The recent police-involved killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Sean Reed in Indiana, as well as the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, have brought into stark relief the pervasive and continuing nature of anti-Black racism and racist policing practices in the fabric of our American society. These murders are just the latest examples in the long history of violence against Black people in the United States, rooted in a culture of white supremacy. It adds insult to injury that protests to raise awareness of anti-Black violence by law enforcement have faced state-sanctioned violence in response. This response, too, has its roots in racist histories of suppression of those who have worked for racial justice for Black people. This history includes the slave insurrections of the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century, and now the Black Lives Matter protests of the 21st Century.
The faculty and staff of the College of Social Work stand together to oppose these racial injustices and endorse the development and implementation of anti-racist policies and practices that insure equity for Black people and social and economic justice in our college, our university, and our communities. We support our Black students, faculty, staff, field instructors, alumni, and community members who continuously face the traumatic impact of systemic discrimination, anti-Black prejudice, and acts of violence. The College of Social Work also defends the right of Black people and allies to ask for redress of racial injustice through protest and advocacy, as enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
These commitments are rooted in our personal principles, our College mission and policies, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics, Section 6.04, which requires us to “act to prevent… discrimination” and oppression and “engage in political and social action…to promote equity and social justice.”
Therefore, the University of Tennessee College of Social Work stands with all who would advocate for racial justice and reform of the criminal justice system. We call on our CSW community members to educate themselves about racial justice and find opportunities to work for social change; potential resources include the #8Cantwait campaign, ACLU’s Criminal Justice Reform Project, NAACP Criminal Justice Program, and the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.
Our College also commits itself to the continued work of addressing anti-Black prejudice, white supremacy, and institutional discrimination within our own College, our university, and ourselves. This commitment is not seen by us as a static outcome to be reached, but a pledge of consistent engagement to ensure that our curriculum, our policies and practices, our scholarship, and our institutional culture enhance the well-being of Black students, staff, faculty, and communities.