Dean Neil B. Guterman on Confronting Hate With Social Work

Reflecting on the past week of bomb threats and horrifying shootings, and looking ahead to the elections, it seems that the deep values of our profession—compassion, commitment to those who are most marginalized and vulnerable, relentless pursuit of social justice, embracing diversity and dignity for others—are ever more essential to affirm. We shed tears for those who have been directly affected by the massacre of innocent congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue and the shooting at the Kroeger in Jeffersonville, Kentucky, and the many more victims of violence and hate whose names did not rise to prominence in recent media stories.

The tragic instance of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh reminds us that while the visible hate is by no means new, there are interconnections across the many forms of hate we are now experiencing. It has become clear, for example, that the violent assailant was spurred into action not only by his virulent anti-Semitism, but also by news stories about the caravan of Honduran migrants seeking safety in the U.S. and the advocacy actions of HIAS, a 130-year-old social welfare organization working on behalf of refugees fleeing persecution.

At stake here is not only targeting specific marginalized groups, but also targeting of our core values and practices as social workers—reaching out compassionately in service to and advocacy for those in great need, those who are striving for a better life or safer haven.

Now, more than ever, social work is a most challenging calling and profession that requires each of us to rise to the challenge. As social workers and as citizens, we must fight hatred with understanding, love, and kindness. We must fight violence with nonviolence and fight dehumanization through dignifying those around us. We join the NASW-NYC and NASW-NYS in a repudiation of hate, as well as many other leaders, organizations, and communities who have called for action and advocacy that advances positive change.

As a community here at Silver, it is important to provide each other with support and strength. The School’s Social Justice Praxis Committee and Student Affairs have arranged informal drop-in space and time for reflection and conversation in Room 112 at 1 Washington Square North on Wednesday, October 31, from 1:00-1:50 p.m. and Thursday, November 1, from 4:00-4:50 p.m. This is open to all members of the Silver community. There is also a Silver Peer Support group meeting for all students on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. in Room 404.

We are here to work with you to rise together and to more effectively serve and advocate for those most excluded and targeted. The times call for us to thoughtfully act with the power of compassion, with the knowledge that we are all interconnected and joined in our shared work in advancing more just treatment of one another.

Difficult times require us to commit ever more vigorously to the highest ideals of our profession. It is absolutely a prime time to do social work.