Dr. Danielle Wozniak

Dear Students,

When the jury delivered the Chauvin verdict, like many of you, the relief I felt could be summed up in two words: “Finally, justice.” We celebrate that, in this instance, we were able to rely on the jury, the prosecution and the judge to do their jobs and bring about justice for a man who could no longer claim it for himself. Pausing in this moment with relief and gratitude by no means diminishes the hundreds of men and women of color who have not received justice, whose names and stories we do not know, and whose families will forever endure their loss without public acknowledgement.

Unlike those who have issued statements saying this verdict is a step forward, I believe this verdict only prepares us to take forward steps. As a nation and a profession, we have made great strides to uproot inequity in our society, but there is so much more we need to do to build that road as we walk it.

Step: It starts with us as social workers doing our work

What I mean by doing our work, among many other things, is to personally recognize, understand, and change our own racial biases in favor of inclusion and acceptance. We do this through reflexive listening and shared dialogue. Our work also means that we shine light on the injustices routinized in our policies, laws, practices, and historical narratives; it means that we pay attention to those things we are trained to see and those things we are conditioned to miss. We must work to change the narratives about who we are and what we care about and rebuild cultural lifeways that fail to privilege justice and equity. Our work is both easily said and diabolically difficult to achieve. And yet we take a step as social workers because this is fundamental to who we are and to our profession.

Last summer we held community dialogues on racism that led faculty and doctoral students to form the Anti-Racism Committee. The ARC continues to host the community dialogues that led to its formation. If you are looking for a way to get involved, a way to take another step, there are regularly scheduled Zoom links, times, and dates in this newsletter, with two of them coming up in the next few days. We will offer ARC trainings in the fall. Eric Grossman, Director of Field, is forming an ARC for MSW students. Contact him. Help form the committee. Guide its work. I invite you to join and learn from these experiences and bring your insights and perspectives into your classes, into your study groups, into your friendships, and into your field placements.

Step: From the inward to the outward

If we’re not at the table, we don’t get to speak, which is why we need to support policies and programs determined to create change. Nationally, Rep. Karen Bass (Los Angeles) has introduced H.R. 1280 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, currently in the Senate for debate.

Here is her web page and information about her initiatives. Speak out and act to support these initiatives so that you can shape the debate and be part of what gets decided.

On a state level, here are the legislators talking about police reform: add your voices to theirs. On a city level, this article details council debates and resolutions and lets you know which council members are talking about police reform: throw your voices into their mix. Finally, the Citizens Crime Commission is doing bold work on police reform. Learn what they are doing and bring that knowledge back to Wurzweiler to guide and teach us.

Honoré de Balzac, the French novelist, reminds us in his usual incisive way that “it is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action.” We are not a profession that sits on the sidelines. We are a community of activists guided by a code of ethics that obligates us to work for social justice on behalf of the vulnerable, the marginalized, the disenfranchised. The heart of our work is to call out inequity and create change. We are social justice warriors.

Now, in this moment, we must overcome the difficult and take action. Without hesitation. And all together.

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