Commemorating Black History Month and Welcoming Social Work Month: A Black Social Worker’s Perspective on the January 6 Insurrection By Tangela Francis, LCSW, MSW
Like most Americans I was shocked watching the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol unfold on television January 6. Like most people of color, I shook my head, confirming silently to myself that “if they were black, they would have been shot.”
There was a sense of confusion and disgust; it all made no sense and perfect sense at the same time. The events bubbled to the surface the imbalance of justice and perception of what a threat looks like. At a Black Lives Matter March, peaceful protesters were gassed for photo opportunities, and lines of the police “protection” were aggressively established. In January 2021, though, there was little of that reaction, especially initially, and seven people ultimately lost their lives! In its omnificence the insurrection highlighted what some Black Americans have said for so long: There are two Americas--one that cultivates and condones hate and violence, another that expects the hate to be ingested with no push-back and zero repercussions. In essence, as racial justice advocates have generally said, “This is why we kneel, why we march, and why we burn it down.” Black Americans have existed in a divided space for the entirety of U.S. history. Some people recognize it, while others have done an insincere job at masking the hatred and racism, using daily microaggressions more difficult to assail than bullets. People of privilege have become fluent in their statements of “I have black friends” or “I am the least-racist person.” Well, those Black friends may no longer be excusing you or giving you a pass! I am hopeful with the transition of power in the White House and Congress that a transition occurs in what is morally acceptable, and that the new administration can tamp down the racist overtones that increasingly emblazoned our daily lives for the last four years. I don’t expect immediate fixes. Clearly, this has been going on far longer than recently, and it runs deeper than just what we are experiencing today. As we look ahead to Social Work Month in March and behind us now at Black History Month, my hope and expectations as a social worker are that we begin mending our open wounds and addressing systemic racism with the same or greater vigor we adopt when learning new dance crazes on TikTok. My dream is that people who are affected are given a voice, and the silence ends. The lifting is heavy, for sure, but we social workers—including Black social workers--are strong, and we remain hopeful that everything is possible.