Let’s talk about race and racism as social workers

24th June 2020

As social workers, we need to be at the forefront of tackling systemic racism to be truly anti-racist. We have a collective responsibility in all areas of our profession to enact the core values of social work. The Black, minority ethnic and Asian children we work for will, more often than not, enter a system that is built to make it harder for them to achieve. A system that makes it more likely that they will be expelled from school, be subject to a child protection plan, wait longer for an adopter and receive harsher sentences in the youth justice system. To be anti-racist is to oppose both overt slurs and systemic racism. We are advocates for the children and families we work for so let’s advocate for them on all levels.

Racism is systemic. It has never been absent from our society. Society may have progressed with regard to overt racism but covert, nuanced and systemic racism never left. This is why we must start, and continue, ongoing conversations about race. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery reflect centuries of racial oppression towards Black, minority ethnic and Asian people. When those in power construct a system that oppresses Black people, we see what we’ve seen in America, here in the UK and across the world. But enough is enough. Silence is siding with the oppressor. We need to be louder in how we combat racism and be continuously anti-racist.

It starts with having conversations. Talking about race and racism can make some white people feel nervous, guilty, unsure of how to do it, fearful of offending, or fearful of taking up space in a conversation the recreates the cycle of oppression. However, if you’re white and you want to be an ally and actively anti-racist, you cannot let fear shackle you. My call to action for white people, white social workers, is to be brave, own what you do not know and learn more.

No change will happen if social workers, frontline services and racial groups work in silos. We need to have more and different conversations about race, and they need to be proactive rather than only reactive. If you are in a conversation about race that was easy for you, you are not having the right conversation. We don’t need to have all the answers but we need to open up conversations with the children and families we work with, as well as our friends, colleagues and family members and ensure that these continue. The challenge for all is to do more today than you did yesterday and more tomorrow than you’ve done today.

We cannot help what we have been taught but we can help what we learn as adults going forward. Black, minority ethnic and Asian people did not create racism so it should not be our responsibility to dismantle it alone. So, stand beside us in the battle with this racism virus, stand beside the Black, minority ethnic and Asian children and families you work with. If you engage with, and celebrate, Black culture then don’t only join us in our joy and laughter but also when we are suffering.

As a Black, heterosexual, male social worker, I strive to be anti-racist, to be an ally of Feminism, to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people, to call out and challenge Islamophobia, Antisemitism, religious discrimination and discrimination of all kinds. This is my pledge. This is how I practice, how I teach and who I am. Tackling systemic racism and being anti-racist is our duty so what are you going to pledge today?

We are committed to doing more, and ensuring Frontline is a truly anti-racist organisation. We’ve now shared our Racial Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which outlines our initial steps over the next three months.