As social workers, we have a duty to stand up against oppression of any kind and today we are inviting you to view oppression and inequalities through the lens of race. It’s important for us to understand how heavily this weighs on black people including co-workers and service users from diverse ethnic minority groups. I didn’t personally know George Floyd or the many that come before and after him but understanding that someone has been brutally murdered in broad daylight by those who pledged to protect lives is a lot to deal with. I have at times felt overwhelmed to process everything that has been happening in the past few months especially given we are in a global pandemic.
I am not black but I have been listening, researching, sharing, protesting and voicing loudly that I do not agree with what is going on. This has meant that I have had to consider my own privilege and have uncomfortable and difficult conversations with co-workers and family members. Sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process and there is no one size fit solution or intervention to cure racism. In times like this, it is important to be mindful of loving black people as much as you love black culture or loving Indian neighbours as much as you love a curry on a Friday night. It simply isn’t good enough to say I have good intentions or I am not racist. We need to put in time, energy and care into educating our self to be anti-racist every day.
Be reflective of the power we hold as practising social workers and the way in which we practice. What we have seen is the last couple of months is covert racism but it is also important to recognise areas of overt racism i.e. “where are you really from are; Oh you sound white, you’re so articulate“. These remarks send a clear message about what the majority think about people from diverse backgrounds, what they are meant to look like and sound like. This is everyday racism. We have to recognise the sheer impact of such microaggressions, they are MACRO. Start from the view that we might never understand what it is like to be a minority. Consider how you would feel to be randomly stopped and searched or to be randomly selected to be searched at the airport – is it random if it happens to you every single time? To feel like you need to filter before you speak so you do not come across as hostile?
I urge everyone to view racism as a system that we are all born into. It may manifest in hate, privilege, inequality, ignorance so on. It is not a broken system but rather the system was built this way and dismantling the systematic racism starts with individual actions against racism leading to structural changes. We need to make sure we do anti-racist actions daily to prevent us from drowning in it. Make a lifelong commitment to be actively anti-racist every day, to go beyond tolerating differences – to be more culturally competent in our practices and play your role in creating inclusive safe environments for our service users and co-workers.
So let’s practice reflectively to find a common ground – to see things from the eyes of a person who is feeling oppressed. My reality and experiences are very different from the service users and co-workers I work with but I try to embrace their difference. So let’s avoid grouping people and experiences based on the pigmentation of their skin. I recognise that as a British Asian I might have more in common with a white heterosexual British female than a person who identifies themselves as Iranian male. So when a service user from the diverse group comes to the services use active listening skills and compassion to listen to our service user’s needs and start from a place of no assumptions, whilst being aware of our unconscious bias. More than anything lets prevent emotional desensitization towards individuals suffering. So let’s practice kindness and compassion to ourselves and the many we across in our lifetime.