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Statement on George Floyd, Institutional Racism, and an Invitation to Discuss

Thursday, June 4, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rachel Rhodes
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Statement on George Floyd, Institutional Racism, and an Invitation to Discuss
The National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter serves the entire Commonwealth, with members in both urban and rural areas. While the work we do varies by the needs of these communities, we are guided by one Code of Ethics, which calls for us to serve our communities, promote social justice, value the dignity and worth of the person, and respect the importance of human relationships.As our country confronts what Reverend Jim Wallis has called “America’s Original Sin” of racism, we must be especially mindful of these ethics when serving our communities. We must serve in a competent manner with the utmost integrity, and fight for justice and equality.
Two years ago, we at the Pennsylvania Chapter mourned the passing of Antwon Rose, an African American teenager shot and killed while running from the police in the Pittsburgh area. We expressed our sorrow, and outrage, at the loss. The community marched, and the Chapter endorsed commonsense approaches to community organizing and police reforms. The question now arises: has anything changed? Recent events suggest the answer is “no.”
These past two weeks have been difficult for our country, with two crises dovetailing in our collective consciousness: COVID 19 -- which in itself is impacted by systemic racism and the resulting health disparities -- and the mass protests in response to the deaths of AhmaudArbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Media reports state that Mr. Arbery was the victim of a modern day lynching in Georgia; Ms. Taylor was shot and killed by the police in her own bed because of a clerical error made by the Louisville (KY) police; and, more recently, the death of George Floyd. This last death would likely have gone unnoticed by the nation had it not been captured on a camera phone, which depicted a Minneapolis (MN) police officer putting his knee to the throat of Mr. Floyd for over eight minutes, resulting, per a private autopsy, in his death by asphyxiation.
These incidents are not isolated. People of color in this country are faced with the brutal fear and devastating reality that they might lose lives because they are “living while black.” The collective trauma grips the entire community, spanning all walks of life. Neither social class nor professional achievement protect against police brutality.
After centuries of systemic oppression, the pressures of living in a constant state of fear have now reached a collective breaking point, resulting in a collective demand for change. The indiscriminate deployment of weapons against people of color has shocked the consciousness, and inspired people from all walks of life to come together and say, in unison: ENOUGH.
Despite the health risks, large groups from across the racial and social divide have gathered together and have said, collectively, George Floyd should not have died, period; and we are willing to risk our own lives in order to save others from his brutal fate. In keeping with our Code of Ethics, we march, figuratively, virtually and literally, in support of the protest’s goals: to end a culture where police brutality is accepted as a normal part of the status quo.
Police officers around the country have knelt with protesters, stating their commitment to solidarity.This is progress,and at this juncture, a start,but we are far from real change. We must work together to advocate for change starting with:
  • Social workers embedded in the police department
  • Implicit bias training in the academyevery year.
  • The elimination of a policy of racial profiling;
  • A unilateral disavowal of the use of deadly force;
  • The expansion of police training to include and EMPHASIZE the importance of de-escalation techniques; and
  • The creation of a functional community review board.
This list is just the beginning.
We at the NASW-PA want to hear your voices, and have scheduled a social work conversation on racism to address these concerns this Saturday, June 6, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. We look forward to creating a dialogue and setting the stage for purposeful action to propose social justice for all.







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