July 8, 2016
Over three days, three more communities (Baton Rouge, LA, Falcon Heights, MN and Dallas, TX) are forever changed all due to ever more consistent brutal attacks against Black and Latino Americans. These are just the most recent affected communities sadly occurring without pause over the course of 72 hours. We can recall national media attention to previous communities (unfortunately not all inclusive) regarding tragedies endured in Waller County, TX (Sandra Bland), Baltimore, MD (Freddie Gray), Cleveland, OH (Tamir Rice), Ferguson, MO (Michael Brown), and Staten Island (Eric Garner). Equally disturbing, we are remiss in not acknowledging the numbers of Latinos whom have been killed at the hands of police brutality. Just in the past week alone, we have not seen coverage of five other horribly lost lives - Vinson Ramos, Melissa Ventura, Anthony Nuñez, Pedro Villanueva and Raul Saavedra-Vargas have all died unnecessarily in various parts of our country. We distinguish the most recent loss of the life among five well-meaning community members and peacekeeping law enforcement officers by acknowledging the underlying causes that resulted in their tragic demise – hopelessness and helplessness based on blatant racism and oppression translated to extreme, horrific and visceral rage. Exercising such rage will never be an acceptable solution and we will never condone such acts, yet the reasons for the rage are indeed based on real experiences of racism directed at a sub-group of our society. Our most meaningful thoughts and prayers are with the all of these victims of racism and their loved ones.
The Silver School of Social Work stands staunchly with those who deplore senseless acts of hate and violence. In keeping with our professional ethics, we are committed to working toward the realization of social justice and safety for all people. Our concern and condolences about the unjustified killing of black people by police officers must turn to action. We are committed to acceptance, tolerance, patience and care for all members of our society; which requires we stand up and advocate for those persecuted. We call you to a place of sincere awareness. We are social workers and as such, our identities; the history of our profession; the social problems we seek to eradicate; and the groups of people we protect and advocate for, require our leadership. This is who we are and we must walk boldly on this path. The last few days of tragic turmoil have been most disturbing, yet unfortunately, these events are no longer surprising, if one could say honestly, they ever were. Racism and bigotry have always been supported, even championed in our culture, under the guise of thought freedom. In fact, racism is deeply embedded in how we are honestly characterized as a society. This is a disturbing truth, but a truth nonetheless. One would like to believe we have made profound strides towards equity and acceptance of all humans, but we haven't. We remain skeptical of the ‘other,’ particularly the others who live in skin with more pigmentation and melanin. It is not at all unreasonable to believe that many people conjure up an opinion about others merely based on outer appearances. Scores of humans who function alike under the skin live their lives being immediately judged by the cloaks of color they can’t take off for reprieve. We have accepted this, we ignore this and we pretend it doesn’t impact our opinions, mental health, wellbeing or behaviors. We have justified the continuation of structural racism by touting examples of exceptionalism (e.g. our President and a few other prominent or popular brown and black people we consider to be acceptable outliers.)
We challenge our social work community to embrace discomfort and exercise actionable advocacy. We must stand in our discomfort if we are to truly realize any growth. Our practice work requires that we challenge people to work through their pain and fear. Hence, our school community needs to exercise like-minded tactics collectively where it concerns injustices against groups of people based on the color of their skin. Our challenge and call is to jointly debunk this dangerous mindset we've been conditioned to accept and expose any semblance of racism everywhere, every day and against every 'other.' This is crucial right now and particularly given the history of the treatment of black and brown people in our country for distinct, yet similar reasons. Indeed, all lives matter however, our call and message is lost in championing that statement rather than highlighting the most salient and egregious attacks on black and brown lives that have been quietly accepted as ok. It is not ok, and our society needs to be reminded and or taught the worth of black and brown lives. Unarmed black people are killed at five times the rate of unarmed white people in 2015. This is a problem of profound and deliberate racism against black and brown people, men in particular, which makes it solidly an American problem, because all Americans must honor the lives and experiences of black and brown people.
Three days ago, a black man was shot to death by a white police officer that pinned him down on the ground with his knees. Two days ago, a young woman deferred to a white police officer with a gun trained on the inside of her car, having just shot her fiancé while her toddler watched and consoled her. She respectfully referred to the officer as sir, trying to explain that her partner was following the officer’s directions to present identification, all while watching her partner bleeding profusely, and ultimately taking his last breath of life. Yesterday, an enraged, misguided and disturbed young black man, army trained to shoot and given second amendment rights access to such killing weapons assassinated five police officers because of what happened in the previous two days. It’s ok to be uncomfortable; we are stagnant and shameful without such provoked growth and change.
There is no place for such acts of violence and hatred against any human in our society. Ghandi said, "A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people" and "the greatness of humanity is not being human, but in being humane." We urge all to pause and consider EVERY THOUGHT from a place of love and acceptance as fellow humans.
We will diligently work towards continuing this conversation in order to create awareness and incite change.
Dean and Professor
James I. Martin
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director, MSW Program
Professor and Associate Dean for Research
Assistant Dean, Student and Alumni Affairs
Chief of Staff
Linda Lausell Bryant
Clinical Assistant Professor; Director of the Undergraduate Field Learning Program; Katherine and Howard Aibel Visiting Professor and Executive-in-Residence
Deputy Director, McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research
Director, Office of Global and Lifelong Learning
Assistant Professor; McSilver Faculty Fellow
Clinical Professor; Coordinator, Westchester Branch Campus; Director, Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Program Administrator/Administrative Aide II
S. Lala Straussner
Professor of Social Work and Global Public Health; Director, PhD Program; Pilot and Mentoring Core Director, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR, NYU College of Nursing); and Co-Director/Founder, Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health
Assistant to the Dean
Professor; McSilver Faculty Fellow; Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health Faculty Fellow
Assistant Dean, Enrollment Services
Professor and Director, McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research
Adjunct Associate Professor
Admissions Recruitment Specialist
Associate Professor; Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health Faculty Fellow; McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research Faculty Fellow
Todd M. Thomas
Supervisor, Admissions Operations
Professor of Social Work and Global Public Health; McSilver Faculty Fellow; Professor of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine
Senior Faculty Fellow; McSilver Faculty Fellow