With the recent political climate in the previous year, I was surprised the social work profession has not been more engaged or active in the political world. Why you ask? Because it is our responsibility as a profession to protect those who face social injustices everyday. As a young social work student, I am embarrassed that I have come across social workers in our profession who have supported the Trump administration. As a profession, we agree to the terms of our code of ethics which clearly STATES that we are responsible for protecting people who are the very same people being ATTACKED by this administration. Not only does voting for Trump, clearly violate our code of ethics, it makes these social workers hypocrites. We cannot stand for the people we are suppose to service and vote counterintuitive to this belief.
You decided to go into this field to help others, probably because you’ve personally experienced something yourself. We all have our scars and it’s impressive that social workers use their life experiences, to improve others. But by going into this field, you also decided to follow our code of ethics which requires us to follow the values and ethics that our code follows. We can’t pick and choose the situations of injustice we deem a worthy-cause because of our own personal experiences. Doctor’s get to pick and choose which values to follow in their ethical codes? No. So, why should we? We don’t have the decision over what client’s we will work with. It is our responsibility to work with each person to the best of our ability. We will come across all people of different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, sexualities, etc., no matter what field you work in. It is our responsibility as a social worker to be aware of our biases, and work against them for the betterment of humanity. It is okay to admit our biases, we all have them. We must recognize how this influences our work though, and constantly educate ourselves in cultural competence to improve ourselves. As a social worker, you agreed to stand up for social justice. This means fighting against social injustice. This does not mean you get to pick and choose the injustices that matter to us, this means we are REQUIRED to stand for all who fall under the oppression of our government. It is our duty to overlook our own biases and work empathically with everyone, understanding the FACTS of oppression, racism and discrimination and how it influences the client’s we work with.
Another issue at hand is the fact that many social workers are deciding to go into the clinical field and ignore the macro & social justice areas that are still a part of our profession. Our profession did not start in the clinical field. And although this field is growing and is COMPLETELY necessary aspect of social work, we cannot work clinically with clients without understanding what led them their in the first place. We cannot successfully work with client’s without understanding the external factors such as social injustices, oppression, racism, discrimination, etc. that led them to our practice. If we do not understand these aspects, the client’s will constantly keep coming back because we are not addressing the issue at hand. We need to recognize that sometimes the issue is not what the client is ‘doing’ but it is what the system is doing to them. People often want to blame people for their own problems and the beauty of social work is we are suppose to analyze these problems in a person-in-environment framework. This means understanding that sometimes the system is responsible and our clients are victims of a system that is actively working against them and purposely leads them to failure. If we cannot identify this as social workers, we will not be able to empower these people to move on because they are systematically put in situations where they will fail. This means even clinical social workers are responsible for social justice. Not only is it a required of our ethical code, it is a key aspect in the successful treatment of a client. We can diagnose, medicate and teach coping skills to our clients all we want but these client’s will keep showing up at our doors until the real issues are addressed, the reasons that led them there…the system’s that keep them in a poverty, cut off their access to treatment, ignore the faulty criminal justice system, put lead in their children’s water….Wouldn’t you be anxious too? You can take away the symptoms of mental illness but you can’t take away the realities of their life.
Now, let’s get down to business. Our responsibility and the implications for the future. We cannot change what has happened already. We cannot go back in time BUT we can surely fight against the policies that the administration is attempting to implement. It is time to rally together, to fight for the people we work for everyday of our lives. We dedicated our lives to working for this profession, which means its our responsibility to live up to our standards. I understand that some people believe that voting for Trump was in their best interest, and they believe that their is a boundary between their professional and personal life. This is not true. Not in this situation. Not when the risks are too high. Ignoring politics or voting for our best interests is PRIVILEGE. We must understand that. We must combat this. This is not about our best interest, this is about the interest of humanity. Our code of ethics follows us wherever we are, from working with clients in our office to eating at a restaurant with our family. You cannot choose the situations to intervene in. If any of us experienced someone facing discrimination in the street, it is my hope that you’d all intervene in the situation when you saw it. Why is it any different with politics? These policies are direct hits on individuals based on their ethnicities, sexualities, etc. This is discrimination in action, on a macro level. Our profession is given the education and tools to recognize these issues, so why are we sitting on it?
It is time to be politically-active. It is engraved in our profession. We cannot be effective social workers without understanding the external factors that lead clients to our offices. We must fight for humanity as social workers.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality” – Desmond Tutu