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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has released a statement acknowledging that “our profession and this association have not always lived up to our mission of pursuing social justice for all. NASW apologizes for supporting policies and activities that have harmed people of color.” According to NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “While NASW continues to offer anti-racist training in communities, publicly denounces violence, and advocates tirelessly for anti-racist policy changes, we must also acknowledge the role the social work profession has played in supporting discriminatory systems and programs for decades.”

For instance:

  • Progressive Era social workers built and ran segregated settlement houses.

  • Social worker suffragists blocked African Americans from gaining the right to vote.

  • Social workers helped recruit Black men into the infamous Tuskegee Experiment.

  • Social workers participated in the removal of Native American children from their families and placement in boarding schools.

  • And since the founding of the profession, bias among some social workers has limited delivery of health care, mental health treatment, and social services to people of color.

Details of this work are included in the newly released report, Undoing Racism through Social Work: NASW Report to the Profession on Racial Justice Priorities and Action. “This acknowledgement comes at a critical time, especially as we enter the Juneteenth weekend,” says Virginia Chapter Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE. “Our recent surveys show that fighting systemic racism is members’ top social justice issue of concern, and they are committed to advocacy around it. We also have expanded trainings on racial equity, social work and race, implicit bias, self-awareness, multicultural supervision, and other such topics to support social workers as they reflect on their own biases and serve clients directly harmed by ongoing racism. Together, we will make progress on this stubborn and complex issue.” Read the full statement here.


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