Black Lives Matter: social work must respond with action – not platitudes

There has been a weak response from social work leaders to George Floyd's killing. Practitioners must re-evaluate their roles to act as effective allies for people from Black and ethnic minority groups, says Wayne Reid

A person holding a Black Lives Matter poster at a protest
Photo: ink drop/Adobe Stock

Wayne ReidBy Wayne Reid, BASW England professional officer and social worker

The murder of George Floyd is the latest in a long line of atrocities and brutalities endured by the global Black community.

This has a long history – longer than is sometimes convenient for honest acknowledgement. I notice some commentators are referring to George’s ‘death’, which is a dilution of what occurred. George was brutally murdered by a police officer and the world has seen the evidence.

The context to George’s murder is emotive and cumulative: endless examples of police brutality cases in the US and UK, modern-day systems of oppression and the historic and ongoing suppression of the effects of slavery and colonialism in mainstream education.

These factors can accumulate and create an acute sense of anger and rage. These emotions can manifest in civil disorder and criminality. It has been evidenced that anarchic extremists are infiltrating protests to covertly fuel acts of looting and violence, which is then reported by the media in such ways as to discredit the protesters. This detracts from the causal factors that have triggered the protests – and if we want to discuss looting, how about the longstanding looting of Africa’s natural resources?

As a Black British male social worker, I write this article on Black Lives Matter wearing numerous hats, as this issue affects me deeply, both personally and professionally. Clearly, my opinion cannot and should not be understood as representing all Black and ethnic minority people or practitioners. We are not a homogeneous group.

It was important to me for my employer, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), to publish our organisational position statements before I wrote this article, as I refuse to be the tokenistic ‘Black voice’ of BASW. I’m one of many Black voices in social work. It is my reality, that my role enables me to be heard more broadly than others.

I’m immensely proud of the authenticity and candour of BASW’s statements responding to George’s murder and in support of the fight against racialised discrimination.

Those who follow me on Twitter, or who are on my mailing list, will have observed my campaign to educate, empower and equip Black and ethnic minority people – and importantly our allies – with various information and resources.

Disappointing responses from social work leaders

On occasions, I have been outspoken about the delayed/weak position statements and responses from prominent social work leaders and organisations. Given that social work’s core values and ethics are deep-rooted in anti-oppressive practice and social justice, this eventuality has been particularly disappointing for me and many others within the profession.

Sadly, these values and ethics appear sometimes to have been taken for granted, diluted or ignored in recent years/decades. Perhaps austerity has desensitised us?

Overall, I’m sure Black and ethnic minority social workers and service users will welcome the late (if weak) acknowledgements and platitudes from some of the social work elite. The statements will send a necessary message to employers and other stakeholders across the profession about the relevance of current world events to social work policy, practice and education.

However, I think some of the statements could be strengthened by providing a clearer commitment to systemic reforms to eradicate all forms of racism through specific, measurable, achievable and realistic targets.

‘I’m not a racist’

During the furore surrounding George’s murder, some individuals/organisations have recoiled at the suggestion they may be racist.

I’m not a racist!” is the common response, the accusations seemingly worse than the facts.

I would argue that racism is not an absolute mindset; instead it’s a rather fluid one. There are degrees of racism. I imagine very few people reading this article would identify with extreme right-wing neo-Nazi racism, but many will have stereotypical views about certain ethnic groups which they project in everyday situations if they are honest and self-aware.

There is a structural and lazy acceptance that ‘lower-level’ prejudice and oppression are somehow separate – with the former being considered a less important issue. However, I believe that tackling such prejudice would engender a real decrease in the overt, violent forms of ‘race-related hate’.

In my view, the spectrums of white privilege and white supremacy are also broad – not absolute. This graphic, distinguishing between overt and covert white supremacy, best describes my views.

Fundamentally, there are a range of behaviours and oppressive systems that are socially acceptable, which we must address and redress to tackle racism effectively in all its ugly manifestations. For example, the statement ‘all lives matter’ is covert racism, as it ignores the history and current circumstances of Black people globally. Physical colonisation and slavery may no longer be acceptable or legal, but colonisation and slavery of the mind has been the norm since their abolition. Black lives matter applies then, now and always.

The recent misdemeanours of Dominic Cummings show us there are clear double standards; not just from a class perspective (which was perpetuated by the media), but also through the lens of white privilege. I wonder how Raheem Sterling would have been portrayed flouting the lockdown rules.

Re-examining ‘BAME’

Terms such as ‘Commonwealth’, ‘hostile environment’, and ‘BAME’ need to be re-examined. BAME does not describe who I am. BAME is a clumsy, cluttered and incoherent acronym that is opportune for categorising people of colour as a homogenous group – when we quite clearly are not.

Of course, I cannot speak for all people of colour. I understand that ‘BAME’ can be operationally helpful when exploring the overarching effects of all things racist. However, it misses so much nuance and subtlety, and can be seized upon by those who wish to deny racism as a white problem.

Routinely, I hear people comfortably stating that BAME people “can’t even agree amongst themselves”. This sloppy reductivism leads to terms being invented such as ‘Black on Black’ crime. I have not heard about “White on White” crime – ever.

Some quarters consider having a small minority of people from Black and ethnic minority groups who reach positions of power (including within the current Cabinet), as progress, in and of itself. I respectfully disagree and would go so far as to say it is actually unhelpful.

I think a contingent of these people only seem to identify as being people of colour when it is expedient. Often, they have championed policies that in fact would have previously disadvantaged their own families – which is basically ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ and morally bankrupt.

In some ways it is worse than having a ‘conventional racist’ at the helm. To quote Malcolm X: “I have more respect for a [person] who lets me know where [they stand], even if [they are] wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.”

Politicians have form for allowing their personal ambitions to override ethics and morality. Their denials can play beautifully into the hands of those who seek to maintain the existing order. As black and ethnic minority representation is disproportionately very low, these people do not necessarily use their power for good and structural inequalities remain unchanged.

‘White allies’ and what they can do

At this current juncture in race relations, there has been much discussion about how ‘white allies’ can be ‘anti-racist’ and supportive to the cause. Of course, allies can be personal and/or professional. So, what is really behind those awkward smiles and sugary sympathy? Actions most definitely speak louder than words. It’s time for all well-intentioned platitudes and recycled rhetoric to be converted into meaningful activism and ‘root and branch’ reform.

This link will provide allies with relevant resources on their journey.

‘Blackout Day’, on 7 July 2020, is when Black and ethnic minority people (and their allies) will not spend any money (or if they must, only at Black businesses). This is so important, as it sends a strong message to the capitalist elite in the only language they understand – money. See this video for more information on Blackout Day.  We must build on this impetus and momentum to be taken seriously.

It is imperative that social workers evaluate their roles and (moral and regulatory) responsibilities. Current race relations require social workers to be proactive and do our homework to stay contemporarily astute as allies to Black and ethnic minority colleagues and service users.

There are various opportunities through BASW to develop your expertise in this area with our equality, diversity & inclusion group, events, branch meetings and training programmes. Also, I will be leading a Black & ethnic professionals symposium for BASW members in the coming weeks, so do contact me at wayne.reid@basw.co.uk or @wayne_reid79 if this is of interest.

We all know that organisations are at times avoidant of these issues, but as social workers we must recognise that silence on racism is complicity with the oppressors. BASW will not remain silent on this issue and we implore you to do the same.

‘One world, one race… the human race!’

40 Responses to Black Lives Matter: social work must respond with action – not platitudes

  1. david harrop June 12, 2020 at 6:41 pm #

    Thanks for this..
    As a white, able bodied, hetro sexual, middleclass, educated male professional, the best I can do now is to shut up, and respectfully listen, and reflect, on other’s experiences of discrimination and inequality.

    • Opal Lady June 17, 2020 at 8:42 pm #

      ..couldn’t agree more. Don’t just hear but listen..unlikely you will ever truly understand what it is to experience discrimination.

      You are moving in the right direction. Please don’t be a devil but an angel who has listens..

  2. Millie Kerr June 12, 2020 at 6:52 pm #

    Dear Wayne,

    CONGRATULATIONS on writing such an excellent, overdue and well said piece on the changes needed within the social work profession and within its practices, to affect real change in anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice.social work needs to stop paying lip service to wanting to do better, in this area and i 100% agree that now is the time to begin to evidence that they are doing better.

    This needs to start with the profession and our white colleagues speaking up with us when they see injustice and racism and not just turning a blind eye. Not calling us aggressive when our white counterparts are deemed assertive, that is racist in itself. Doing more to recruit black workers, particularly in areas where they have few or none. More importantly it is time for us to be listened to as black and ethnic minority people, on how social work as a profession needs to change to make us feel more included on the road to change and less excluded from conversations about us. Institutional racism and oppression is real in social work, even if people don’t want to admit it. I also agree that the terminology BAME, used to describe us needs to go.
    I will be in touch and thank you for this great and inspiring read.

  3. daniel absolon June 12, 2020 at 7:15 pm #

    Really good read Wayne .

    Makes me think of his our Home Secretary responded recently and how so much more can be done at governmental level.

    I was lucky enough to study the DIPSW which had a strong emphasis on ADP & AOP. Disappointing that the degree has watered down the importance of challenging social injustice .

    I wish you well with your journey .

  4. Simeon Jenner June 12, 2020 at 7:51 pm #

    Given the numbers of Social work leaders who are recipients of honours in the name of the British Empire, it is perhaps not a surprise that their responses have been muted on colonialism, imperialism and slavery. Perhaps their best contribution would be to return their medals and titles.

  5. Rose Thompson June 12, 2020 at 7:58 pm #

    I have read this article and I am glad that your organisation have some sympathy but lot of Black Social Workers won’t come out openly and explain the discrimination, prejudice and institutional racism they face on a daily basis. I was hounded out the profession by three white Team Manager and supervisor. I couldn’t take the discrimination and racism Anymore, they bullied me until I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I love the profession and I have done some good Social working but there was no where to get help. There got to be changed within the profession else you will have all of the same .

  6. David Bronn June 12, 2020 at 9:02 pm #

    Brilliant article. Thank you

    100% – anti oppressive practice is fundamental to social work. That includes examing systemic / structual inequality in the work we do. And in the world we live in

  7. OneOfMany June 12, 2020 at 10:13 pm #

    Thank you thank you thank you. As a black social worker in mental health I am sick to death of the platitudes of so many senior management, nearly all of whom are white and who, despite the overt racism in our sector fail day in day out to address. To those colleagues who haven’t quite worked out what they can do, they’ve just been steered . But why are social workers with race privilege STILL not challenging .

    It almost always feel it is left to the black social worker in the team to raise what should be a collective responsibility. In my mind if you dont challenge racism then on some level, yes, you are racist. You have white privilege so use it for good. The inner city MH Trust I work within didn’t even have a single person of colour on it’s board until a couple of years ago.

    Did they really think the black and brown workforce wouldn’t notice?

    A very long time ago I truly believed that at least my social work colleagues were more open ,more accepting and would challenge structural racism. But I was wrong and they dont and I refuse any longer to believe it isn’t because inherently they want to protect the status quo. Which in MH is inherent, violent structural racism.

    Am I angry? Yes, you bet I am. What does it say when we receive emails about what might happen if we protest about murder and violence, that we have to remember not to bring the reputation of the organisation in to disrepute and when I am told ‘ all lives matter’. Well, in my experience, they dont.

    So thank you for reminding people we are NOT a homogeneous group . For me the silence and avoidance makes white management and leaders as complicit as the EDL . Malcolm X was spot on.

  8. Jayne Wright June 13, 2020 at 2:17 am #

    Thankyou very much for this article, it has made me evaluate my practice even more so. I also really appreciate the link to the spreadsheet about relevant resources. I am a white person and I guess convinced myself that I don’t have any prejudice towards other people but this has highlighted that I covertly do. Thankyou. I don’t know what else to say but I will actively strive to challenge racism, not view people with any assumptions, hopefully educate other people including my colleagues at work, my family and my friends. I am also actively looking at the spreadsheet and learning things. I’m also appreciative of any suggestions for me to support marginalised people and people of black or minority ethnic origin. Thankyou.

  9. RT June 13, 2020 at 5:10 am #

    Thank you for this Wayne. I’ve been struggling to find a place to start the discussion with my colleagues. This article will be it.

  10. Elaine June 13, 2020 at 5:43 am #

    Applauses for the straight talking and not dressing racism up in fancy terminologies. This article was refreshing to read and I believe spoke out the views and feelings of many Black Social Workers. Let’s keep it up. People need to feel uncomfortable in these institutions where racism is embedded in their systems and so called practices of equality.

  11. Millie Kerr June 13, 2020 at 12:02 pm #

    Congratulations Wayne, on writing such a great, much needed and overdue piece on the work that is still needed, to affect real anti-oppressive and anti-racist change withing social work. Despite attempts by some, the social work profession remains institutional racist, paying lip service to wanting to affect real change, when the mere fact that we have very few, to no black people in social work academia and within senior management positions is very telling.
    Removing statues, may be helpful to some, but it is not moving us to the HOW and WHAT we need to do next to take action for real change in social work and society as a whole. More black social work professionals need to be included in the discussions for change, rather than talked about and done to by the institutions who say they are not racist. Thank you Wayne, i agree its 100% now time for action.

  12. Chandi Patel June 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm #

    Great to see a Social Work response to the issue. Anti discrimination and empowerment are part of the values of the profession that works with vulnerable people. Thanks for starting the debate –

  13. Josey June 13, 2020 at 12:10 pm #

    Wayne a well written article that describes the hostile and racist environment that Black and Ethnic minorities face on a daily basis. This is created and fuelled by the structures around them. It is time for much needed change.

  14. Karen Foxwell June 13, 2020 at 12:47 pm #

    I would welcome ongoing updates on any aspect of this report to enable me to reflect on my own values and practice and stand alongside people from Black and Asian backgrounds to challenge racism and educate people about historical oppression, abuse and discrimination of Black people and causing their deaths.

    Only just this week I came to realise that slaves who had died on slave ships or in the city of my home town of Liverpool have been buried in unmarked graves in the gardens at St Geoges hall. I

  15. Suraj Galvin June 15, 2020 at 12:42 am #

    If we learn only one thing from our Tory government, it should be that having people of colour in the highest offices of the State does not advance the interest of oppressed and disenfranchised people. Our political, cultural, economic and social structures are dominated by white middle class people but having more people of colour co-opted into these institutions by itself cannot improve the lives of the rest of us. These institutions are propped up by an economic system that created Imperialism to sustain itself. Capitalism today may be more “representative” but it still has to exploit people and resources to sustain itself. Imperialism may not exist in the old forms but Imperialist relationships still blight the former colonies whether it is through the legacy the institutions left behind, or the debt burdens enforced to ensure capitalist interests are not challenged. We cannot combat racism without getting rid of such exploitation. Unless we challenge these institutions, unless we go beyond moaning about the 1% that guard their interest with the connivance of governments, the State will again exhaust our strength by seemingly benign action to “improve diversity and representation”. Symbols matter and slogans galvanise us but there is no value in footballers replacing the names on their shirts with Black Lives Matter then go to Qatar where hundreds of people of colour have died building World Cup stadiums and where indentured labourers are brutalised. There is no point in Formula One drivers taking the knee then going to Saudi Arabia where women are oppressed and terrorised and gay men beheaded. Capitalism needs racism so its no surprise that a social work establishment which has embraced privatisation is paralysed and unable to combat racism. I have to disagree about social workers not supporting Neo-Nazi ideology. Anti-semitism is an ever present in the canon of social work bigotry. I also think that we need to tackle the endemic inequalities in our communities. I for one do not feel represented by any Black billionaires however much a role model they are meant to be.

    • Alistair Bland June 16, 2020 at 3:29 pm #

      Great article; and a great comment. Thank you.

  16. Louise Adams June 15, 2020 at 9:54 am #

    Wayne thanks for that brilliant article. We all need to stand together to tackle racism within society and within the world of social work. I am speaking as a social worker and I am white. I feel so angry when white privileged individual’s make statements such as “All lives matter” completely missing the point of the history of black people throughout the world and their daily battles with racism and oppression.

  17. Albert Watson. June 15, 2020 at 10:05 am #

    This is a well written article Wayne which depicts overall the ongoing struggles and negative experiences of Black people in society. As the Professional Officer for BASW , England, you will need the support of Black and White colleagues alike to challenge and eradicate the systemic evil of racism and discrimination pervading our society. Well done a brilliant article.

  18. Jermine Nuby June 15, 2020 at 10:49 am #

    Well done on writing this, it’s much needed and overdue, this work is so required to affect real anti-oppressive and anti-racist change within social work. Despite attempts by some, the social work profession remains institutional racist, by mere fact that we have very few, to no black people in social work academia and within senior management positions across the whole spectrum!

  19. Sasha Sumner June 15, 2020 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you so much for explaining how we can all do more on this insidious issue. For those who feel disempowered every day: the Union’s can support you in your employment, their whole aim is to promote equality and challenge discriminations at work, of all kind. I will contact you to see if we can work together on this in any way 🙂

  20. Ann June 15, 2020 at 2:29 pm #

    Thank you

  21. Laurence Ramsey June 15, 2020 at 7:36 pm #

    Thank you this Wayne . It is correct in
    My view to address again racism in social worker today. Through university and the work place I would like to see greater challenge and greater opportunities for BAME colleagues! I have been and will continue to be even more pro Active to achieve better and address racism. I will be encouraging white colleagues to do the same. In particular I am advocating Black Leadership and higher office. I know we will recruit more Black Social Worker to every level of office when we have Black Leaders in place. I have encouraged my Black colleagues to speak out against other discrimination too especially homophobia and will continue to do so. A well led anti racist movement must consider its position and power in terms of denouncing all oppression of minority groups in my view to be trusted and respected ! Current UK leadership lost its trust by behaving poorly and not leading by example ! The BLM fight encompasses a feeling currently that was evoked by the entrenched in depth feelings of the masses that they are all oppressed at some level and tired of allowing systems to exploit them and their Black peers !

  22. Will Dera June 16, 2020 at 12:40 am #

    If every sector had more people like Wayne who calls it as it is racism would soon be ditched in the docks together with Edward Colston statue.
    Black, Brown and White need to stand in harmony to fight racism in social work practice and beyond and not view it as a black problem.

  23. Peter McKelvie June 16, 2020 at 10:59 am #

    Remarkable gift Wayne to put everything that is relevant and needs to be said so accurately and concisely in one very readable article
    It needs to go viral within and outside the social work profession
    Thank you for giving us a solid platform for discussion but more importantly action

  24. George Rampplin June 16, 2020 at 12:06 pm #

    Kevin Gately and Blair Peach certainly did not see combating racism as a problem for black people alone. Rest in peace my comrades.

  25. Edmundo Ross June 16, 2020 at 2:55 pm #

    Anti-oppressive work is central to social work. Rarely evidenced, but central. I’ve seen far too many examples of carers blamed for safeguarding where the issue has been about communication – specifically, listening. We all need to listen more, spout platitudes less.

  26. Emancipated Social Worker June 16, 2020 at 10:57 pm #

    Dear Wayne,

    Many thanks for articulating what is long overdue. Social Work Bodies have stood by for far too long and remained apathetic at the daily discrimination experienced by BAME Social Workers. I have had the misfortune of being bullied, intimidated, harassed and victimised by a local authority simply for raising a grievance highlighting clearly apparent race discrimination, disability discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments, bullying and intimidation. My simplistic expectation to be treated with dignity in the workplace further to being targeted in 2011 has culminated in an ongoing and frightening campaign of discriminatory harassment that I have reported to the Metropolitan police on two separate occasions as a hate crime.
    Two settlement agreements and still being victimised and harassed and on the cusp of further legal action. It is mindboggling but testament to the endemic culture of institutional racism, that rather than relocate me to an alternative social work role as advised by Occupational Heath, the local authority was more interested in ethnic cleansing and eliminating me from the organisation; simply for expecting the basic human right of dignity in the workplace. I have been denied the right to breath freely with repeated requests for alternative work environment ignored despite civic centre work environment exacerbating my asthma related sickness by 400%, subjected to fraud investigation inclusive of covert calls to previous employer, as resident of the same authority had all my private and confidential emails into the local authority in the management of my families private and confidential affairs covertly monitored, intercepted and redirected to the AD of HR – only discovered due to technical glitch when emailed Revenues and Benefits and received out of office for AD of HR; who I had complaint against for sending me threatening and intimidating letter and while I was engaged in legal action against the local authority.

    Concerns relayed to HCPC about management placing vulnerable adults at risk by deliberately refusing funding for care at panel to undermine my capability as a Social Worker inclusive of refusing increment to elderly couple with dementia and instead demanding paper work be re written for no justified reason; with this culminating in a safeguarding being raised and despite management having discretion to agree funding with paperwork to follow. I even had a 3.5 hour weekly package for personal care declined as a highly qualified social worker with over 20 years experience. The AD of HR informed HCPC there were no concerns with the ‘experienced managers ‘ and instead provided defamatory and slanderous statements about me, with HCPC readily affording him white privilege and accepting his assertion I was harassing and stalking staff which he alleged was reported to police; with HCPC advising he get back to them to take action against me. HCPC have subsequently withheld my personal data on the basis of S31; Prevention and detection of crime since 2016 and also refused request this year, with data only becoming available from DSAR to Social Work England.
    Complaints to the local authority to write a retraction to HCPC have been refused and DSAR to provide data substantiating the ludicrous stalking allegations re dates and times and where stalking occurred as well as CAD for police report, have been ignored and remain outstanding.
    Complaint to the chief executive about this outrageous conduct and grandiose abuse of power in public office by council officers has been readily rebuffed alongside other complaints inclusive of head of service for adults and head of HR committing perjury in my Employment Tribunal Claim, withholding my personal data to pursue a fraudulent ET defence, tampering and modifying documents to pervert justice and outstanding complaint from November 2019 regarding unlawful processing of my personal data; has been addressed by chief executive with name calling and refusing to investigate my complaints because as a Black disabled woman asserting her human right to ask validated questions and raised clearly evidenced concerns I am a “vexatious complainer”
    This is testament to the institutionally racist organisational cultures that perceive dehumanised and oppressive treatment of BAME staff as acceptable and normalised while affording the perpetrator’s white privilege, exemption from staff code of conduct and reassurance they do not have to take any accountability with identified perpetrators instead being promoted as if in reward for their discriminatory conduct and left to prey on others.
    BAME Social Workers are being failed and subjected to less favourable treatment on a daily basis and in a disgracefully normalised manner and it is time to mobilise and challenge, share experiences and play an instrumental role in facilitating change for social workers and for the vulnerable service users who are inevitably tarnished by the same discriminatory brush.

  27. Lorraine Singlehurst June 21, 2020 at 12:03 am #

    Thank you Wayne.

    A great article that certainly does highlight there is still much more to be done.

    In my own local authority I have been met with silence from more “elite” members after sharing some of your resources.

    There appears to be particular interest in where I recieved this information, as opposed to acknowledging its relevance.

    At a time when those in higher positions should be prioritising peoples voices and be ready to listen, the silence I have recieved, coupled with run of the mill circular email platitudes, has cut even deeper.

    While I hear from my white peers that much is being done within the organisation to address any issues raised I remain baffled as to why those of colour are unaware of what this is.

    There are times when the mountain feels too high to climb and even though I am tired, as many of us are, now is not a time to be quiet. So I thank you once again.

    • Black Diamond June 22, 2020 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Wayne
      I am glad you wrote this article, unapologetically. Social Work, values and Anti Oppressive and Anti Discriminative is embedded in social work. However it is evident that this is lip service from many but not all of our White colleagues who are part of the problem rather than being part of the solution of the structural racism/ and institutional racism within many local authorities social work team. White managers often use policies and procedures to carry out covert racism /discrimination when BAME challenge them or ask them for support. Or use fallacies to confirm their arguments /allegations or use their White privileged maintain that what say is true when in fact it is a lie , unless they are caught out directly. It’s those subtle discrimination that need to be rooted out in the workplace and we all have a responsibility to call these acts out when we witness it regardless of your race or ethnicity. George Floyd was a catalyst to what has been going on for 100 of years. There need to be a massive change in the law and policies, as BAME community will continue to be disadvantaged this is clearly serious as COVID-19 has shone a light on the Race disparities which already existed before this health Pandemic . I would argue their is two Pandemics going on.

    • Anonymous June 24, 2020 at 12:28 pm #

      I completely agree with the comments you mentioned in your post and have had similar experiences but often lack the ability to voice any concerns or to fight an ill treatment within workplace as often it’s done covertly.

  28. Blair Mcpherson June 22, 2020 at 2:56 pm #

    Where is the ADASS response? Are they not also leaders we should be looking to for support? I searched their web site for a statement on Black Lives Matter- nothing came up. I searched their web site for George Floyd nothing came up. I searched the website for racism nothing came up! Am I looking in the wrong place?

  29. Harry Spencer June 23, 2020 at 7:00 pm #

    Perhaps ADASS finds it awkward to offer an opinion on combating racism when they are frantically pleading for tax payer money to be given to private equity social care providers who employ people of colour on the minimum wage, deny them employment rights and force them to have multiple jobs endangering their lives as well as of their families and the residents they look after. Clearly prioritising tax avoiding profiteers is more important than social justice. Shameful.

  30. Wayne Reid June 23, 2020 at 10:29 pm #

    Dear all

    Thank you for your constructive feedback and kind words in response to my article. Unfortunately, I cannot reply to each individual respondent, but please know that I appreciate the time that EVERYONE has taken to read the article and share their views.

    The ideas for this article came from various personal and professional experiences and some conscious and subconscious thoughts, which all culminated in what you read above. George’s murder was the catalyst for me documenting this. I just felt “enough is enough”. I stand by everything I wrote and it’s ‘my truth’. I feel very privileged the article has resonated with so many people.

    I sincerely hope the article acts as a sort of blueprint for social work to make some meaningful progress in embedding anti-racist values and ethics into the profession. In addition, I hope that social work leaders are able to reaffirm anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practice, as sadly I think these have slid off the agenda significantly.

    Let’s not forget, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. Social justice must prevail.

  31. Keith Rotimi June 24, 2020 at 12:43 pm #

    It’s perplexing that social work is lauded as upholding high moral standards and espousing ethical principles based on social justice, dignity, worth of the person, integrity, competence and anti oppressive practice. However, the reality is that the majority of White Social workers, managers, reviewing officers and the whole structure is either fundamentally and systemically racist or complicit in the fact.

    My view is based on my own experience as a social worker within child protection for 8 years. I will never forget in my 2nd year at university, hearing the cries of horror when the lecturer informed the class about the difference between prejudice and racism. Numerous white students bemoaned that they had been victims of racism and had been called honky etc. Several clearly failed to understand or wish to understand the complexity of racism or anti oppressive practice.
    One of my white cohort actually asked me in KFC, “why do black people like chicken”? He was being serious. I sent him the clip from Dave Chapelle.

    On the job at one authority, when I brought up the topic of white privilege. Social workers were literally up in arms, adamant there was no such thing. An actual Judge told me I looked like Idris Elba when I handed in a section 7. To top it all, a social worker sent me a text message mocking my skin colour.

    Social work was based initially on the middle class practice of giving alms to the less well off and to this day, remains a class based profession, holding a certain snobbery about its self.
    My last LA, I was told during a break by an Asian IRO that the authority are well known for racial bias towards their workers of colour. When I attempted to challenge this, my practice was questioned. I left the profession with a bitter taste after the onset of Brexit and my authority’s blatant and insidious behaviour. I’d already carried a significant burden before social work being a large black male.
    Until social work addresses its own class and racial bias within, to me and many others, it will be just another institutionally racist agency.

  32. Black and Proud June 24, 2020 at 7:28 pm #

    Thanks Wayne, for this, article, the struggle for black social workers is real. Black social workers are being discriminated day in day out, year in year out…black social workers are not progressed as their white counter part are. Black social workers are a subject of ridicule and racial discriminated all the time.

    White managers, mostly females, will use anything against black workers to block them from progression, they will initially state the following “your report writing is substandard” when they cannot even spell, or make concrete decisions. Ooh and the famous one it is difficult to understand you, but are supposed to be working with a diverse community.

    When challenged they will create a case against you and use policies and procedures to frustrate you, they will say that you have failed to safefuard a child, whilst it is clearly them who have failed to follow their own protocol such as to undertake simple tasks, including completing a strategy discussion, and they will be celebrating in glee by rewarding each other with high posts, when it is evidently that they lack integrity and credibility.

    These managers will go further and create false evidence by falsifying supervision records and or children records and when concerns are raised, these are largely ignored. One particular example which, I cannot forget is when, I was told to be prepared, because “the concerns I have raised will not be upheld’. Clearly , this shows the length these managers will go to cover wrong doings by their peers, but they are happy to destroy black workers livelihood and career, they are quick to suspend and refer black social workers to a regulator.

    It is about time that Social Work England step up to the game and bring about changes….when a black social workers are referred, Social Work England need to have access to raw information about the concerns against black workers, and not the information that is being presented to them because more often than not the reasons for referral are due to racism.

    @socialworkengland should do more to support workers to make complaints against these managers without having to deal with these managers because when concerns are reported, these managers who investigate the concerns will corroborate, collude, and condone the behaviours therefore propagating the problem. In short some white managers are unethical and corrupt.

    And to all Local Authorities who have a slogan “Black Lives Matter ” on their website, they need to be real and start addressing racism and social injustices within their Adult and Children’s Social Service Departments.

  33. Chyna June 25, 2020 at 4:20 pm #

    The stories of Black Social Worker experiences in the work place is so familiar to many of us.

    The word equality is often used but does not appear to be acted on. We continue to see the struggle of the Black Social Workers and the impact on service users due systematic racism.

    Woken in original mean identified by the Civic Rights movement, should be one of the bedrock of Social Work principle and practice, but as so offer happens, it because lip service and platitudes.

    The Social Work profession should be one of the leaders in the equality movement. Yet, Black Social Worker are being oppressed at work and in society, when all is said done, social care still have a lot of house cleaning to do.

    Colleagues need to move away from just jumping on the bandwagon and start to drive in change. Racism is something that is done to Black people, Black people can not stand alone in changing the perspectives of others. The change has to come from the institutions, government, media and from others.

    Black British, is not an identity that sit comfortable with many of us, because we are still treated like an unwanted visitor in the country of our birth. To many of us are afraid to speak our truth especially in the work place.

    Black history is so diversity and rich (especially the hidden history), all day long proud to be Black.

  34. Monisha Sahni June 26, 2020 at 2:42 pm #

    Can’t tell you how refreshing this was to read. Thank you for articulating my thoughts in a way I could not.

  35. Tony June 27, 2020 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi Wayne,

    Your article resonates with me and I can only thank you for this paper. As a Black Male heterosexual Social worker in Practice for many years, the inequality I’ve experienced in the work place and observed my white colleagues witness and say nothing is just too often. Ignoring racism has become so wide spread that it often puts senior black Managers in situations where they themselves feel the need to discipline their own black employees harsher than their white counter-parts, as if to prove to their white colleagues they are not favouring black staff.

    Past experience taught me about tokenistic roles black employees can find themselves in, if they are not assertive to how the ‘numbers’ can be made up to provide aesthetically pleasing BAME statistics of multi-cultural utopia and diversity within the work place.

    Another Pet-hate of mine, often said by white people in and out of the work environment is, ‘but things are a lot better now’,… ‘It’s not as it used to be’. I often wonder if this statement is made to somehow mitigate themselves from the current oppressive racist regime, or the sins of their forefathers, which they themselves stand privileged from, in aspects of promotion for senior posts within the established oppressive racist culture that exists in the work place.

    To end my response I’ll explain where I stand on this issue. A white colleague asked me how we can tackle this issue of racism. I explained the following; racism is a sickness which I do not suffer from. I suggest you speak to those who suffer from this sickness and ask them to take their ‘medicine’, because ‘I’ (Black-person) am the ‘disadvantaged’ the victim, as a consequence of this sickness. So once they cure their sickness ‘our’ (Black Peoples) affliction and oppression will end.

    I salute you!

  36. Black Diamond July 3, 2020 at 7:30 am #

    Hi Wayne
    My understanding is that Frontline Social Work, like many social work agencies /organisations private or public sector are promoting there support of Black Lives Matters movements, and are acknowledging that they need to make necessary changes however it has come to my attention that this may be lip service.

    As participants/students/previous participants of frontline have raised concerns and there have also been some other not surprising comments. Following the George Floyd murder. Its not just Black Social Workers role to raise matters of inequality, injustice and systemic racism etc. If that is the case this is another social work organisation who talks the talk but does not follow up with actions and not really adopting Anti oppressive and Anti Discriminatory Practice although it made a statement recently saying they are going to make a commitment to doing so. These steps need to go further which includes talking and carrying out actions and putting real recommendations in place not watered down recommendations either. See the article in community care, were a student from frontline referred to the violent attack in the USA and the member of staff didn’t want to discuss it.

    We Black Social Workers are not interested in tokenism, we are interested in action.The talking has taken place over many years , statistics have been available for years. Yes these conversations are clearly uncomfortable, but they need to be spoken about frankly. As I pointed out the systematic racism within these organisations will continue, if we do not dismantle it. Not only in relation to BAME staff in social work organisations, but it will continue to impact on BAME communities who receive services from social work organisations who carry out Assessments which are sometimes unfair and damaging assessments of children and their familIes by White Social Workers which I have seen first hand as a social worker and this behaviour has been condone by White Team Managers who should be leading by example but no they are part of the problem when race discrimination is in operation.

    I am also aware that these White social workers and managers will also go as far as lying in Child Care Proceedings which will have had a detrimental impact on BAME families life’s this needs to stop. I have seen this first hand. Discrimination is real as many social workers will not put aside their own personal values when assessments are carried out, they allow there own personal prejudices inform there assessments of BAME families.
    There needs to be an organisation that investigates managers and senior managers who are involved in wrong doings, when race discrimination matters are called out. As wrongdoings are not often followed up as their line managers will cover up these wrong doings or ignore these issues by being silence this is part of the serious problem and culture in social work team. When you do call these wrongdoings out , you are deem a troublemaker for not towing the line or not conforming to the status quo or assimilating as a Black Social Worker. This is were managers will use policies and procedures to target Black Social Workers to hold Black Social Workers back from progression or doing social work full stop by referring them to the regulator on trumped up charges/false information.

    It requires a legal framework that does not allow them to get away with matters without any accountability or consequences. Although there is a system for all its general one rule for them , another rule for other’s. A independent agency needs to become involved because some Local authorities white managers have no candour even those they have a duty of candour.

    Race and Ethnicity need to taught on social work courses and needs to be compulsory. The reason being I had a social work student who struggled with identifying her PCF it appeared that she felt that PCF diversity and equality meant she should just work with a BAME families, I felt she was tokenistically trying to complete her PCF rather than really understanding the real importance around it.

    More training/education about Race and Ethnicity post qualified period needs to take place. At all levels of social work.

    The Racial discrimination and equality law needs strengthening.

    Policies and Law need upgraded, change or strengthening.

    There needs to be change and improvement in social work role /positions from the top down more Black, Asian and other minority groups . There needs to be recruitment and a mixture of workers from all different racial /ethnic groups at all levels. Why ? social workers work within multicultural communities, that therefore means the staff need to reflect the communities. We don’t mean one token staff member at each levels of a social work organisation either.

    Enough is enough those social work organisations need to put there money were there mouth is this is time for change, following up with action. As one Black senior Manager can not affect change alone.

    Those social workers out there need to speak there truths instead of be silent that includes BAME and White Social Workers.

Leave a Reply