Beyond political correctness, into brave spaces

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSWHave you ever wished you had an absolute assurance that a challenging task or decision would result in an anticipated and favorable outcome that would satisfy everyone?

I can only imagine that you, like me, have had that experience more than once — and maybe more than once today.

The energy expended in being unsure about what course of action to take or for avoiding a difficult decision or task can be immobilizing.

Yet, for many of us this requirement is part of our regular experience. We have in our work or personal lives obligations — earned or thrust upon us — that require taking actions in uncharted or very difficult areas.

Tackling unfavorable or difficult challenges is, in part, what it means to be a social worker. This includes challenges in our contemporary social milieu, such as race, diversity, inclusivity and bigotry.

In the past few months, I have become increasingly concerned about the escalating assaults on human and social liberties and the lack of civility portrayed on the television, in print and in the world around me.

Whether it is denigrating a sitting U.S. president or acts of physical violence against civilians, it seems all to have become part of a numbing cycle that welcomes the sensational and celebrates the most disrespectful.

In such times, the voices decrying such acts seem too few and too overshadowed by the deafening cries for more “show” and excitement. So much of the sensationalism feels as if it is intended to keep us distracted and unfocused on truly moving toward human and social dignity for all.

I do not want this observation or tone to sound naïve or to be cast off as “just another soft liberal” proclamation; in fact, just the opposite.

Now is the time to raise our voices in opposition — and I know from communicating with our members that this holds true for many of you reading this. Now is the time for social work and social workers to demonstrate our commitment in action to the ethical principles of the profession.

Now is the time for us to take on difficult conversations that offer alternatives to the negativity too often dominating print and airwaves. This is our time and our place to raise our heads and demonstrate that we not only have social justice as a core value, but that we are capable and willing to bring solutions to the table, enabling justice to prevail.

There are many of you, of us, doing this on a daily basis — and I celebrate you.

However, with more than 600,000 social workers in the United States, we should be shaking and rattling the statehouses and stages across this country.

We cannot wait with watchful and hopeful eyes for certainty, because the uncertain is too nebulous.

Collectively we can — and must — act every day with purpose and mission to create the brave spaces for this work to occur.

Contact Darrell Wheeler at