racism. There must be reform and change in our law enforcement so men and women of color can feel that police protect them rather than kill them. An initial victory has been won with an increase of the charge against one officer and the arrest and charges against the three other officers of “aiding and abetting murder”. This is one small step.
We long for leadership at the national level to ask for calm, to show empathy, to call for unity and reform, to respond to the voices of the protesters who call for relief from injustice – who want to be treated equally under the law. In recent days we have heard from Barak Obama, John Lewis, Jim Clyburn, three former Presidents and many others, condemning this police brutality and advocating for change. Some are saying that we are reaching a “tipping point” where change may happen, where systemic racism is challenged by the majority and no longer condoned, tolerated or ignored. The voices of the protesters are being heard around the world. So many people of all colors marching together in this cause gives me hope.
As clinical social workers, we have a role to play. We can support and provide empathy for our clients who are struggling with these issues. We can support each other. We can march in protest. We can support organizations which are working for change. We can advocate to our elected representatives. We can work to elect politicians who we believe will make better decisions and who have a stronger moral compass than some currently in office. We can vote.
The Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work stands with the protesters. We support reform of law enforcement; legislation to enact strong penalties for police brutality and protection for minority communities. We support the right of Americans to peacefully assemble to bring their grievances to the government. We support the Americans of color who cry out for equal treatment under the law. We support the police who are trying to make a positive change within their ranks. We support legislators and leaders who are working to implement change in our institutions to better protect our brothers and sisters. We encourage all Americans to "have an uncomfortable conversation" about it. This will take time, but the time to start is now.
Mary Moore, LCSW-C