The Department of Social Work at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) penned this letter of solidarity in support of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement. In the wake of the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, we share in the community’s, the country’s—and the world’s—pain, grief, and devastation. While some may now be awakening to the unjust killing of Black Americans, we do recognize that such killings are neither a new phenomenon nor isolated incidents, yet dates back for centuries without consequence to the perpetrators. Evidently, this must change, and we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in seeking the change.
Due to our unique position and charge both domestically and internationally as social justice activists, social workers are grounded in the principles and values of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. The profession is rooted in six core values, two of which are particularly resonant right now: social justice and dignity and worth of the person. The ethical principle respective to social justice states, in part, “Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people.” The corresponding ethical principle for the latter value states, in part, “Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity.” Further, the Code of Ethics clearly delineates our ethical responsibilities as professionals and to broader society according to the following:
Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation (Preamble).
Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social justice for all people (6.04 (c)).
Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability (6.04 (d)).
As social work faculty at UNCP, our roles are not limited to the classroom Through our research, scholarship, and service, we strive to effect positive change not only in the lives of our students, but in the lives of those who reside in communities within our region, state, and broader society. We particularly seek positive change, marked by justice, equity, and empowerment, in the lives of those who are relegated to the margins by oppressive systems at all levels of our society.
The UNCP social work faculty extend our hearts and prayers to the families and communities who are grieving the unjust and egregious loss of loved ones. We know that our efforts will not lessen the hurt or remove the pain felt,yet, we reaffirm our commitment to engaging in actions grounded in social work values to promote social and racial justice and to creating an environment where human life is highly valued and undoubtedly matters.
With regard to the UNCP student-led demonstration that occurred on June 26th in protest of the unjust treatment and killings of Black Americans, the UNCP social work faculty commend and uplift the student organizers and all students who joined them in solidarity. These students exemplified leadership and courage, and when confronted with hate and vitriol by those attempting to intimidate and denigrate them, they continued marching with dignity. They embody the spirit of justice and equality, as well as the hope and demand for a better world. UNCP is fortunate to have such impassioned students, and we, the social work faculty, unequivocally support them and their efforts to draw attention to and effect change regarding the injustices perpetrated against Black Americans.