Racism impacts people of color in nearly every facet of their lives from where they live, to where they go to school and work, to where they shop and feel safe. Racism and its legacies are at the root of the conditions in today’s communities of color that drive disproportionately poor health and mental health outcomes.
NASW’s broad-based commitment to social justice incorporates diverse groups who historically were or currently are oppressed, underserved and under-represented. As social workers, we believe that corrective action is essential to abate long standing inequities associated with systemic discriminatory practices. We assert, as a profession, that any intolerance is unacceptable and diminishes individual self-worth and exacerbates divisiveness. Building a more inclusive society and rooting out the inequities so deeply embedded in our history and institutions will require sustained multifaceted commitment by individuals, organizations, communities, and our nation’s leaders. Our leaders must listen attentively to and believe the experience of those who suffer most from discrimination and oppression to learn about and acknowledge how our policies and institutions contribute to and perpetuate oppression. Our leaders (with support of the general public) must transform their understanding of the system of oppression and the factors that keep it in place and take actions that make our society more equitable and inclusive for all people.
A half-century after the civil rights movement’s hard-earned victories in the face of widespread opposition, racial disparities continue. Racial and ethnic discrimination, as exemplified by police brutality, remain persistent and pervasive problems. The evidence of institutional racism is undeniable and overwhelming, as outlined in numerous issue areas of this Blueprint. Among other things:
- In 2019, 24 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native, 21 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of Hispanic Americans were poor, compared with 9 percent of whites (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2021)
- The unemployment rate for has been persistently higher for American Indian/Alaska Native, Black American and Hispanic Americans than whites (Center for American Progress, 2021)
- Compared with their white counterparts, African Americans’ life expectancy is approximately five years lower (Arias, 2016).
- African American students account for 19 percent of preschool enrollment, but they represent 47 percent of students who have been suspended one or more times (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
Racial inequalities persist at an institutional level and remain closely related to economic and educational disadvantages. Disadvantages that are disproportionately borne by African Americans and other people of color, largely due to centuries-old institutions of racial oppression, have received insufficient structural redress. As a nation, we must commit to transforming the entrenched systems that obstruct progress toward racial equality. Building a more racially just society requires specific actions aimed at increasing diversity and promoting respect for our differences. Our nation’s leaders must embrace an authentic dialogue about how contemporary racism operates, including how implicit bias works and how it might be intentionally overridden. In our efforts to build a culture of acceptance and mutual respect, instances of racism and discrimination must be recognized, taken seriously, and addressed directly.
NASW calls on national leaders to:
- Support establishment of a Presidential task force and federal funding for state and local efforts to address racism as a public health crisis.
- Revoke the Executive Order Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping limiting diversity training.
- Pass the COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act (S. 4248 in 116th Congress)
- Pass the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act (S. 4533/H.R. 8178 in 116th Congress)
- Pass the Establish Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act (H.R. in the 116th Congress).
- Pass legislation making lynching a civil rights violation.
- Include Tribal Nations in federal funding allocations under the Social Services Block Grant, the Elder Justice Act, and other federal programs.
- Convene a task force to gather data on racial and ethnic disparities in nursing homes and to provide recommendations to federal, Tribal, state, and local policymakers on strategies to reduce such disparities.
- Require anti-bias training for funding for state and local law enforcement grants.
- Pass the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act (S. 2163/H.R. 1636 in 116th Congress) to establish a commission within the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to make a systematic study of the conditions affecting black men and boys.
*Additional recommendations throughout this Blueprint also address racism.