As you may know, at the end of fall semester, several incidents of hate speech promoting white supremacy occurred on our Knoxville campus. As a College of Social Work committed to the core values of our profession, we strongly reject all forms of hate speech and rhetoric that focuses on the superiority of one group over other groups. We recognize and affirm the inherent dignity and worth of ALL persons. Moreover, we are committed to challenging all forms of hate speech and other acts of racism and bigotry wherever they are found, including our own campus.
Our professional organization, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) defines racism is as "the ideology or practice through demonstrated power or perceived superiority of one group over others by reasons of race, color, ethnicity, or cultural heritage..." and that "...racism is manifested at the individual, group, and institutional level." A core component of our social work curriculum is the development of and commitment to cultural competency. According to NASW's Standards of Cultural Competence (2015), cultural competency refers to "the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, spiritual traditions, immigration status, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each" (p. 13). Cultural competence also recognizes the ways in which the values of the dominant society may conflict with the values of historically oppressed, underrepresented, and underserved populations.
These concepts enumerated by our national organization are the result of a long history of our profession working against oppression in all its forms. In recent years some of us may have considered the work against discrimination and oppression to not be as necessary, using terms such as "post-racial" but now more than ever, we see that complacency can never be our response to forms of hate. Therefore, as we begin a new year, our College of Social Work is committed to assuming a leadership role in challenging racism at both the personal and societal levels. As part of its multi-year social justice initiative project, our college will sponsor a series of events throughout 2018 that focus on challenging racism in all its forms ranging from challenging implicit biases at the personal level to challenging those institutional structures and practices that perpetuate the systematic exclusion of people of color.