A Message from Dean Mondros in Response to Violence at the Capitol Building
January 13, 2021
Dear SSW Community,
We all witnessed the violent attacks, desecration of a national democratic symbol, displays of racism, anti-Semitism and divisive hate that occurred in our nation’s capital. These threats to our democracy oppose the standards and values that are the bedrock of the social work profession.
I write to you today to share my thoughts about the events at the United States Capitol last week, why what transpired at the United States Capitol should matter to social workers, and perhaps most importantly to reiterate the values and standards that social workers most uphold in these very challenging times.
Democracy Matters: Social work cannot be truly effective in helping people in any system other than a democratic one. Our role includes advocating for, managing, and delivering services in organizations that create inclusive and equitable systems and processes, and which respect the dignity and rights of everyone. That is only possible in a democratic system. Social work is the only profession with an explicit goal of pursuing social justice, as NASW’s Code of Ethics clearly states. We are on the frontlines as first responders and among the voices for the transformative change this country so clearly needs. A defining feature of social work is the profession's focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. That’s why we have to pay attention to threats to our democracy and stay vigilant to anything or anyone that tries to subvert it.
Anti-Racism and Equity: In the aftermath of this attack, the critical conversation now turns to the stark contrast in the treatment of the insurrectionists at the United States Capitol compared to the militarized response to Black Lives Matter and racial justice protesters earlier this year. That contrast lays bare the harsh reality about racial inequality in America. This sad truth is an opportunity for us. As social workers we are tasked with combatting racial and social injustice, hatred and ignorance.
The Importance of Truth: We are an evidence-based profession.
Can you imagine visiting a doctor who didn’t know the science of health? Social workers are also required to use evidence in all of our work. That means backing up our words and actions by using credible sources, not conspiracy websites or poorly documented opinion pieces. Research and facts play an important role in social work and should be used to guide programs and practices, ethical situations and political change.
Commitment to Peaceful Protest: Social workers firmly believe in the right to protest and to disagree with the government and political decisions. That said, we believe in peaceful organized protest. Physical attacks and advocating for disenfranchisement due to race, crosses the line and has no place in a democracy. As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 18, let us recall his words:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dialogue to Reach Across Difference: Social workers must display curiosity about others’ positions and perspectives. We believe in civil discourse, and finding common ground in the classroom, in our field placements, in our families, and in our communities. This is difficult with people whose views are very different or antithetical to our core values and beliefs, but it is nonetheless necessary for us to try to understand the perspectives of others. Respectful discussion is always our standard approach.
What’s Next: Civil discourse is fundamental to our ability to thrive together in a diverse society. We must recommit our efforts to understand the importance of facts and reason as well as our commitment to building a more just and equitable future.
It is through honest and respectful discourse that we can work to mend the divisions in our society. To continue this work, we will:
- Build an archive of resources on our website that will allow us to understand and evaluate the value of democratic processes and structures to expand our understanding of how government functions. You will hear more about this shortly.
- Plan and hold a forum in the spring semester where we will come together for a discussion around the events of January 6. Information about date and time will be forthcoming.
- Some of us may be more personally and deeply impacted by the overt displays of racism, I encourage you to reach out to counselors at the University Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) if you need to talk and share your feelings. They can be reached at (631) 632-6720. Telecounseling is available.
Our work toward a more just future continues. Despite the events on Wednesday, January 6, I believe with all my being that we will regain our footing and move forward to a more just and inclusive future. As Dr. King said “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
Jacqueline B. Mondros, DSW
Dean & Assistant Vice President for Social Determinants of Health