WASHINGTON, D.C.— The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers its condolences to the families and friends of the nine people who lost their lives in the June 17 mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
This senseless tragedy has shaken the nation and is an example of the deadly consequences of racial hatred and unfettered access to guns.
NASW realizes there are no quick fixes that will prevent mass shootings, including those motivated by racial, ethnic or religious hatred, but true to our history of supporting civil and human rights we remain committed to joining other organizations in supporting legislation that would enact sensible gun control, end racial profiling and increase funding for mental health services.
That these tragic deaths occurred in a black church is not lost upon us. It conjures up images of 1963 when four little black girls died when racists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Since that time, this nation has made tremendous strides to end racial strife and improve mental health treatment, but not enough. NASW remains dedicated to addressing the underlying social issues that cause such incidents to occur and will work with lawmakers, other organizations, and our communities to bring about needed reform.
Examples of our ongoing efforts include being an active member of The Justice Roundtable which supports the Mental Health Reform Act sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
In addition, NASW is a member of the End Racial Profiling Working Group, which is a national committee that is sponsored by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights (LCCR). Finally, NASW has submitted testimony to Congress on gun violence and has developed Social Justice Briefs on the topic of mass murders as a result of the proliferation of firearms in this country.
Statement from the NASW National Committee on Race and Ethnicity (NCORED)
The events of the horrible massacre in South Carolina leave us, once again, with great sadness and outrage about the senseless deaths of nine people. We are reminded of some of our past communications about violence against innocent people from different populations - just because they are who they are. We mourn the victims and feel the grief of their families and offer our thoughts and prayers during this terrible time.
NASW South Carolina Chapter
The National Association of Social Workers, South Carolina Chapter (NASW-SC), extends its heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of the massacre at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
When a hate crime such as this happens in our state, it happens to all of us. Our hearts hurt. Our minds try to fathom what could lead to this atrocity. We struggle to imagine our loss: a great advocate and leader—Senator Clementa Pinckney. A fellow social worker—Reverend Daniel Simmons. Seven other victims, all African-American, murdered in God's house, killed because of racial hate by one of our own citizens.
This act of domestic terrorism did not happen in isolation. The time has come for our nation to address the insidious undercurrent of racism that flows too far and too wide. It flows in the actions of the murderer. It flows on bumper stickers, on websites, and in social media. In South Carolina, it even flows at our place of government.
The time has come for the strongest symbol of that racism—the presence of the Confederate flag in front of our state capitol—to be removed.
NASW-SC is committed to honoring the memory of the lives we lost through our prayers, our thoughts, and our actions. We will vehemently support the bill being introduced which calls for the removal of the Confederate flag. Just as we did for the rally held June 20th, in which 1,500 people protested the flag, we will mobilize members to attend rallies, to contact legislators, and to write to our governor for its removal. Our advocacy for this cause will not stop nor slacken until this battle is won.
And, while the removal of the flag will hold great symbolism, we must not stop there. Our state must tighten its gun laws so that more murders can be prevented. We must pass a hate crime act as a deterrent to acts of violence and terrorism.
As social workers, we must continue our fight to protect and serve the vulnerable citizens that Sen. Pinckney cared about his entire life.
Our chapter's work to bring federal Affordable Care Act dollars to provide healthcare to the uninsured will continue. Our demands for improvements to the child welfare system are having an impact, but there is much work yet to be done (including expanding this advocacy to vulnerable adults).
Education and advocacy related to the prevention of bullying and ending human trafficking in South Carolina will also remain a focus of our chapter. And we remain strong and determined that the Confederate flag must come down. We are small, but we will have our voices heard.
While we are a state with a troubling history, we are also a state full of good people. We witnessed this at the vigils, prayer meetings, solidarity protests and unity gatherings held throughout South Carolina to honor the victims.
NASW-SC's members will join with advocates and colleagues as we mourn the loss of Sen. Pinckney, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson in the months to come. Maybe we will find comfort in knowing we will not let these deaths be in vain.
Carla Damron, LISW-CP, Executive Director, NASW-SC
NASW Arizona Chapter
The horrendous violence in Charleston, South Carolina shocks us all once again to a cruel reality we don't want to acknowledge. We are a violent racist nation. On the heels of the recent police incidents with people of color and a history of mass murder incidents, we must stare once again in that mirror of racism and our violent culture. We are filled with sadness and anger and shock all at once.
As social workers, we confront racism and violence every day. We see this violence of our nation's original sin in poverty, sexism, inequality, housing, ableism, the lack of adequate social and health services, the social control embedded in our social and health policy, the overt prejudice in our justice and incarceration systems. Then we are shocked once again by events like Charleston.
President Obama, Jon Stewart and so many others have all asked in many different and eloquent ways, when will we finally learn and stop this hatred and bigotry and violence? This is not about one person's hatred or violent acts. This is a shared responsibility. This kind of mass violence and domestic terrorism is tearing us all apart. We all have this cancer that is destroying us as a people where we no longer can see our shared human dignity. When will we come to our senses as a nation and culture about our radical racial sins and the violence embedded in our gun culture and how they contribute daily to violence in our society?
As social workers, I think we need to do at least three things.
First, we must confront the racism and white privilege and violence and anger in our own lives. None of us are unaffected by historical and current racism in our society. I was personally raised in an upper Midwestern community where both overt and subtle racism was part of our family and daily lives. I have struggled my whole life to overcome that embedded bigotry. My wife and I had to directly confront family members who continued to act out that bigotry as we began to raise our children. For those of us who have benefited from white privilege, we must ask for forgiveness. This process can be difficult and painful, but we must find ways to acknowledge who we are and heal ourselves to help heal our society.
Second, we must challenge the practices in our places of work. It is not enough to just be culturally competent agencies and have agency policies which provide for inclusion and informed competent practice. We must dig deep in the subtle practices of white privilege that remain in our places of work -- who really is in charge, how we treat each other, who gets to speak first, who is taken seriously, who is really listened to, who gets to train the rest of us, who really controls the money, who really makes the decisions, what are the symbols and rituals of our community, who gets promoted. We must stop the privilege embedded in our workplaces practices that sees the people we serve as less than rather than equal authentic partners in their own healing and change.
Finally, we must redouble our efforts for reconciliation, peace and social justice in our society and public policy. As social workers, we must resolve to participate more actively in creating peace --- changing hearts and minds as many have said, being leaders for healing and reconciliation in our culture and political systems. We must resolve to make real change, speak up against all violence, work hard in elections and support legislators who will vote for gun restrictions and human kindness, promote strong gun control, join organizations that work against hatred, donate to strong anti-gun organizations, confront racism and white privilege everywhere we encounter it, become a part of and leaders in organizations that confront violence and racism, resolve to be part of the solution against this kind of hatred and resolve to stop the violence with strong and reasonable gun policies. We must become leaders for compassion and the healing of our souls and communities.
This is a special sacred challenge for all of us in Arizona. We have our own racist history and current bigotry. We have an infamous history of bigotry with our Native American brothers and sisters. We have a history of segregation and prejudice with our African American community even losing a Super Bowl because of that public intolerance. Historically we have been leaders in bigotry toward Latino communities, even in our religious communities where some separate Catholic Churches were created because Latinos were not allowed to worship together. Our recent history with SB1070 and many other public acts of bigotry have made us nationally focus of that current discrimination.
Social workers are called to a people of peace. One of our profession's great founders Jane Addams was a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work building justice and reconciliation in communities. We need to challenge violence as a solution embedded in our national DNA with prophetic leadership that builds peace and compassion.
And by the way, don't let anyone say, you are politicizing this or any other tragedy because our life together is always political. That is the nature of living in a democracy. We decide our shared well-being in community by political means and this rampant ongoing racism and violence are obviously not good for us or for building human dignity, human kindness, social and economic justice, and human community.
No matter our race or ethnicity, we must dig deep, confront how we are personally impacted and begin to challenge the prevailing bigotry and anger and be a force for love and justice and be a part of the healing and reconciliation. None of us are off the hook anymore. We must no longer remain in denial. We must say, enough is finally enough. We must each take the first steps for change and healing in our personal lives, in our work and our shared political and community lives.
We must be Amazing Grace which comforts the loss and grief, but also empowers us to build a new beloved community as we heal our souls, our history, and our communities and create new ways to live together in love and justice and peace. Amen.
NASW Arizona Chapter President
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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 130,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.